Woman Compensated $4 for Death of Brother During Korean War

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Park Ji-Hwan / AFP / Getty Images

The national cemetery in Seoul.

Sometimes old laws cause laughter, but in other instances? Expect tears.

In South Korea, a woman was awarded $4.33 under an old government rule as compensation for the death of her brother during the Korean War.

A law took effect during the war, which ran from 1950 to 1953, that allowed the government to compensate family members for deaths. The woman, now 63, was just 2 years old in 1950 when her brother died while fighting. Local media say the woman’s mother suffered from dementia and the sister never even knew of her brother—or his death—until April, when she was granted 5,000 won, a little more than $4.

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Adjusted for inflation, the rate would still only come in at nearly $700, far below the $500,000 the U.S. gives ($100,000 in condolence money and $400,000 in life insurance) family members for any soldiers killed in active duty.

South Korean organizations have called the governmental move “incomprehensible.” With 140,000 South Korean soldiers killed in combat and up to 130,000 missing in action, the presidential Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission wants a thorough review of the outdated law. They say the latest cringeworthy offer should spur the South Korean government to abolish the old law and come up with something a bit more in line with inflation and interest. Or just something that isn’t so humiliating to family members.

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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