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종중은 공동조상의 후손들이 그의 제사를 모시고 아울러 친목을 도모하는 우리 고유의 단체이다. 판례는 종중을 자연발생적 단체로 규정하고 있다. 그리고 여성은 조상에 대한 제사를 지내지 않기 때문에 종중구성원의 자격을 인정하고 있지 않는다. 그런데 대법원 2005. 7. 21. 선고 2002다1178 판결에서는 헌법상의 남녀평등을 이유로 여성에 대해 종중구성원의 자격을 인정하였다. 그러나 다수의견은 종중의 성격에 대해 종전의 입장을 유지하고 있다. 그러나 별개의견은 결사의 자유, 사적 자치 등을 이유로 반대하고 있다. 필자는 역사적으로 접근하여 종중의 자연발생적 단체라는 데 반대한다. 실제 조선시대의 경우 종중은 조상을 현양하기 위해 후손들이 재산을 출연한 것에 기인한다. 출연된 재산은 전통적인 단체인 契의 형태를 활용하였고, 그 재산을 관리하기 위하여 규약을 만들었다. 따라서 종중은 자연발생적 단체가 아닌 인위적 단체로, 전통적인 법인이다. 그 성질은 법인에 가까운 것이다.


The clan, Chongjung(종중), is a Korean proper association. Its members are descendants whose ancestor is same, and its aims is to keep up ceremonies for him and to maintain friendship among same descendants. The Supreme Court is maintaining the attitudes that clans are associations which are created naturally not by intentional actions for establishment, and that women have no capability of clans because they are not carrying out ceremonies for ancestors. But in the “2002다(da)1178 decision of the Supreme Court” at July 21 2005, the Supreme Court changed the long precedent attitudes and declared that women will have capabilities of clans. In this decision, theoretical manipulations are different. In the majority opinion, judges did not change character of clans as the theory of naturally created association, and only permitted that women will have rights to participate clans because precent decisions of clans violated the constitutional doctrine that men and women are equal in laws. But the minority opinion, judges denied that clans are naturally created association. And to become a member of a clan, expression of his will to enter a clan, is necessary in the base of the principle of private autonomy and the freedom of association in constitutional law. In this paper, I agree with the minority opinion in a historical perspective. In the Chosun(조선) Dynasty, clans were formed by descendants` contributions of properties like money, lands, nobi(노비) and etc to praise their ancestors and to live friendly among them. To manage contributed properties, people were using Kye(契) which is a type of traditional association in the traditional Korean society. And they established autonomical covenants to maintain the properties and to keep up ceremonies for their ancestors and so on. So clans were Korean tradition corporations, not natural but artificial associations, and their character are near that of corporations.