Abstract This article investigates how the state shapes economic allocation between the sexes in the family by analyzing nationally applied, codified family laws in South Korea. Through male-centered family laws, the Korean state until recently supported men's economic advantages within the family. However, with increasing women's collective power in the nation and with growing international attention to the advancement of women, the state has changed its role from a reinforcer of gender-based economic inequality to a mediator of and participant in gender struggles. The changing role of the state is reflected in the major revision of family laws in 1989. This study avoids the static conceptualization of the state as an invariable supporter of men's interests in regulating gender relations. Instead, this study focuses on how the role of the state can be transformed by the women's movement at the national and international levels. The findings support a view of the state as increasingly influential in reproducing and transforming economic inequality between men and women in South Korea.