NOTE: Students with prior training in the Korean legal system may enroll only with permission from the instructor.
Rising from the devastation and destruction of Japanese colonization and the Korean War to the robust and dynamic economy of 2011, South Korea has come to play a pivotal role in East Asian economic development and stability. As a world-class economy, it is now a major force in the processes of globalization, international legal harmonization, regional economic and political cooperation, and global governance. This course examines the law and legal institutions of South Korea from the perspective of its role in the global economy and the impact of the global economy on Korean legal development. We will begin with an historical overview of the Confucian roots of Korean legal thought, its initial encounters with Western legal traditions, the impact of Japanese colonization, and the reforms modeled after the US legal system following the Korean War. This will set the foundation for examining the ways in which global influences have both integrated with and continue to compete with long-standing notions of law and society in Korea. Topics include cultural norms associated with dispute resolution and negotiation, history and development of the Constitutional Court and its jurisprudence, international and domestic human rights standards in Korea, criminal law and the new jury system, contracting, developments in labor and employment law, corporate law and governance, and international law issues involving Korea.
Throughout the course, we will ask how the issues currently debated in each of the areas examined relate to the trends and challenges that exist in the broader regional and global governance system. Specifically, to what extent has Korea resisted those trends or addressed the challenges successfully? How do these responses affect its legal and political relations with its neighbors and the world community? To what degree has Korea been an active contributor on certain global issues while remaining passive on others? How do Korean solutions compare to solutions elsewhere in East Asia and the world? Finally, we will tie these themes together in the final part of the course as we discuss prospects for East Asian legal harmonization through regional governance networks and Korea's emerging role in transnational legal cooperation and governance.
Topics to be covered:
1. Historical Considerations (Confucian roots and first western influences, civil law system, Japanese colonization, U.S. influences)
2. Dispute Resolution (non-litigious society? law and culture)
3. Legal Profession (legal education and training, legal profession, judiciary, foreign lawyers and law firms)
4. Constitutional Law (history of the Court and major cases: prosecution of ex-presidents, impeachment and )
5. Human Rights (Human Rights Commission and Korea at the UN; reform of the family registry system; migrants, multiculturalism and immigration policy; North Korean refugees)
6. Criminal Law (basic overview, recent reforms)
7. Contracts (civil code, "weak contracting/strong relationships")
8. Labor and Employment Law (unions and international trade, irregular workers, anti-discrimination laws)
9. Corporate Law and Governance (Chaebol and the international economy, financial reforms)
10. Korea and International Law (Korea in the WTO, regional security cooperation, relationship with North Korea, free trade agreements (KORUS))
11. East Asian Legal Harmonization? Korea and regional governance networks (comparative look at China/Japan and Korea's role in transnational legal cooperation/governance).