Korean Law Courses at Columbia Law School
The center has recently expanded its course offerings into two separate courses on North and South Korean law. This division reflects the growing complexities of law and globalization in South Korea and the geopolitical tensions impacting inter-Korean law and legal relations. These courses are open to Law School students, School of International and Public Affairs students, and students of other Columbia divisions.
Fall Semester: Korean Legal System in the Global Economy
Rising from the devastation of Japanese colonization and the Korean War, South Korea now plays a pivotal role in East Asian economic development and stability. The Korean economy has become a major force in cross-border legal harmonization, international 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. We will begin with an historical overview of the Confucian roots of Korean legal traditions, initial encounters with Western legal systems, the impact of Japanese colonization, and the emergence of democratic rule. We will then examine and critically analyze the ways in which contemporary global influences continue to compete with long-standing notions of law and society in Korea. The course will cover the changes in the Korean legal landscape from the time of Japanese colonial rule, through the Korean War, and lastly to the transition from the post-war authoritarian government to a full-fledged democracy.
Topics include cultural norms associated with law and legality; history and development of democratic rule, including the Constitutional Court and its jurisprudence; legal education reforms and the opening of the Korean legal market to foreign law firms; corporate law and governance, including various nuances of Korean corporate law, chaebol reform, the "economic democracy" debate, and small business promotion; Korea's engagement with the international legal system, historically and as seen through its relations with its immediate neighbors; and international and domestic human rights standards in Korea.
The course is designed for students with little or no prior knowledge of the Korean Legal System. No knowledge of Korean language is required.
Topics to be covered:
- Introduction to the Korean Legal System
- Early Korean legal history to the present: Confucian legal traditions; Japanese Colonization; Democratization and Rule of Law
- Legal System and Profession
- Constitutional Rights and Freedoms
- Criminal Law & Procedure
- Business Law & Corporate Governance (I, II, and III)
- Civil Litigation; Social laws
- Korea and the International Legal System: History; Inter-Korean relations; Japan-Korea Relations
- Dokdo and the Comfort Women issue
- Korea and the International Human Rights System
- Korea and International Trade Law: WTO; FTAs
Spring Semester: Geopolitics of Law and Conflict on the Korean Peninsula
Offered in the spring, this course focuses on the complex domestic and international legal framework that informs North Korea’s relationships with surrounding large powers, including the United States, and South Korea. The course is divided into three parts:
- Part 1 focuses on North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and missile program within the context of the existing international treaties regime. It covers topics relating to the legal aspects of negotiating with a nuclear North Korea, including the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the impact of the 1994 Agreed Framework and KEDO.
- Part II explores the broader theme of North Korea’s relations with China, the United States, Russia, and Japan in the context of human rights violations (including the international impact of domestic abuses and problems related to refugees in China), trafficking of drugs, and counterfeit currency.
- Part III focuses on inter-Korea relations, including a critical examination of the international and domestic legal issues related to establishing a permanent peace regime on the peninsula, territorial disputes involving the Northern Limit Line, the North Korean Constitution and hereditary succession, and the law and policy implications of unification.
Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on examining North Korean activities and behavior within the context of existing domestic and international legal norms. This course is included in the Law School's Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security.