Law and Society in Korea
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Law and Society in Korea

Edited by Hyunah Yang

The contributors examine societal and historical conditions that are reflected in – or that were shaped by – the law, through a variety of lenses; including law and development, law and politics, colonialism and gender, past wrongdoings, public interest lawyering, and judicial reform. In dismantling the historical specificity of the way in which Korea studies are universally framed, the contributions provide novel views, theories and information about South Korean law and society.
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Chapter 8: Recent reforms in the legal profession and legal education

Dohyun Kim


Since Roh Moo-hyun’s government came into power in 2003, Korea has experienced the overhauling and rapid reformation of all of its judicial institutions and the entire legal profession. In 2009, the graduate-level law school system (po˘phak cho˘nmun taehagwon), a new legal education scheme, replaced its predecessor, the National Judicial Examination (sabo˘p siho˘m).1 An entirely new system of lay participation in criminal procedure, similar to the jury system of the common law world, had already been in operation since 2008. The unified plan for judicial appointment (po˘pcho irwo˘nhwa), under which judges are appointed from among lawyers with five or more years of experience as practising lawyers, is another judicial reform item already in the process of piecemeal implementation which will eventually replace the past practice of appointing all judges from among new lawyers just graduated from the Judicial Research and Training Institute (sabo˘p yo˘nsuwo˘n, hereinafter JRTI). Though the reforms are well under way, the reform agenda did not suddenly fall from the sky one day. Since the mid-1990s, there have been vehement debates between law professors, legal professionals and members of civil society over the judicial reform agenda. This chapter purports to describe the background and history of the judicial reformation in Korean society from the mid-1990s until today, including, if necessary, detailed specifications of individual reform items. In the process of these descriptions, the author also wishes to explain what is missing or what issues are insufficiently reflected in the judicial reforms currently being implemented.

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