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Discussions on the Law School

Posted August. 27, 2007 07:26,   


A heated debate is expected to arise as the Justice Ministry has tentatively decided to allocate one law school to each high court jurisdiction for non-Seoul provincial areas.

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development will make a final decision on entrance quotas and which universities will have a law school by soliciting opinions from the legal community and academia. However, as the Justice Ministry is in charge of supplying lawyers, its response is likely to set the direction of discussions over law schools.

One law school per high court jurisdiction-

According to the Justice Ministry yesterday, it has tentatively decided to allow one law school for each high court jurisdiction, and is now fine-tuning the final discussions. The Education Ministry will make a final decision on which universities will have a law school in October next year.

There are five high courts in Korea: in Seoul, Daejeon, Daegu, Busan and Gwangju. Therefore, it is highly likely that there will be just four law schools in the provincial areas. This means that there will be one law school for each region, except for the Seoul Metropolitan area, in the Chungcheong, Daegu-Gyeongbuk, Busan-Gyeongam, and Homan regions.

A justice ministry official said, “It would be too many if there are law schools in each of the metropolitan cities and provinces.”

A separate standard for law schools will be set up for Seoul, where universities are concentrated. The authorities will decide which universities will have a law school by taking account of the number of graduates who pass the bar exam and the state of preparations for establishing law schools, while the number of such universities will be limited to an appropriate level. Six or seven universities, including Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University, are currently considered as candidates.

If the Justice Ministry’s plan is implemented, around 10 universities in Korea are expected to have a law school.

The Education Ministry made a preliminary announcement on legislation of “enforcement ordinances on law schools” which limits the entrance quota for each law school at 150. Therefore, around 1,500 applicants are expected to enter law school each year.

Another Justice Ministry official said, “The Education Ministry has the final say in accrediting law schools and determining the entrance quota. But there is a consensus that law schools should not be run as they are in Japan.”

Since introducing law schools in 2004, Japan has 74 law schools with some 5,800 entrants each year.

The Japanese government originally considered the establishment of a law school in about 30 universities. But it ended up accrediting more than double the number of law schools in the face of powerful lobbying by universities. As a result, many law schools fail to produce a single student who passes the bar exam, while only 48 percent of law school graduates pass the bar exam.

Various demands for an entrance quota-

Since the Judicial Reform Committee under the Supreme Court agreed to introduce law schools in October 2004, universities have striven to be allowed to set up a law school. Some 40 universities currently wish to have one, investing more than 200 billion won into their efforts.

There are widely diverging views regarding the entrance quota of law schools. Academia and civic groups argue that law schools should admit at least 3,000 candidates each year in order to significantly increase the number of lawyers. The Korea Law Professors’ Association believes that law schools should admit 3,200 candidates in their first year and gradually increase the quota to more than 4,000.

The Association of National University Presidents convened a meeting on August 24 and demanded, “The aggregate entrants for law schools should be more than 2,500.” Lawmakers on the education committee of the National Assembly see 2,000 to 2,500 as the appropriate level for an entrance quota. However, the Supreme Court has yet to announce its opinion on the appropriate quota level.

Kim Young-chul, dean at Konkun University’s College of Law, who is leading the Emergency Committee on Law School, said, “It is not right for Seoul National University, which was against the introduction of law schools from the beginning, to oppose a ceiling on the entrance quota. Universities should implement entrance quota ceilings in order to realize the purpose of diversification of legal professions through specialization of universities.”

A realistic plan is needed-

The Korean Bar Association (KBA), which represents the interests of lawyers, has been the most critical of the law school system.

The association criticized in its statement released in March: “It is an enormously-high-cost, inefficient system which forces an aspiring lawyer to study for four years in university and three years in law school and take the bar exam.” In April, it submitted a legislation petition to strengthen its criteria for taking the bar exam rather than introduce a law school system, and to convert the existing Judicial Research and Training Institute to a research and training institute for lawyers rather than abolishing it.

After the National Assembly approved the law school act, the KBA conceded, saying, “We will do our part for the successful establishment of the law school system, so that it could realize its purpose.” However, it announced that the appropriate entrance quota level should be half that of other agencies and groups at 1,000 to 1,200.

Lee Jin-kang, chairman of the KBA, said in an interview with a Dong-A Ilbo reporter, “We will soon offer a more realistic plan,” signaling that it could revise its quota upwards. The association is scheduled to hold a law school committee meeting to finalize its opinions on the entrance quota.

dnsp@donga.com will71@donga.com