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[Op-Ed] Interview Section of the Law Bar

Posted November. 26, 2009 09:03,   


Until the 1960s, the number of people passing the law bar was between five and 45 per year since a score of 60 or higher in the exam’s second part was considered a passing score. The government, however, began hiring more than 50 lawyers every year from the 1970s after the quota system was introduced. The number of those who passed the bar soared to 300 in 1981. In the late 1990s, the number of passing candidates grew by 100 each year, surging to 800 in 2000 and 1,000 in 2001. This year’s bar results released Tuesday said 997 applicants passed. Of the 1,019 applicants who passed the second part of the exam, 22 failed the interview.

Introduced in 1996, the interview section had just one person fail until 2005. That figure jumped to seven in 2006, 11 in 2007, and 10 last year. Most of them passed the interview the year after. Surprisingly, however, a whopping 22 people failed to pass the interview this year. Most of them were screened out because of lack of legal expertise or the ability to make a logical presentation. Experts say, however, that the interview section should be strengthened because too many unqualified people have passed the bar.

The government has gradually increased the number of lawyers to provide legal services for more people at lower prices. At the same time, it has long believed that a surge in the number of lawyers will prop up the rule of law in Korea. Korea had only 280 lawyers in 1954, but 55 years later, that figure has shot up to around 11,000. Compared to advanced economies, Korea suffers from an insufficient number of lawyers. In Korea, however, the number of lawyers has surpassed the demand for legal services. If law schools begin producing graduates after three years, the number of lawyers will surge. So the management and improvement of lawyer quality is a high priority.

More important, however, is to manage the quality of judges given their critical role in the legal system. Certain judges have recently announced politically biased rulings, fueling distrust of the judiciary. Progressive or leftist judges belonging to the Society for Korean Law Study are at the center of the controversy. Judges must defend the country’s laws and support the democratic and liberal values guaranteed by the Constitution. That explains why the government should strengthen the interview section of the law bar.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)