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Anger over unfairness postpones abolition of state bar exam

Anger over unfairness postpones abolition of state bar exam

Posted December. 04, 2015 08:43,   


The Ministry of Justice has announced Thursday that it will delay the abolition of the state-run bar exam for four years until 2021. Vice Justice Minister Kim Joo-hyun cited public opinion poll results in which over 80 percent of the public called for improvement of the current law school system and retention of the state-run bar exam. According to the results of a September survey of 1,000 citizens by the ministry, 85.4 percent of survey respondents called for retention of the state bar exam, while just 23.5 percent said the current system should be abolished in 2017.

In fact, not a few people consider the state bar exam the fairest and most objective test. Some people criticize the law school system as benefiting only those wealthy enough to afford expensive law school. Circulating on the Internet are lists of the names of influential officials` or politicians` children who became judges, public prosecutors or lawyers at large law firms. Recently, Shin Ki-nam, a lawmaker of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, allegedly exercised undue influence to help his son who failed the graduation exam at a law school. The scandal fueled the public opinion calling for the retention of the bar exam.

According to a study by Seoul National University, 18.5 percent of students admitted to law schools between 2009 and 2011 had parents with professional occupations such as medical doctors and lawyers. The percentage was not significantly in that 16.7 percent of students whose parents work in professional occupations passed a state bar exam over the same period. Law schools have added diversity to lawyers` majors and other educational backgrounds and guaranteed students from underprivileged families could become lawyers. Had law schools transparently disclosed the scores and rankings of students in bar exams, they would have been able to dispel unnecessary suspicions over them.

Realistically, it is not easy to abolish the law school system and turn back the clock. During the four-year grace period, the government should allow non-law school graduates to take bar exams or seek an agreeable measure over the dual recruitment systems for lawyers. Above all, without addressing the public distrust in social fairness, the abolition of the state bar exam would certainly be taken as the end of a fair society with upward mobility.