UPDATE: Research and Bibliography for Korean Law Resources in English

By Jootaek Lee

Jootaek Lee is an assistant professor and librarian at Rutgers Law School (Newark). Mr. Lee is also an adjunct professor and an affiliated faculty for the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at the Northeastern University School of Law. He is also a Massachusetts attorney and a prolific scholar and author. He has published in prestigious journals, including Georgetown Environmental Law Review, Law Library Journal, International Journal of Legal Information, Legal Reference Services Quarterly, Korea University Law Review, and Globalex. His research focuses on human rights to land, water and education, Asian practice of international law, especially human rights and international criminal law, legal informatics, Korean law and legal education, and pedagogy in law. He made numerous presentations at national and international conferences. He is active with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the American Society of International Law (ASIL), having served on AALL’s Diversity Committee, CONELL Committee, and Awards Committee. He is the former Co-Chair of International Legal Research Interest Group of the ASIL (2012-2015) and the former president of Asian American Law Librarians Caucus of AALL (2013-2014).

Published November/December 2018

(Previously updated in November/December 2012 and January 2016)

See the Archive Version!

1. Introduction

This research guide with a bibliography attempts to help American legal scholars, law students, legal practitioners, and law librarians to conduct research on the law of the Republic of Korea ("South Korea") in English. The guide focuses on bibliographies, indexes, research guides, online databases, and books written or translated in English. In order to help Korean law researchers determine how useful or important a research resource/tool is for its specific research purpose, the guide also provides a brief annotation for indexes and bibliographies, research guides, and databases. In the last chapter, the guide includes a bibliography related to Korean law under the title, “Treatises,” where I selectively compiled about 240 books and doctoral dissertations about Korean law in English (1945-2008) that researchers can get in the United States either through their own library or through interlibrary loan request.

Since the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement entered into force on March 15, 2012, interest in South Korean (hereinafter "Korean") laws in the United States has been increasing. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative sees the agreement providing U.S. exporters with more opportunities to sell their products and services in the Korean territory using their logistics, which will end up demanding more Korean law research in the United States. As of October 2018, among the 20 FTA countries US made free trade agreements with, Korea and Singapore are the only Asian countries.[1] Additionally, citizens from both countries freely travel to the other country for business and traveling purposes; from November 17, 2008, South Korea joined the U.S. Visa Waiver program; as a result, U.S. citizens, on reciprocity, can visit South Korea without a visa for duration of up to 90 days for business and tourism.

2. Legal System

South Korea not only has the civil law system heavily influenced by the German legal system, but also follows customary law and sound reasoning. Furthermore, American legal principles (the common law) have also affected Korean law since the liberation from Japan by the American forces in 1945.

3. State Practice in International Law

Korea did not succeed any treaties concluded before August 15, 1948, when the government of the Republic of Korea was newly established. After its new establishment, Korea concluded 3,248 treaties—692 multilateral treaties and 2,556 bilateral treaties—by December 2017.[2] The number of treaties increased recently—especially treaties dealing with free trade, prevention of double-taxation, social security, investment protection, extradition, and judicial assistance.[3] Under Article 73 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea (대한민국헌법; hereinafter "Constitution"), the President has the authority to adopt and ratify treaties.[4] Similar to the democratic treaty-making practice of most states, this power of the President to ratify is checked by the National Assembly for a democratic purpose. While treaties must be consented to by the National Assembly, under Article 60(1) of the Constitution, the National Assembly's authority to consent to the adoption and ratification is limited to important treaties. Those include treaties relating to mutual assistance or mutual security, international organizations, friendship, trade and navigation, any restriction in sovereignty, legislative matters, peace treaties, and treaties that give important financial burdens to citizens or Korea.[5] According to Article 6(1) of the Constitution, treaties are treated as domestic laws of Korea.[6] Unlike the United States which distinguish treaties from executive agreements in terms of the weight of authority, Article 6(1) of the Constitution does not break down treaties by its designation. All treaties are equally treated as domestic law. All Korean treaties which are subject to the consent to the ratification by the National Assembly are treated same as domestic laws which must go through the consent procedure by the National Assembly.

4. Types of Law

Topically, Korean law can be broadly organized into public law, private and social law. Primary sources of law in Korea are Constitution & Statutes, Treaties,[7] Emergency Executive Orders, Emergency Financial and Economic Executive Orders, Presidential decrees, Rules of the National Assembly, Rules of the Supreme Court, Rules of the Constitutional Court, Rules of the National Election Commission, Ordinances of the Prime Minister and Ministries, enforcement decrees, administrative rules, municipal ordinances and rules. The Korea Legislation Research Institute (KLRI) at its Statutes of the Republic of Korea website provides excellent summaries and graphics of Korean legislative system, categories of acts & subordinate statutes, hierarchy of authorities.[8] Cases are secondary sources in Korea.[9]

5. Bibliographies

Bibliography of Asian Studiesin the Journal of Asian Studies/Association of Asian Studies (Ann Arbor, Mich.): A printed form is available from 1941 to 1991 period, and starting from 1991, the Bibliography of Asian Studies Online was launched with digitalized books, journal articles, conference proceedings, etc. from 1971. The online bibliography allows users to search and browse by journal title and country. This bibliography separately compiled materials from Korea, and divided them into different subjects such as Anthropology & Sociology, Arts, Biography, Communication & Media, Economics, Education, General & Miscellaneous, Geography, History, Language, Library & Information Sciences, Literature, Philosophy & Religion, Politics & Government, Psychology & Psychiatry, and Science & Technology. It classified legal materials under Politics and Governments and provides bibliographical information on more than 450 materials.

Introduction to Korean Legal Materials / Yong-Hui Kim (Seoul, Korea; originally published in Journal of Korean Law, v. 2, no. 1, 2002, pp. 125-66): This research guide and bibliography on Korean legal materials provides an annotated list of legal materials and annotations. This guide introduces Romanization of Korean, Korean citation rules, dictionaries, Korean legal system, and four major Korean collections in the United States. Furthermore, it provides various legal titles for Korean codes and cases in addition to Korean indexes and databases. This guide has not been updated since 2002; hence, many online hyperlinks and books provided are outdated.

Korean Bibliography / Library of Congress:“The Korean Section of the Library of Congress has prepared a bibliography of approximately 4,800 records of books about Korea in English up to 1995 held by the Library of Congress.” This resource is comprehensive and user-friendly, and users can search by keywords, author, title, and subject and by a topical term index. This bibliography provides bibliographical information on more than 110 historical legal materials in English.

Bibliographies before 1990:

6. Indexes

Index to Legal Periodicals: Legal Periodicals & Books & Legal Periodicals Retro / The H.W. Wilson Company: Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective “indexes nearly 1000 legal periodicals published in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand” and covers from 1908 to 1981. Using Index to Legal periodicals & Books, users also can search more than 1,000 legal journals, law reviews, yearbooks, institutes, statutes, bar association publication, university publications, and government publications. In both databases, there are more than 120 articles on Korean law and legal issues in Korea from 1948. If a user wants to get a full text article, he ought to subscribe to Index to Legal Periodicals Full text.

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals /American Association of Law Libraries: “Produced at the Berkeley Law Library, University of California Berkeley for the American Association of Law Libraries, the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP) is the preeminent multilingual index to articles and book reviews appearing in over 500 legal journals published worldwide.” Its online version is now included in Hein Online and in addition to a search function, allows to browse by subjects, country, publication title, and year of publication. Coverage starts from 1960. This database allows users to find reference on more than 800 articles on Korean law, legal system, and legal issues in Korea. Journals, which contain Korean law articles, include Journal of Korean Law, Seoul Law Journal, Korea University Law Review, Korean Journal of Comparative Law, etc.

LegalTrac /Gale: This database allows users to search more than 1000 titles including law reviews, law journals, specialty law and bar association journals, and newspapers. Coverage starts from 1980. The database also allows users to browse contents by topic, and Korean articles from academic journals, magazines, and news is indexed under “South Korea.” There are references and sometimes, full text links to about 100 articles on Korean law and legal issues in Korea. Most periodicals, which contain Korean law, are published in the United States.

Index Master0:This database allows users to search index and table of contents of secondary legal titles. They “compiled thousands of titles from large and small legal publishers… and provided the actual index and tables of content” in the PDF file format. Index and table of contents of more than thousand books in this database contain the Korean-related contents.

7. Research Guides and Portals

Foreign Law Guide (Marci Hoffman, General Editor) / Brill (formerly known as Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World) / Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores. Littleton, Colo.: F.B. Rothman, 1989-1998: This subscription database introduces geography, brief history including major milestones, language, government, legal system, and provides useful research guidance in Korean law research. This guide also provides a comprehensive list of names of session laws and authoritative resources for about 150 subjects to foreign legal practitioners. Each country guide is assigned to a country editor who is an expert researcher on the country’s law.

Guide to International Legal Research / Geo. Wash. Int’l L. Rev. Newark, NJ: Matthew Bender, 1990-: Chapter four of this book provides a comprehensive bibliographical list of Korean legal resources with Chinese and Japanese legal resources. The chapter is divided into four government resources, legal resources, media resources, and resources by topic. Government resources include constitutions, international treaties, general legislation, and administrative law; legal resources include court system, reporters, treatises, and law journals; media resources include newspapers, non-legal journals; specialized legal resources by topic include civil law and civil procedure, civil rights, criminal law, environmental law, family law, human rights, intellectual property, labor law, maritime law, military law, property, rule of law, commercial code, banking, foreign investment, import/export, business, and competition law.

Guide to Law Online / Law Library of Congress / Nations of the World / Korea: This guide provides online hyperlinks to various websites including Korean governments and official government publishers. It is organized into Constitution, executive, judicial, legislative, legal guides, and general sources.

Korean Law A-Z (former Korean Legal Research at the University of Washington) / William B. McCloy, updated by Rob Britt, Aug. 30, 2018. This guide provides up-to-date and comprehensive information on Korean law sources in both English and Korean. It covers Romanization of Korean, citation style, dictionaries, other research guides on Korean law, finding tools for books, journal articles, newspapers, and edited volumes. It also provides collections and tools for searching codes and cases in both English and Korean, and introduces various official websites of Korean governments.

Korean LII: Korean Law via the Internet: This wiki style website was developed in 2011 by a law professor in Kyung Hee University. Initiated at the GLIN Directors’ Meeting in Seoul, Korean LII committed to the free access to law movement, seeking collective intelligence. This provides topical wiki summaries and articles in English about Korean laws such as public law (constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law, procedural law, etc.), private law (property law, security, contract law, torts, family law, corporate law, corporate finance, payment, insurance, transportation, etc.), specific law (privacy law, information law, technology law, fair trade law, banking, finance, labor law, insolvency), and international law.

“Republic of Korea Law Digest” in Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest / Kim & Chang: Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest provides “summaries of statutory law compiled and revised by distinguished lawyers and legal scholars of the respective countries for 80 countries, arranged by main subject categories, then topics and subheadings.” The latest version is 2006, and summaries that are more recent are available in Lexis. The “Republic of Korea Law Digest” in print covers legislation by 2005, and was written by attorneys in one of the biggest law firms in Korea. The digest provides practical tips for legal practitioners, and contains 23 different topics. Topics are arranged alphabetically, and main topics are business regulation and commerce, civil actions and procedures, alternative dispute resolution, employment, environment, estates and trusts, family, foreign trade and commerce, immigration, intellectual property, taxation, and treaties. Each topic is further divided into several subtopics, which have summaries of relevant law and citations to sources.

South Korean Law Research on the Internet / Hyeon-Cheol Kim & Inyoung Cho, Jan. 2008(updated2017): This research guide was prepared by two Korean judges and provides up-to-date information on internet legal resources, which contained Korean legal sources. With the introduction to the Korean legal system and a brief history of Korean law, the guide introduces various useful websites, where legal researchers can get full texts for Korean statutes, rules, regulations, treaties, cases, journals, news, etc. Most of the websites introduced, however, are in Korean.

8. Databases (Free Internet and Subscription)

Recently, many Korean government and court websites provide Korean laws free of charge while most of them disclaim the accuracy of English translation. For example, the Korea Legislation Research Institute (KLRI) affiliated with the National Assembly of Korea, is providing an English database, Statutes of the Republic of Korea. The Ministry of Government Legislation website also provides Korean Laws in English,[10] which contains the list of 912 current Korean acts in English and allows search by keywords and title. Its separate database, called “국가법령정보센터” (Kukga Bobryung Jungbo Center, National Legal Information Center) provides more than 12,255 Korean law in English. The National Assembly website itself provides under the "Laws & Bills" heading, English translations of Constitution of the Republic of Korea, National Assembly act, foreigner-related laws, and recently passed bills. The Constitutional Court of Korea also provides English translation of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea and Constitutional Court Act as well as their cases. Selected Supreme Court cases in English are available at the website of the Supreme Court.

The following databases are databases developed and maintained outside of South Korea.

Asian Legal Information Institute (AsianLII): “The Asian Legal Information Institute is a non-profit and free access website for legal information from all 27 countries and territories in Asia…” The Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) is developing this database in cooperation with partner institutions in Asian countries, and the Korean Legislation Research Institute is helping AustLII include Korean legislation. This database allows users to search Laws of the Republic of Korea (1948-2010), Constitutions of Asian Countries (1987), Cases from the Korean Constitutional Court (1998-2011) and Supreme Court (2000-11), and legal materials provided by the Korea Legislation Research Institute and the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) of the United States Law Library of Congress.

Constitutions of the Countries of the World: This database by Oxford contains texts of the Constitution as amended in 1987 and the Constitution Court Act as amended in 2007. It also contains an in-depth article on Korean Constitution, and selected bibliographies on Korean Constitutions.

HeinOnline: The World Constitutions Illustrated library contains the original text and revisions of Constitutions of the Republic of Korea. Journals included in the Law Journal Library are Journal of Korean Law (2001-current), Korean Journal of International and Comparative Law (1973-2006), Korea University Law Review (2007-current), Yonsei Law Journal (2010-), Columbia Journal of Asian Law (1987-current), Asian American Law Journal (1994-current), Asia Pacific Journal of Health Law & Ethics (2007-current), Asian Business Lawyer (2008-current), Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal (2000-current), and Asian Journal of WTO & International Health Law & Policy (2006-current). Asian Yearbook of International Law (1991-2014) is included in the separate library, Foreign & International Resources Database.

Westlaw: WestlawNext uniquely contains a Korean law database – only one comprehensive civil law system database. In Korea, LawnB is the most popular, comprehensive commercial database, containing statutes, decrees, rules and ordinances, cases, and treatises in Korean.[11] However, it does not provide English translations. LawnB was acquired by Thomson Reuters on March 30, 2012. Westlaw began providing Korean cases, legislation, and law review and journals articles in English from 2013; the Korea Reports database cover cases from the Supreme Court, appellate and trial courts from 2000, and the Korea Legislation database provides selected legislation including the current Constitution provided by the Korean Ministry of Government Legislation. It also contains Korean newspaper databases such as Korea Times and some journal databases that have articles on Korean law and legal systems. Journals included are:

9. Korean Law Books Index (2009-2018)

10. Korean Law Books Index (1945-2008)

[1] The United States is also in negotiations of a regional, Asia-Pacific trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, Office of the United States Trade Representative, https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements.

[2] Treaty-Making of Korea (우리나라의 조약체결), The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, http://www.mofa.go.kr/www/wpge/m_3832/contents.do.

[3] Id.

[4] Daehanminguk Hunbeob [대한민국 헌법][Constitution] (Oct. 29, 1987) art. 73 (S. Kor.).

[5] Daehanminguk Hunbeob [대한민국 헌법][Constitution] (Oct. 29, 1987) art. 60(1) (S. Kor.). This limitation of treaties which are subject to the consent by the National Assembly started from the 1948 Constitution while the types of treaties enumerated have been changed. If there is a conflict between the President and the National Assembly regarding what treaties are subject to the consent, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea has the jurisdiction.

[6] Daehanminguk Hunbeob [대한민국 헌법][Constitution] (Oct. 29, 1987) art. 6(1) (S. Kor.).

[7] Treaties are primary sources of law in Korea. Korea signed the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties on November 27, 1969 and later ratified it on April 27, 1977.Treaty-Making of Korea (우리나라의 조약체결), http://perma.cc/ADL4-RU9L.

[8] Korea Legislative System and Procedures, Korea Legislation Research Institute, http://elaw.klri.re.kr/eng_service/struct.do.

[9] However, the judges in South Korea look at previous cases form the Supreme Court of South Korea as guidance.

[10] It also provides a disclaimer as follows: This information is to improve the understanding of Korean laws and policy. Readers are responsible for obtaining exact legal information by themselves or from their own legal counsel. N.B.: Any inconsistency or defect in English version shall be decided by the Korean text.

[11] LAWnB is a fee-based subscription database that contains approximately 74,000 laws, 150,000 cases, 130,000 administrative materials, 90,000 treaties, articles, and periodicals, 85,000 tax cases, 20,000 lawyers information, 4500 corporations legal information, and 70,000 legal news articles. See LAWnB, http://www.lawnb.com/.