The Korean bar exam is one of the toughest in the world. While open to all, only a thousand candidates are admitted every year, less than 5% of test-takers. Hopeful applicants often study for years in the hope of passing the bar, yet with failure comes foregone income, young people joining the workforce at an ever increasing age and, of course, severe ailments such as depression and suicidal tendencies.
The Korean government recently enacted a sweeping reform: the bar examination in its traditional format is gradually phased out and replaced with a law education system modeled after the United States’: students are now required to attend a graduate law school before sitting the bar exam, but have much greater odds of succeeding.
But what does it mean for the education of the next generations of Korean lawyers, the Korean judicial system and its underlying philosophy? To learn more, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jasper Kim.
Jasper Kim is Professor at the Graduate School of International Studies of Ewha Womans University. He is the Director of the Center for Conflict Management and was a visiting scholar at Harvard University.
Professor Kim earned his bachelor from the University of California, San Diego, his MSc from the London School of Economics (LSE), and his J.D. from the Rutgers University School of Law. He is a U.S. licensed lawyer (in Washington D.C.) and, prior to joining Ewha, worked for Barclays Capital and Lehman Brothers. His books include Korean Business Law: The Legal Landscape as well as Beyond, 24 Hours with 24 Lawyers: Profiles of Traditional and Non-Traditional Careers, and American Law 101: An Easy Primer.
As Korea became more prominent […], inevitably and almost by definition there’s going to be foreign involvement. foreign entanglement, foreign M&As, joint-ventures, and so Korean lawyers have to work with or compete against foreign lawyers […] That created a stark awareness [that] to compete in this globalized era, […] we really need to somehow change the legal system, because [it] is predicated on basically rote memorization of legal codes, and that might have worked during the Choseon Dynasty but is certainly much less effective in the 21st century.
The interview was recorded on November 11th in Seoul.