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Boalt Launches Korea Law Center South Korea’s emerging legal and political reforms will be main points of emphasis


“Now that the South Korean economy is booming, the country needs more lawyers.” —Laurent Mayali


oalt Hall has opened a new research center to study the political and legal systems of South Korea—one of the world’s most powerful economies. The Korea Law Center launch in February came on the heels of a free-trade agreement that opened the republic’s legal market to U.S. law firms. Emblematic of the center’s importance to Korea, former Prime Minister and Supreme Court Justice Kim Hwang-Sik serves as a senior advisor. Kim traveled to Berkeley to meet with students and the center’s leadership. “Kim’s advisory role indicates that this is not a U.S.-driven research center,” says professor John Yoo, the center’s co-director. “We really want to be responsive to what Koreans are interested in and the issues they grapple with daily.” Kim says the center’s work dovetails with South Korea’s current efforts at legal reform and will help the nation navigate difficult issues, from constitutional amendments to regional security. “We’ve had an invaluable bilateral relationship for decades,” he notes. “Many Korean students who studied at Boalt became the founders

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of prominent law firms. They’ve served as Supreme Court justices and professors at our top universities. The center’s research will be just as important as our country reforms its legal system.” In the 1960s, Boalt became one of the first U.S. law schools to welcome Korean scholars and students. Today, a steady stream of Korean judges, lawyers, and government officials study on campus each year and about a dozen law students enroll in advanced degree and J.D. programs. The new center will enable students to learn about issues vital to Korea’s emergence as an economic powerhouse and to network with some of its leading judges and lawyers. “Now that the South Korean economy is booming, the country needs more lawyers,” says Boalt professor and center co-director Laurent Mayali. “They’ve revamped their professional legal education system to mirror ours. They’ve studied our teaching methods and curriculum, and we’ve traveled to Seoul to offer advice on legal reforms.” With Korea’s legal market estimated at $3 billion per year and growing, U.S. law firms and businesses need to understand the country’s legal affairs to conduct international transactions and stay competitive, Mayali says. Korea’s legal reforms constitute the core of the center’s research, including the adoption of jury trials and other features common to the American justice system. Related research focuses on the role of courts in protecting individual rights, the regulation of health and safety, and the ability of independent agencies to control economic growth. The center will also examine the Dokdo Islands dispute between Korea and Japan, reunification of North and South Korea, and competing claims over ocean resources. The center explored these topics on April 18 at its first annual conference. Participants included academics from Seoul National University and Sogang University Law School, as well as Korean-American legal practitioners from top Silicon Valley companies. Supreme Court Justice Yang Chang-Soo was a featured speaker. The center’s advising faculty includes KoreanAmerican professors Sarah Song and Taeku Lee. Song’s research involves political philosophy, citizenship, and migration; Lee focuses on civic life, political engagement, and race relations of Asians in the United States. —Susan Gluss

Illustration by James yang


Berkeley Law Transcript 2014  

The alumni magazine of UC Berkeley School of Law.

Berkeley Law Transcript 2014  

The alumni magazine of UC Berkeley School of Law.