[Letter to the editor]Globalizing Korea’s legal education
President-elect Lee Myung-bak has made it clear his new government will be driven by the principle of pragmatism. It seems that his one-sided victory in the latest presidential election is a result of the nationwide disappointment in the policy failures of President Roh Moo-hyun’s government. It means Korean society has become too diverse to be managed by a single ideology or value system of the so-called 386 generation.
When the U.S.-style law school system was introduced in Korea, I was able to observe the Western law school education as a visiting scholar at an American law school. I got the chance to figure out what made the U.S. law school system so competitive. In the same vein, Korean law schools could be successful by paying attention to three factors:
First, legal educational institutions must make effectively tackling legal issues a key part of their currricula.
Law schools provide students with practical expertise “to think like lawyers” in the real world, so American law graduates are believed to be able to competently practice law immediately upon graduation. With their arena expanding across borders, they are increasingly interested in the global business environment. Therefore, future Korean lawyers have to be equipped with legal knowledge and skills that are equal to those of their U.S. counterparts.
Second, a global mindset is advisable, and probably imperative, for the new generation of lawyers. Since corporate legal issues are internationally interwoven, it is useful to study and discuss law in English, as such legal issues are taking place in an international context. Holding law school classes in English does not go far enough because Korean entrepreneurs are visiting every corner of the globe and they need as much legal support as possible. Also it is important to bring in foreign students to Korean law schools to globalize Korean law.
Third, the quality of scholarship must be brought up to world-class level in areas where Korean industries have achieved worldwide influence. For example, in the area of information and communication technology, Korea should produce more internationally notable articles and law publications. This can be achieved with pragmatic legal education and research in such fields.
Thus, legal education based upon pragmatism should be intensified under the new Lee Myung-bak government. But we should be careful not to mimic one aspect of America: The catastrophic debt burden that U.S. law school graduates face because law school tuition is on the increase. Law students already have overly high expectations for the job opportunities and incomes they will get as lawyers.
Whon Il Park, professor of law,
Kyung Hee University