The beauties of arbitration

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The beauties of arbitration

The Seoul International Dispute Resolution Center opened yesterday. Headed by Shin Young-moo, a former judge and president of the Korean Bar Association, the center will help settle an increasing number of international trade disputes through arbitration, which is faster and more efficient than trials. We should take the opportunity to turn the metropolitan city of Seoul into a global hub of international arbitration.

In an opening ceremony, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, himself a former lawyer, said the center will mark a significant turning point in the government’s aggressive campaign to nurture a value-added services industry that could serve as a major growth engine for the country. Minister of Justice Hwang Kyo-an also vowed to raise a professional workforce by intensifying education in international arbitration. It is noteworthy that the center could be set up thanks to a joint effort by the Seoul municipal government, the central government and the bar association. Needless to say, all the concerned parties should continue their efforts to raise the level of the center.

One of the biggest benefits from the center would be the expansion of legal services available to Korean companies and the economic advantages that would obviously follow. So far, our domestic companies had to sacrifice much time and money when court cases they were involved in were heard abroad. With the establishment of the center, however, they can reduce a substantial portion of legal expenses that went overseas in the past. In addition, we can also expect some positive effects from foreign arbitrators and lawyers staying in Seoul and the cultivation of arbitration specialists in Korea.

The question is how many cases of international arbitration the center can draw amid fierce competition with Hong Kong and Singapore, popular destinations for arbitration in Asia. But Seoul does not really lag behind given the competitiveness of its legal services, its geographical location and the quality of its lawyers. Another strong point of the center is its state-of-the-art video system, which enables parties to settle their disputes without physically visiting the center. The authorities need to publicize such advantages through aggressive promotion and marketing.

Korea ranked No. 1 in the number of international arbitration cases in Asia from 1998 to 2010. That means our companies’ global status has arrived. It is time to elevate the level of our legal services.

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