More time to study changeThe recent polemic over the government
decision to keep the state-administered
bar exam longer than
originally promised does not reflect
the opinion of the public who are the
consumers and subjects of judiciary
services. The outcries demanding
consistency in public policy and
fairer opportunities all come from
the supply end. I believe the Ministry
of Justice came to the decision not
because it was swayed by popular
opinion, but for the good of the general
The goal of the reform is to upgrade
legal services for the people.
The Western-style three-year law
school system to groom and train legal
specialists, or the traditional Korean
system that allows anyone who
passes the annual state exam to be
qualified for training to pursue careers
in private or public legal field,
should be an optional not absolute
route to produce law practitioners
based on the conditions of each society
and changes of the times. No system
is good if it does not provide
better service to the people.
The zeitgeist in social welfare
and economic policy is mutualism.
Under the spirit of the times, people
who long aspired to practice law but
could not due to various reasons
should be allowed to pursue their
dream through the universal state
exam channel even if they have not
taken the law school course.
Just because a law had been
made through the representative
legislature, it should not be assumed
as a perfect one that reflects a majority
public view. Laws that have been
drawn up without respect to public
opinion and for political purpose often
have been challenged and reversed
in the Constitutional Court.
They also can be changed or scrapped
by public demand. A statutory law
should be upheld for credibility, but
needs not be absolute. No one can
accurately predict future social
changes and phenomenon.
Laws are revised or abolished
when the circumstances have become
different from the times they
were made or when unexpected side
effects surface. Law school proponents
cannot argue on the breach of
trust in public policy from the postponement
in the state bar exam. The
change does not change the rights of
graduates of law schools to be eligible
to become lawyers. There is no
breach of trust in this case.
Korea in the past experimented
with American-style graduate-level
medical schools and recruitment in
public offices for those with job experience
in certain specialized fields.
The medical graduate schools proved
to be too expensive and no different
from the undergraduate medical
The system in a developed country
doesn’t necessarily fit our climate.
It must be newly designed to meet local conditions. We must contemplate
whether we rushed to adopt
the law school system by blindly believing
it was better than the old
standardized test-based system
without fully considering how it can
serve to improve legal services.
The government should restudy
the legal entrance system based on
the public needs instead of giving in
to an interest group. It must probe
whether the army of law practitioners
with law school training helped
to bring down the private legal service
charges and upgrade services. It
also needs to survey how happier
consumers have become and whether
the system helped to decentralize
legal services away from the capital.
If it needs more time for more
objective empirical review since the
law school system has been in force
for just six years, the government
must sustain the dual entry system
longer to better study the benefits
and ill effects. It must use the transitional
period to address controversial
issues related to law schools,
such as the high tuition fees and suspicious
entrance guidelines, and upgrade
the state bar exam so those
who pass the universal test can receive
training from diverse institutions,
instead of the single Judicial
Research and Training Institute.
More time is needed to judge what
training system is best to serve the
people through empirical studies.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff
*The author is a professor at the Hongik University College of Law.
by Chang Young-kuen