Professors call for reform of ‘easy’ bar examination

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Professors call for reform of ‘easy’ bar examination

The Korea Law Professors Society (KLPS) on Monday called the current law school system a “failure” and urged reform of the new bar examination which is facing accusations of being too easy and allowing too many people to pass.

The KLPS in a statement said, “The Justice Ministry, rather than protecting the failed law school system, has to undergo an all-out reform. The public wants the revival of the old bar examination because of the failure of the law school system, or an adoption of a new bar exam.”

Last week, the Justice Ministry revealed that the number of people who passed the bar examination compared to the previous year had drastically increased. In the ninth bar examination under the new law school system, over 53 percent, or 1,768 out of a total of 3,166 test takers, passed, according to the ministry.

A new Western-style three-year law school system was introduced in Korea in 2009. The graduates sit for a U.S.-style national bar examination. Under the old system, anyone, regardless of education, could take the traditional state-run bar examination and then undergo two years of mandatory training at the Judicial Research and Training Institute before practicing law. The old bar exam, notoriously difficult to pass, was abolished in 2017.

The new system, which launched some 25 new law schools, has been criticized for being much more costly and fielding too many lawyers because of an easier bar, oversaturating the legal market. Supporters of the traditional national bar exam argued that the old system provided equal opportunities to become a legal professional through merit.

The KLPS, comprised of law professors, questioned, “Is there any other public competitive examination in Korea with a passing rate of over 50 percent?”

The passing rate of the exam the previous year was 50.78 percent. This year, 77 more people passed the bar, it pointed out.

The law professors criticized the criteria to pass the current bar exam as being too low. They pointed out that the Justice Ministry set the passing criteria for the bar at 900.29 points out of a total of 1,660 points - just 54.23 percent.

The KLPS noted that even regular college courses require an average of at least 60 percent to pass. It continued, “How can the public accept such low points? The people cannot accept legal professionals who pass the bar while only getting about half the questions right.”

The Korean Bar Association (KBA) last Friday also expressed regret for the exceedingly high number of people who passed the bar.

It said in a statement that “without a reform of the law school system, the number of people who passed the bar will just increase and burden society” and pointed out that the bar cannot properly accommodate the training for all the new lawyers this year.

The KBA added, “The Justice Ministry and law schools should not be caught up in just increasing the number of people who pass the bar exam but should realize that a thorough evaluation of law schools and reform is the fundamental solution to the issue.”

BY SARAH KIM, KIM SU-MIN [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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