Penn State International Law Review


Ilhyung Lee

First Paragraph

The jurisdiction that is Korea offers quite a unique setting for comparative law commentators. Deeply-rooted Confucian norms planted in the Chosun dynasty (1392-1908) continue to impact interpersonal relations in the contemporary setting. After nearly four decades of Japanese colonial rule, Korea declared its independence at the close of the Second World War. The opening years of the republic saw a new constitution (though not necessarily constitutionalism), corruption in the executive branch, and occasional amendment of the constitutional text to extend or enlarge executive power. After a coup in 1961, more of the same followed, in the reign of authoritarian rule by military dictators (1961-1987). After dissension and great civil unrest, the "year of the constitutional miracle" (1987) paved the way for a constitutional democracy, and popular election of the president. This point in Korean history saw the establishment of the Constitutional Court (in addition to the existing Supreme Court), along with the emergence of a middle class, a burgeoning sense of individual rights, and a more litigious society. There is more, of course. From the devastation of the ruins of the Korean War that ended in 1953, the country, a largely agrarian society, quickly advanced to its oft-described standing as the eleventh largest economy in the world. In addition, that Korea is in the "throes of a social transformation" affecting every aspect of society, presents rich opportunities to examine the rule, role, impact, and perception of law in every day Korean life.