Overview of Civil Litigation in Korea - Chapter 2 - Arbitration Law of Korea: Practice and Procedure
Originally from Arbitration Law of Korea: Practice and Procedure
OVERVIEW OF CIVIL LITIGATION IN KOREA
Most civil and commercial disputes in Korea are handled by the courts, which follow a civil law system originally modeled on the German Civil Procedure Code of 1877. The court largely guides the course of the proceedings.1 Trials are heard by judges only, in panels of three for bigger cases and by a sole judge in smaller cases,2 without any juries.3 Therefore factual as well as legal findings are made by judges. Trials involve a series of intermittent hearings, ordinarily at intervals of three to four weeks. There are separate courts for patent,4 family law and administrative litigation. However, there are no separate courts for other civil matters (such as maritime or labor) or for criminal litigation.5
2.2 STRUCTURE OF KOREAN COURTS
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal in Korea and is responsible for reviewing decisions of the intermediate appellate courts. The Supreme Court is composed of the Chief Justice and thirteen associate justices, all of whom are appointed by the President subject to the approval of the National Assembly.6 Cases are heard by panels of three judges, or by thirteen judges en banc.7 The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction only in a few types of matters including electoral disputes. Appeals to the Supreme Court must be based on a constitutional defect or other legal error.8 The Supreme Court does not, in other words, have jurisdiction to hear appeals concerning alleged errors in fact-finding by lower courts.
Immediately below the Supreme Court are five High Courts, which serve as intermediate appellate courts.9 Each of the High Courts is composed of a Chief Judge and a varying number of associate judges determined in accordance with that court’s current caseload.10 The High Courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals in civil and criminal cases on issues of law and fact and are not bound by the lower court’s findings of fact but are generally permitted to conduct fact-finding on a de novo basis.