Korea became a party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“N.Y. Convention”) on May 9, 1973. Korea’s Arbitration Act (“Arbitration Act” or “Act”) was wholly revised on December 31, 1999 to largely adopt the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (“UNCITRAL”) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration of 1985 (the “UNCITRAL Model Law”). The Arbitration Act was recently amended again, effective as of November 30, 2016, to bring the Act more in line with the 2006 amendments to the UNCITRAL Model Arbitration Act.
The Arbitration Act sets out a relatively straightforward process for seeking recognition or enforcement of an arbitral award depending on the seat of the arbitration. The recent amendments will make the process more convenient and will likely reduce the time it takes to obtain an enforceable award (see section II).
Korean courts have long applied narrowly the limited grounds on which the recognition or enforcement of foreign arbitral awards may be refused under the N.Y. Convention and on which domestic arbitral awards may be set aside or refused recognition or enforcement under the Arbitration Act. Recent cases demonstrate that the Korean courts maintain a continuing commitment to the presumption of enforceability except in rare circumstances (see section III).
Overall, the Korean recognition and enforcement regime functions smoothly, and companies can generally rest assured that the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards in Korea will be similar in character to that of other leading arbitral jurisdictions.