Legal Environment

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In this page: Business Contract | Intellectual Property | Legal Framework of Business | International Dispute Resolution


Business Contract

General Observation
You must state precisely the obligations of the vendor and the methods of quality control.
A contract is the beginning, rather than the end, to a negotiation. Any change in the contract may cause problems to arise. Koreans may regard a contract as a "gentlemen's agreement" subject to further negotiation if conditions change.
Law Applicable to the Contract
You must be particularly vigilant about the law applicable to the contract and the methods of conflict resolution. Indeed, Korea is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on International Contracts.
The Korean legal system is not easy for a foreigner to understand so you are advised to choose international law or a system of settlement by arbitration.
Advisable Incoterms
FOB and CIF are widely used in Korea, even if Incoterms 2010 recommends FCA in case of container, air or complicated delivery.
Language of Domestic Contract
Korean, English
Other Laws Which Can Be Used in Domestic Contracts
If the Korean law is not used, you could select the international laws - especially in English - or the law of your contactors (in English).

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Intellectual Property

National Organisations
Korea Institute of Patent Information (KIPRIS)
International Intellectual Property Training Institute (IIPTI)
Regional Organisations
Intellectual Property Rights Experts Group (IPEG)
International Membership
Member of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
Signatory to the Paris Convention For the Protection of Intellectual Property
Membership to the TRIPS agreement - Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

National Regulation and International Agreements

Type of property and law Validity International Agreements Signed
Patent Law
20 years Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
Trademark Law
10 years, renewable every 10 years Trademark Law Treaty
Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks
Design Law
15 years  
Copyright Law
50 years after the death of the author (It will be 70 years from the end of 2009 or 2010) Berne convention For the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms
Rome ConventionFor the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations
WIPO Copyright Treaty
WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty
Industrial Models
Utility Model Law
10 years  

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Legal Framework of Business

Equity of Judgments

Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
The Language of Justice
Recourse to an Interpreter
Legal Similarities
The system is modelled on European systems with Anglo-American and Japanese influences.

The Different Legal Codes

Securities-related Laws Futures Trading Act
Collective Investment Scheme Act
Commercial Code
Commerce Laws
Unfair Competition Prevention Act and Trade Secret Protection Act
Consumer Laws Act on the Protection of Personal Information Maintained by Public Agencies
Consumer Protection Act On Electronic Transaction
Door-To-Door Sales, Etc. Act
Electric Appliances Safety Control Act
Food Sanitation Act
Regulations On Consumer Disputes Resolution
Product Liability Act, etc.
Tax Laws
Special Taxation for Foreign Investment in Restriction of Preferential Taxation Act
Checking National Laws Online
Korean Law Service of Supreme Court
Korean Law Service
Ministry of Government Legislation (MOLEG)
Korea Legislation Research Institute (KLRI)
Other Useful Resources
MOJ, Ministry of Justice
MOLEG, Ministry of Government Legislation
National Assembly, Recently Enacted Law
Country Guides
Buy USA Info Country Guide

The Jurisdictions

The Constitutional Court Decides on the constitutionality of laws, ruling on competence disputes between governmental entities, adjudicating Constitutional Complaints filed by individuals, etc.
Supreme Court Hears appeals from judgments or rulings rendered by the High Courts, the Patent Court, and the appellate panels of the District Courts or the Family Court.
High Courts Hear appeals from judgments or rulings rendered either by a panel of three judges of the district courts or the family court, or by the administrative court. The jurisdiction of high courts is exercised by a panel of three judges.
District Courts & Branch Courts There are 18 district courts throughout the nation. In each district court, there is an administration bureau to handle administrative affairs. The district courts or branch courts retain original jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases.
Family Court Exclusively deals with domestic relations and juvenile offense cases, the Family Court was established on October 1, 1963, on an equivalent level to the district courts.
Administrative Court The only Administrative Court is located in Seoul.
Patent Court Operates in a two-tier system. When a party is dissatisfied with the decision of the Intellectual Property Tribunal, a lawsuit may be filed with the patent court and later to the Supreme Court.

Court Officials

Public prosecutors
Public interest representatives who investigate crimes, indict suspects and direct/supervise the police in the investigation of crimes.
Participate in judicial proceedings as representatives of parties in civil or administrative cases or as defense counsels in criminal cases.
Notary publics
They draw up notaries deeds on juristic acts and attest to the authenticity of any instruments or writings signed by private persons.
Judicial scriveners
They perform such duties as preparation of documents to be submitted to a court or public prosecutor's office, preparation of documents necessary for registration and proxy of application for registration or deposit.
Independent, extra-judicial officers affiliated with the district courts. They are engaged in the execution of judgments and the service of documents.

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International Dispute Resolution

Recognized under Korean law as a legitimate method for settling disputes; used specifically in the field of international transactions.
Arbitration Law
Arbitration Act
Arbitration Rule (Dec. 13, 2004)
International Arbitration Rules (Jan 25, 2007)
Conformity to International Commercial Arbitration Rules
Party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Party to the Geneva Protocol on Arbitration Clauses.
Party to the Geneva Convention of the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Appointment of Arbitrators
Free determination of the number (minimum 3) and the method of appointment by the parties.
Arbitration Procedure
After hearing the parties, the arbitrator makes an award.
No appeal is allowed against an award except if it has been made on false evidence. In this case, it can be cancelled by the law.
Permanent Arbitration Bodies
Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB)

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Latest Update: July 2024