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Name of Court Address
URL
Supreme Court 157 Seochojungang-ro Seocho-dong Seocho-gu Seoul 06594, Korea
http://www.scourt.go.kr (Korean)
Composition
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The Supreme Court is comprised of the Chief Justice and 13 Justices. The Minister of National Court Administration, one of the Justices, does not sit on the bench in the Supreme Court trials.
Jurisdiction
As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court hears appeals against judgments or rulings rendered by the high courts, the Patent Court, and the appellate panels of the district courts or the family courts in civil, criminal, administrative, patent and domestic relations cases. Under special circumstances, the Supreme Court hears exceptional appeals against the first trial judgments. It has the authority to review rulings rendered by the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal in accordance with the ‘Act on the Investigation of and Inquiry into Marine Accidents’. It also has exclusive jurisdiction over the validity of the presidential or parliamentary election.
The Supreme Court has the power to make a definitive review on the constitutionality or legality of orders, rules, regulations, and actions taken by administrative entities.
Exercise of Jurisdiction
The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is exercised by the en banc court or panels of justices. An en banc court is convened with more than two-thirds of the Justices present, with the Chief Justice presiding. A panel is composed of four justices. Currently, there are three panels of justices. All judgments rendered by each panel must be made unanimously. As for the cases deliberated by the en banc court, the decisions are made on a majority basis. The panels of justices rule most of the cases that are appealed to the Supreme Court. However, a case is referred to the en banc court in the event that a panel fails to reach a consensus on the decisions or if the case falls under one of the following categories:
where it is deemed that any order, rule, or regulation is in contravention of the Constitution or contrary to laws;
where it is deemed that any order, rule, or regulation is contrary to law;
where it is deemed necessary to modify the previous opinion of the Supreme Court on the interpretation and implementation of the Constitution, laws, orders, rules, or regulations; and
where it is deemed that adjudication by a petty bench is not appropriate.
Adjudication of the Supreme Court has a distinctive feature with the ‘Act on Special Cases concerning Procedure for Trial by the Supreme Court’. When the grounds for appeal to the Supreme Court submitted by the appellant do not fall under such categories as are enumerated by the law, the Supreme Court is to dismiss the appeal without further examining the case. The reasons for dismissal need not to be stated. This is called Discontinuation of Adjudication. This is not applicable to criminal appeals.
Judicial Administration
Judicial administration refers to the administrative management affairs including organization, human resources, budgets, accounting, facilities, etc., which are necessary to operate the judiciary.
The Chief Justice exercises general control over judicial administrative affairs, and directs and supervises the officials concerned in regard thereof. The Chief Justice may delegate part of the authority to direct and supervise to the Minister of National Court Administration, the chief judge of each court, the President of Judicial Research and Training Institute, the President of Training Institute for Court Officials, or the President of Supreme Court Library.
Important judicial administrative affairs require resolution of the Council of Supreme Court Justices.
The Council of Supreme Court Justices
The Council of Supreme Court Justices is the highest deliberative body in judicial administration. The Council is composed of all the justices and presided over by the Chief Justice. A resolution of the Council requires a quorum of more than two-thirds of all the justices and the consent of a majority of the members present.
The Council passes resolution for the appointment of the lower court judges, establishment or revision of the Supreme Court Rules and Regulations, accumulation and publication of judicial precedents, request for budget, expenditure of reserve fund, settlement of accounts, and such matters as deemed of particular importance and as referred to it by the Chief Justice.
Power to Establish Rules and Regulations
The Supreme Court may establish rules and regulations, under its judicial law-making powers, concerning judicial proceedings, discipline within the courts, or management of business insofar as they are not contrary to law. As mentioned above, resolution by the Council is required when establishing the Supreme Court Rules and Regulations.
Right to Present an Opinion
If it is deemed necessary to enact or revise related laws in connection with the organization, personnel affairs, operation, judicial proceedings, registrations, family registration, and other court affairs, the Chief Justice may present in writing his/her opinion to the National Assembly.
Judicial Research Team
In the Supreme Court, there is a judicial research team comprised of judges and non-judge legal researchers who examine cases as well as conduct judicial research.
Organization
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There are five high courts located in five major cities of Korea - Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju and Daejeon. In order to enhance judicial accessibility of the litigants, selected high courts established one of its panels in remote district courts including Chuncheon District Court, Cheongju District Court, Changwon District Court, Jeonju District Court and Jeju District Court.
Jurisdiction
As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court hears appeals against judgments or rulings rendered by the high courts, the Patent Court, and the appellate panels of the district courts or the family courts in civil, criminal, administrative, patent and domestic relations cases. Under special circumstances, the Supreme Court hears exceptional appeals against the first trial judgments. It has the authority to review rulings rendered by the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal in accordance with the ‘Act on the Investigation of and Inquiry into Marine Accidents’. It also has exclusive jurisdiction over the validity of the presidential or parliamentary election.
High courts hear appeals from judgments, rulings or orders rendered either by a panel of three judges of district courts or the family courts, or by the Administrative Court. The jurisdiction of high courts is exercised by a panel of three judges. By the implementation of dual system on personnel affairs for judges, high court judges are appointed among legal professionals who apply for the position with substantial legal experience, and the appointee would not be transferred to district courts and work only at high courts unless there are special circumstances.
Organization
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Currently, there are 18 district courts throughout the country. In each district court, there is an administration bureau to handle judicial administrative affairs. Branch court(s), and/or municipal court(s) may be established under a district court. Currently there are 40 branch courts nationwide.
Jurisdiction
As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court hears appeals against judgments or rulings rendered by the high courts, the Patent Court, and the appellate panels of the district courts or the family courts in civil, criminal, administrative, patent and domestic relations cases. Under special circumstances, the Supreme Court hears exceptional appeals against the first trial judgments. It has the authority to review rulings rendered by the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal in accordance with the ‘Act on the Investigation of and Inquiry into Marine Accidents’. It also has exclusive jurisdiction over the validity of the presidential or parliamentary election.
High courts hear appeals from judgments, rulings or orders rendered either by a panel of three judges of district courts or the family courts, or by the Administrative Court. The jurisdiction of high courts is exercised by a panel of three judges. By the implementation of dual system on personnel affairs for judges, high court judges are appointed among legal professionals who apply for the position with substantial legal experience, and the appointee would not be transferred to district courts and work only at high courts unless there are special circumstances.
Civil cases : Cases involving a controversial amount exceeding 200 million Korean won (approximately US$ 177,000 as of October 2015) or incalculable amounts. There are exceptions for cases involving the claim for payment of checks or bills and financial institution’s claim for repayment of loans, which are presided over by a single judge regardless of the amount in controversy.
Criminal cases : Sentences of death penalty, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for a minimum of one year. There is also an exception for cases such as check counterfeiting, habitual use of violence, habitual larceny, etc. which are presided over by a single judge.
In addition, district courts have jurisdiction over appeals against judgments or rulings rendered by a single judge of the district court, branch court or municipal court. This appellate jurisdiction is exercised by a panel of three judges, which is called an appellate panel, like a trial panel of three judges.
Municipal courts exercise original jurisdiction over minor cases. Currently, 100 municipal courts are situated across the nation. Municipal courts have jurisdiction over small claim cases in which the amount in dispute does not exceed 20 million Korean won (approximately US$ 17,700 as of October 2015) and misdemeanor cases in which the courts may impose penal detention or a fine not exceeding 200,000 Korean won (approximately US$ 177 as of October 2015).
Patent Court
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In the past, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) had rendered two-tier administrative judgments with regard to disputes surrounding the rights of patent, utility model, design, or trademark. Appeals against KIPO’s decisions could only be filed to the Supreme Court directly, without any prior lower court trials.
However, as the Patent Court, newly established on March 1, 1998 as part of judicial reform and in high court level, has original jurisdiction regarding appeals from the decision of the Intellectual Property Tribunal and appeals from the Patent Court’s decision go directly to the Supreme Court, the court has operated in a two-tier court system.
The Patent Court has technical examiners who have degrees in various fields of natural science, technology, and other professionally related fields to assist judges on the technical matters of patent and utility model cases by providing consultation and expertise to judges.
Family Court
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Having exclusive jurisdiction over domestic relations and juvenile offense cases, a family court, equivalent level to district courts, was first established in Seoul on October 1, 1963 and opened in Busan in April 2011. In addition, family branch courts under Daejeon District Court, Daegu District Court and Gwangju District Court were elevated to family court, so became Daejeon Family Court, Daegu Family Court and Gwangju Family Court on March 1, 2012. Sixteen additional branch courts under district courts were also opened. Incheon Family Court, Ulsan Family Court and Suwon Family Court will be opened in the year of 2016, 2018 and 2019 respectively. As for other regions where a family court or a family branch court is not established, respective district courts or branch courts has provided with the jurisdictions for domestic relations and juvenile offense cases.
In 1998, in addition to domestic relations and juvenile offense cases, the family court was provided with the power to rule domestic violence cases under the Special Act for the Punishment of Domestic Violence. The Family court was also provided with the authority to issue Domestic Violence Victim Protective Order in October 2011, allowing victims of domestic violence to directly file an injunction to isolate domestic violence offenders and other related orders to the family court. With the commencement of the Special Act on the Punishment of Child Abuse Crime from September 29, 2014, child protection cases and protection order for abused child are managed by the family courts. Family courts provide supports the children’s growth to become a healthy member of the society by imposing temporary measure, protective disposition on the guardian who abused a child and temporary protection order and protection order for the abused child. Domestic relations cases are heard either by a panel of three judges or a single judge. Juvenile offense, domestic violence cases and child protection cases are heard by a single judge. Each family court has a conciliation committee to handle conciliation proceedings and investigative officers to conduct necessary investigations.
Administrative Court
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The Administrative Court was established on a level equal to the district courts, on March 1, 1998. The only Administrative Court is located in Seoul. The respective district court performs the function of the administrative court until a separate administrative court is established in that respective region. The Administrative Court hears tax, eminent domain, labor, and other administrative cases. In the past, the exhaustion of administrative remedies was a requirement for filing an administrative lawsuit with the court. However, with the establishment of the Administrative Court, an administrative lawsuit may be filed without first resorting to administrative remedies unless otherwise provided by law.
219 Seocho-ro,Seocho-gu,Seoul 06590,Republic of Korea 02-3480-1100