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Members
  • Judges
  • Court Officials
  • Law Clerks
  • Relevant Professions
Qualifications
The Constitution of Korea stipulates that qualifications for judges shall be set by the law. In accordance, the Court Organization Act defined the qualifications for judges as persons who have passed the National Judicial Examination and completed a two-year training program at the Judicial Research and Training Institute (JRTI) or those who have passed the bar exam. However, the National Judicial Examination will be abolished in 2017 with the introduction of law school system in 2009. In accordance with of the revision of the Court Organization Act on July 18, 2011, judges are only selected from people who are qualified as a lawyer with certain period of legal experience from January 1, 2013. The length of legal experience for qualifications of a judge will gradually increase until 2026 as follows:
From January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2017, not less than three years of legal experience is required for appointment of judges.
From January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2021, not less than five years of legal experience is required for appointment of judges.
From January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2025, not less than seven years of legal experience is required for appointment of judges.
From January 1, 2026, not less than ten years of legal experience is required for appointment of judges.
According to the Court Organization Act, the qualifications of the justices of the Supreme Court require more than 45 years of age with 20 years of legal experience. The scope of legal experience will include those who have been in the following profession for not less than 20 years:
1) a judge, a public prosecutor, or a lawyer;
2) a qualified lawyer who has engaged in legal affairs at a government agency, local government, national or public enterprise, government-invested institution, or other juristic person; or
3) a qualified lawyer who has held a position higher than an assistant professor in jurisprudence at an authorized college or university. Former Chief Justices and other justices, for the most part, were judges prior to their appointment to the respective position.
Appointment of Judges
Appointment of Judges
The Chief Justice and justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of the nation with the consent of the National Assembly. As for justices, the Chief Justice has to first submit recommendations for appointment to the President. Judges are appointed by the Chief Justice with the consent of the Council of Supreme Court Justices. The judges are assigned to their posts by the Chief Justice.
The Judges Personnel Committee was established as an advisory group to the Chief Justice to plan and coordinate personnel issues. The Chief Justice can evaluate service of judges and the outcome may be reflected in personnel management.
Terms of Office and Retirement
The term of office of justices, including the Chief Justice is six years. Whereas the Chief Justice can only serve a single term, justices can serve additional terms. Judges have a 10-year service term and may be reappointed. Judges must leave office when they reach retirement age even if their term remains. The retirement age is 70 for Supreme Court Justices including the Chief Justice and 65 for lower court judges.
Guarantee of Status
No judge is subject to involuntary dismissal from office except by an impeachment or a sentence of imprisonment or heavier. Further, a judge cannot be subject to suspension from office, a reduction in remuneration, or unfavorable treatments except by disciplinary measures.
On the other hand, in case a judge is unable to carry out the duties due to grave mental disorder or physical impediment, if the judge is a justice of the Supreme Court, the President may order him/her to resign from office upon the recommendation of the Chief Justice. As for judges other than justices, the Chief Justice may order to resign.
Remuneration of judges is to be appropriate to the judges' duties and dignity.
During the term of office, a judge cannot become a member of the National Assembly or a local council, or a public official in any administrative agency, participate in a political activities, engage in a paid job without the permission of the Chief Justice, or hold a job for the purpose of any pecuniary profit, assume any post, regardless of its reward, as an advisor, officer or employee of a corporation or organization, other than government agencies, without the permission of the Chief Justice.
Discipline of Judges
A judge is subject to disciplinary measures when the judge committed a serious breach of duties or was negligent in performance of the duties. Disciplinary measures may also be taken against a judge who has degraded himself/herself or damaged the dignity of the court.
Disciplinary measures are divided into three kinds: suspension from office, a reduction in remuneration, and a reprimand. If a judge is submitted to suspension from office, performing of the respective duties shall be suspended for not less than a month and not more than a year. During such period, remuneration is subject to suspension. If a judge is submitted to a reduction in remuneration, it can be cut by one-third for not less than a month and not more than a year. In case a reprimand is to be delivered, it is admonished in writing.
Discipline of judges is under the jurisdiction of the Judges Disciplinary Committee established in the Supreme Court. A resolution of the Committee requires a majority of all members as a quorum and the consent of a majority of the members present.
Appeals against the Committee’s decision can be made within 14 days from the date on which the judge is aware of the disciplinary decision by filing a request of disciplinary action cancellation claim at the Supreme Court. A case is to be heard once as a single trial.
Judges on Secondment
When other government agency requests secondment of a judge to the Chief Justice, permission may be granted if it is deemed proper in light of the nature of service, and with judge's consent. Currently, judges are seconded to the Constitutional Court, the National Assembly, the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations and the Vietnam Judicial Training School.
Overseas Training of Judges
The Supreme Court has implemented overseas training programs to help judges gain advanced work skills, job expertise and motivation and for a systematic development of human resources with expertise. Such programs are also intended to introduce advanced judicial systems and operation methodologies of other nations to Korea as well as to establish a more efficient and optimal legal system in line with rapid changes and the trend of internationalization. Overseas training programs for judges can be classified as follows:
Long-term Training Program
Through sponsorship and recommendation of the Supreme Court, participants to this program receive training or participate in research at a university, an educational institution or a research center overseas. In general, the training period is ten months to one year. The program was launched in 1982. Today, overseas studies are conducted in various nations such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Japan, China, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, etc. The number of participants reaches up to 80 persons each year.
Training Program for Internationalization
This program aims to promote understanding of diverse cultures and different systems in currently expanding and accelerating global arena as well as to develop new ideas and vitality for a judicial environment. The training period is about two weeks
Number of Judges
As of August 2015, the number of judges including the Chief Justice and justices of the Supreme Court and those in the special service such as professors of the JRTI stands at 2,837.
Number of Judges (as of August 2015)
Court Position Number*
The Supreme Court Chief Justice 1
Justice 13
Senior Research Judge 2
Research Judge 106
High Court Chief Judge 6
Presiding Judge 104
Judge 203
District Court District Court Chief Judge 22
High Court Presiding Judge 10
Branch Court Chief Judge 39
Presiding Judge 534
Judge 1,763
National Court Administration Vice Minister 1
JRTI The President of JRTI 1
Professor (Judge) 32
Total 2,837
Structure
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Court officials work in various fields including judicial administration, technical examination, library, interpretation, facilities, industrial management, and health. Judicial administration field can further be divided into subfields such as court affairs, registration affairs, information technology, statistics, stenography, and bailiff duties. Like officials of administrative branches, court officials working in subfields of court affairs range from grade I through grade IX.
Appointment of Court Officials
Court officials dealing with court affairs are appointed after passing an open competitive examination. They can be promoted to higher posts if they serve at one post for a fixed period of time, with the exception of posts in grade V and grade VII, which require passing an examination for promotion thereto. In general, the court officials are appointed by the Chief Justice. However, a portion of the Chief Justice's power to appoint court officials is delegated to the chiefs of the institutions to which the court officials belong.
Duties of Court Officials
Court officials engaged in court affairs assist judges with court proceedings. They take charge of recording court activities, keeping court records, issuing various certificates proving litigious matters, and serving documents. They also handle non-litigious matters including registration of real property, commercial and corporation, family registration, deposit, etc.
Qualifications
The Court Organization Act permits each level of court to appoint law clerks among persons who are qualified as attorneys-at-law. Law clerks are hired on a contract basis and their tenure is limited to three years. However, temporarily, the term in office of law clerks is two years until Dec. 31, 2017.
Appointment
A person who has a power to appoint law clerks is the Chief Justice. However, following the policy of dispersion and transfer of executive powers, the Chief Justice delegates the power to select and place law clerks to each chief judge of high courts. Currently, the prescribed number is 200 persons, and it cannot be modified until 2022. However, after 2022, increase in the number of law clerks is possible in accordance with the Supreme Court Regulations.
Duties
Law clerks are assigned to each court and examine cases as well as conduct judicial research under the direction of the Chief Judge of the court they belong to.
Public Prosecutors
Public prosecutors are representatives of the public interest who investigate crimes, indict suspects and direct and supervise the police in the crime investigation process. It is also the public prosecutors that supervise the execution of criminal judgments after such judgments become final and conclusive.
The qualifications for public prosecutors are the same as those for judges. They are appointed among those who completed training program at the JRTI or those who are certified as lawyers.
Public prosecutors are subject to direct order and supervision of their superiors within the public prosecution circles headed by the Prosecutor General. Each Public Prosecutors' Office is established corresponding to each level of court.
Lawyers
Lawyers participate in judicial proceedings as representatives of parties in civil or administrative cases or as defense counsels in criminal cases. Though the lawyers represent the parties who retain them, they also bear responsibility to the courts in ensuring fairness in adjudications.
Qualifications for lawyers include any person falling under any of the following criteria : a person who has completed the required curriculum of the JRTI after passing the National Judicial Examination or a person who is qualified as a judge or a public prosecutor. A person who passes the Recruitment Test for military judicial officer and works more than 10 years as a military judicial officer is also admitted to the bar.
Notaries Public
The duties of notaries public include preparation of notarial deeds on juristic acts or facts concerning any other public right and authentication on deeds signed by a private person or an electronic document. A notary public may prepare a notarial deed stating the intention to accept the compulsory execution attached to a bill or check.
Notaries public are appointed by the Minister of Justice from among persons who are qualified as judges, public prosecutors, or lawyers. Each notary public belongs to the district public prosecutors' office. The Minister of Justice may also grant authorization for authentication to any person who meets the following: a law firm, a law firm with limited liability, or judicial association established under the Attorney-at-Law Act. No less than two of the constituent attorney-at-law of the relevant law firm, etc. may be qualified as an attorney-at-law in charge of authentication.
Judicial Scriveners
Judicial scriveners perform such duties as preparation of documents to present to a court or the public prosecutor's office, preparation of documents necessary for registration or application for registration or deposit. A judicial scrivener is under the supervision of a local Certified Judicial Scriveners Association, the Korean Certified Judicial Scriveners Association and the Chief Judge of the district court under jurisdiction.
A person who has passed the Judicial Scrivener Examination is qualified as a certified judicial scrivener. Also, a person who has served as a public official for not less than 10 years, engaging in court affairs, registration affairs, prosecutory affairs, the Constitutional Court, or Public Prosecutors' Offices, and who is deemed by the Chief Justice to have knowledge in law as well as competence required for performance of the duties of judicial scrivener may be qualified.
Enforcement Officers
Enforcement officers are independent, extra-judicial officers who are engaged in the execution of judgment rulings and the service of documents under the command of district courts. They are not public officials but under the supervision of the chief judge of a competent district court. However, enforcement officers receive fees not from the court, but from the party concerned.
The chief judge of a district court appoints enforcement officers among persons who have served for a certain period of time as public officials of grade VII in the courts, registry offices, public prosecutors' offices, or drug enforcement agencies. The term of office is four years with no consecutive appointment.
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