3/12/2007

Lawsuits Against State to Get Tougher

By Kim Rahn Korea Times

Individuals may have a lesser chance of winning lawsuits against the state, following a government measure to improve the quality of its lawyers.

The measure came amid an avalanche of suits filed by individual citizens or companies against government agencies and public organizations, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The number of suits against the nation climbed from 6,815 in 2000 to 10,027 last year, while money claimed amounted to 3 trillion won.

The ministry announced Monday it had abolished a provision restricting lawyers’ payments in cases involving the state earlier this month.

The provision, established in 1978, limited payment to lawyers representing the state.

Lawyers used to receive a 2 million won retaining fee when the amount of claimed money in the suit was less than 50 million won; 3 million won in a 50-100 million won suit; and 5 million won when the suit was over 100 million won. If they won a suit, they received additional money contingent on the success of the case according to regulations.

``We decided to abolish the provision as it prevented the government from employing capable high-earning lawyers, thus compromising the government’s chance of getting quality legal service,’’ a ministry official said.

The ministry will form a new state law firm next January employing 40 lawyers who will take charge of civil and administrative suits involving state agencies, local governments and public organizations.

The law firm will also give legal advice to the government, review the legality of government-led projects and support the government in negotiations with foreign nations such as the current FTA with the United States.

``Suits in state-led projects are increasing, such as the Saemangum Reclamation Project and the tunnel construction at Mt. Chonsong in South Kyongsang Province for the bullet train, and the amount of money being claimed is getting larger. We can decrease the state budget by coping with the suits more systematically and expertly,’’ the official said.

The number of lawsuits has risen as new cases of collective action emerge, including noise complaints by residents near airports and suits by exam-takers to correct wrong questions being given in recent examinations by government agencies.

The government has won between 34 percent and 37 percent of the total suits per year. The ratio of suits that the government has lost decreased from 24.8 percent in 2000 to 19.8 percent last year.

rahnita@koreatimes.co.kr

03-12-2007 18:24

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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com