Seoul International Dispute Resolution Center to Open

The London Court of International Arbitration, Singapore International Arbitration Center, Singapore International Arbitration Center and the Korean Bar Association has come to an agreement that the Seoul International Dispute Resolution Center (Seoul IDRC) will be formed.  The government has approved the formation of the Seoul IDRC and the center will be housed in the Seoul Global Tower Building.

The Korean language Legal Times has reported, in part, that:

“By providing an international arbitration space for the worldwide arbitration agencies, the Seoul IDRC is acting as a ‘department store for international arbitration.’

The role model for South Korea was Singapore’s Maxwell Chamber, a 5 story international arbitration facility that opened in 2011, hosting the American Arbitration Association (AAA), International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) etc.  Maxwell Chamber has rose to become Asia’s leading center for international arbitration.

Byung-Joo Lee, the coordinate and planning director of the KBA state that: ‘As Korean corporations are expanding overseas, international arbitration cases have increased greatly. The Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB) is also ranked 6th~7th in the world for arbitration cases. The fact that South Korea is going to be the first to have an international arbitration center, which was nonexistent in Northeast Asia, is a significant act showing that it is going to be a center of legal activities in Eastern Asia.’

The Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (Director Dae-su Kwon) is an international arbitration agency just like HKIAC.  However, Seoul IDRC has the notion of ‘sharing facilities’ for international arbitration cases, which will act to supplement each other. Once the Seoul IDRC opens, the international arbitration fees that were usually remitted overseas can now be remitted into Korea. As Korean companies are expanding overseas, the legal problems overseas are also increasing.  These companies, presently, are seeking only foreign law firms, which result in a deficit of USD 500 million. . . 

Do-il Sohn, international director at KBA, noted that: ‘Before, Korean companies used foreign arbitrators from foreign law firms even for cases they were directly involved in. However, if international arbitrators take care of the arbitration cases in Seoul, there is a higher possibility for them to use arbitrators from local law firms.’

Once the Seoul IDRC opens, we can also see an indirect economical effect of international arbitrators visiting Korea. The coordinate and planning director said,              ‘Maxwell Chamber has allowed many arbitrators to visit Singapore and brought in foreign law firms that helped to vitalize the market.  KCAB, the only local arbitration agency is excited to market with other international arbitration agencies coming into Korea.

Hyun-suk Oh, manager of KCAB, said ‘By educating and marketing with foreign arbitration agencies, we can expand the international arbitration market as well as see an increase of having the place of arbitration as ‘KCAB’ or ‘Seoul’ in contracts between local and foreign companies.

The location of the international arbitration center was originally to be in Songdo with the help of the Songdo government, as this was president Young-Moo Shin’s campaign promise. However, because of international awareness and accessibility reasons, Seoul was decided to be the site location. The chairman of the board of Seoul IDRC will be president Shin and the chief operating officer will be Hee-Taek Shin (60, 7th class), professor at the law school at Seoul National University.”

The full article, in Korean, may be found at the website of Legal Times. 

Sean Hayes may be contacted at: Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team for an international law firm. He is the only non-Korean to have worked as an attorney for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.

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