Class Action/Mass Tort Actions in Korea

Plaintiffs in Korea, with rare exceptions, are unable to file class action lawsuits in Korean courts.  The, only, two exceptions are under the Securities-Related Class Action Act of Korea (derivative/shareholder suits) and certain limited product liability claims under the Consumer Act of Korea (Suits by designated consumer advocacy groups or organizations). 

However, because of a recent massive data leak by major Korean-based banks, numerous NGOs, some attorneys and legislators have, again, demanded the implementation of a US-style class action system. 

Two bills are pending at the National Assembly of Korea entitled The Class Action Act of Korea and Consumer Basic Lawsuit Act of Korea.  The Korean Class Action Act is modeled after Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  

We don’t see these bills coming to a vote anytime soon or the Korean Court System demanding the implementation of a class action law for consumers, because of Korean political realities and a perceived faltering Korean economy.

It is interesting to note that in limited number of cases, Korea has, seemingly, combined cases in a fashion similar to class action suits.  These cases involved damages by foreign companies/governments on Korean citizens (Agent Orange & Noise Damage at American Bombing Range cases).   

What do you think?
Sean Hayes may be contacted at: [email protected]

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked 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. Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw.

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