Korean Forum Non-Conveniens Doctrine under Korea’s Private International Law Act

The main law that governs international jurisdiction over cases in Korean courts is Korea’s Private International Law Act. A major amendment to the Act became law in July 2022. The prior law was criticized for leaving too much discretion to courts and not providing detailed rules regarding the application of international jurisdictional norms to Korean jurisprudence.

The prior Korean Private International Law Act contained, only, one Article related to jurisdiction, while the present act contains 35 detailed provisions on international jurisdiction. One of the major revisions is the implementation of the Forum Non-Conveniens Doctrine to Korea’s Private International Law Act.

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Korea’s Forum Non-Conveniens Doctrine

One of the major welcomed enhancements to Korea’s Private International Law is the addition of the Forum Non-Conveniens doctrine. This doctrine, which is the norm in most developed legal systems, is a doctrine that in certain cases courts should decline to exercise jurisdiction when another court may more effectively rule on a case. While, Korean courts have, on occasion, exercised discretion in not hearing cases for Forum Non-Conveniens-like reasons, this is the first facial application of the doctrine in Korea’s statutory law on international jurisdiction.

Therefore, even if the jurisdiction of the court is accepted by the Korean court, a Korean court under Article 12 of Korea’s Private International Law Act may decide to stay or dismiss the proceeding “where there clearly exists exceptional circumstances, in which a Korean court is inappropriate to exercise its international jurisdiction and a foreign court with international jurisdiction is more suited to resolve the dispute at issue.”

We shall update the readers of this blog when the Supreme Court of Korea rules on the application of Article 12.

Sean Hayes is the first non-Korean to work 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. He is, consistently, rated a top attorney by legal rating publications.

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