Korean Law Demystified!

Enforceability of ‘Liability Waivers’ in Korea: The Yangpyeong Paragliding Case

[Example Situation]


Candace is a Canadian residing in Seoul, Korea. She likes the outdoors. One weekend, she decides to try paragliding in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi Province. Once there, she is assigned an instructor named In-soo who also happens to own the place. He will be paragliding with her today. He teaches her the basics, and off they paraglide. Everything is fine until landing. While attempting to land, they collide with another paraglider, and Candace is very badly injured as a result. Candace soon decides to sue In-soo and the insurance company for an amount of about 180 mil won. As defense, In-soo and the insurance company claim Candace had signed a “liability waiver” (aka “release of liability”) document; therefore, she has forfeited any right to sue. It turns out she did sign her name on such a document. How is a Korean court likely to decide?

I. The Ruling

The example is similar to an actual case recently reported here in Korea.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled partially for the plaintiff:

1) The court saw the “liability waiver” as unenforceable.

2) The court found the defendants 50% responsible and ordered them to pay Candace about 83 mil won (USD 70,000).

II. Reasoning

1) In the court’s view, such “liability waivers” are valid only to the extent if interpreted to mean the service provider is not responsible for the customer’s own faults (i.e., solely the customer’s fault). The “liability waiver” in question cannot be interpreted to apply in instances where the service provider themselves are at (some) fault. Even if interpreted as such, that clause would be null and void because it would violate the “principles of good faith.”

2) So, if the “liability waiver” is unenforceable, the remaining question is: who was at fault + how much at fault. To the court, In-soo was at fault because (as the instructor) he should have taken the necessary precautionary measures to prevent such a collision. The court limited In-soo’s responsibility to 50% because he apparently did order Candace to hit the breaks at the last minute, and she failed to comply.

Side note: Candace did sign her name on such a document, but apparently in the wrong place. According to reports, Candace signed where she was supposed to simply write down her name, and she wrote down her name instead of an ID no. Interesting, but immaterial. Such a clause would be null and void regardless of whether she understood.

Oh, I found a nice video clip of what paragliding in Yangpyeong is like:

Thanks for reading!

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