Korean Law Demystified!

Definition of ‘Lawyer/Attorney’ in South Korea

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In Korea, Article 4 of the ATTORNEY-AT-LAW ACT (변호사법) straight up tells you the definition. The Jurisprudence Examination refers to the “old exam,” while the Bar Examination is the “new exam” under the current law school system. (The two exams coexist right now.) In Korea, there is no separate “moral character” requirement, but the law stipulates several grounds which can outright disqualify you. (That’s Article 5. It was a bit long, so I left it out.) The separate “professional responsibility exam,” meanwhile, is taken/passed during law school. (We overstudy for it in Korea too!) But interestingly, the subject of “professional responsibility” is not part of the (actual) Bar Examination. Instead, we must choose an elective such as “international law” (which I chose). “International law,” sadly, is not very popular because it includes “international economic law.” GATT, WTO… Anyway, once you’re an attorney-at-law, you can register with the Korean Bar Association via registering with a regional bar association of your choice. Mine is Seoul.


Last year, a person named Na Seung-gi resigned as chief secretary to the Lotte Group founder. Na was posing as an attorney-at-law here in Korea. According to reports, he graduated from a law school in the U.S.

ATTORNEY-AT-LAW ACT Article 112 (Penal Provisions):

Any person falling under any of the following subparagraphs shall be punished by imprisonment with prison labor for not longer than 3 years or by a (criminal) fine not exceeding 20 million won. In such cases, such person may be punished by a fine and imprisonment with prison labor concurrently:

1. …

2. …

3. A person who, although he/she is not an attorney-at-law, stated him/herself as an attorney-at-law in documents or put up any signs advertising his/her office as a law office, or put up any signs or stated in documents that he/she offers legal counseling or handles legal affairs for the purpose of earning profits;

4. …

5. …

6. …

7. …


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You’ll have noticed earlier in Article 4 that, in Korea, judges and prosecutors are ipso facto lawyers/attorneys. If you’d like to read about what it’s like to be a judge or a prosecutor in South Korea, I personally recommend the above books. Both well-received. Thanks for reading!

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