The 2008 International Symposium on ¡®Law School and Public Human Rights Law: Prospects and Explorations¡¯
On the 17th of May, 2008, an international symposium was held under the joint auspices of the Public Human Rights Law Center of the College of Law at the Seoul National University and Group Gonggam of the Beautiful Foundation. This symposium was intended to provide an overview of human rights programs to be initiated at law schools next year and to seek measures to make them available online.
The executive secretary of the Beautiful Foundation, WonSoon Park, opened the Symposium by saying: We bear in mind "Numerous violations of human rights, were due in part to the lack of proper legal education. We hope this symposium will serve as momentum to study Public Interest Law systematically and theoretically, and represent a milestone in training new legal experts upon the opening of law schools."
Congratulatory speeches were made by MoonHyuk Ho, chairperson of the Law School Association, JaeHoo Lee, Principal of the Korea Law Institute, GyungHwan Ahn, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, and SeungHun Hahn, former Chairperson of the National Judicial Reformation Committee. The speakers recognized the duty of a lawyer to function within the judicial system in a democratic, rule based society. In order to fulfill such a duty, it was agreed that providing legal services voluntarily to those with little income with limited access to the judicial system was necessary. The chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, GyungHwan Ahn, suggested that human rights conditions in Korea have improved significantly; however there is much to work on in order to make Korea a model state for human rights in the international community. To reach that level, he contended, two major requirements must be fulfilled, simultaneously ¡®the globalization of human rights values¡¯ and ¡®the localization of human rights values¡¯ must be fulfilled simultaneously, and the role of the university is very important to achieve these goals.
The keynote speaker, InSup Hahn, Chief of the Public Human Rights Center of the College of Law at SNU, opened the symposium. Professor Hahn covered a broad range of topics, including obligations of the legal profession, the current condition of Korean legal services, lawyer¡¯s responsibility to public service, institutionalization of Korean-styled law schools, student admission to law school, and the student welfare system.
In the first session, experts on human rights activities from the US, Britain and Canada introduced examples of law schools and pro bono programs, and had discussions with Korean experts.
Patricia Goedde, a professor at the College of Law at SeongGyunGwan University, made a presentation about pro bono projects in American law schools and explained recent trends, along with key factors for their success and limitations. Through her presentation, Prof. Praticia Goedde outlined the issues Korean law schools should keep in mind when selecting and organizing their programs. A presentation was also given by Martin Curtis, a manager at LawWorks, about pro bono work in Britain. In the next presentation, Pam Shime, the former director of Pro Bono Students Canada, a student-oriented pro bono program introduced the idea of a pro bono organization managed by students, and discussed its possible application to the Korean system.
In the discussion which followed, JongChul Kim, a professor at YonSei University, HoJung Lee, a professor at SeoGang University, and GeunYong Park, chief of the Judiciary Monitor Center of People¡¯s Solidarity to Participatory Democracy, participated as designated speakers. Prof. JongChul Kim agreed with Pam Shime who pointed out that student-oriented pro bono programs are likely to fail in regard to satisfying participants¡¯ expected level of achievement, which is generally quite high in correspondence with the high cost of education. He also stressed that lack of consistency in pro bono activities and lack of funding can possibly become serious problems. In order to reinforce human rights education in Korean law schools, he suggested; first, overcoming misconceptions concerning human rights law, second, committing to education and activities of national law schools must be stressed in comparison to those offered by private law schools, third, collecting enough funding for human rights education from law schools, and finally, seeking international cooperation.
Professor HoJung Lee inquired about the following: Considering the current status of pro bono work in Korea, where their is low participation among college students and no systematic support, how can pro bono programs attract students to join in?; how are pro bono programs in the US, Britain and Canada related to school curriculum?; From where and how are funding resources secured?; What is the social context of pro bono activity? For these inquiries, Shime replied that it is necessary to impress upon future employers that the best lawyers are usually those graduates who underwent actual training, and that the best training can be acquired through Pro Bono programs. She commented that such efforts will gradually expand pro bono activities and that students will soon follow this trend: Moreover, she added that public awareness activities to gain popular attention need to accompany any pro bono program.
Martin Curtis said that it is not always necessary to provide students with exposure to the whole range of pro bono fields since those which were not selected for the curriculum can be provided through external activities. Professor Goedde stated that the issue of how pro bono work would be reflected in the law school curriculum would depend on the creativity of professors and their engagement with the local community. GeunYong Park added that, along with increasing demand for legal services in Korea, human rights law is becoming more important, and for that reason, law schools in Korea should study foreign examples to come up with better alternatives.
In the following session, there were presentations by domestic experts as well as a discussion on ¡®Prospects for pro bono programs in Korean law schools¡¯.
Lawyer HyungGuk Yeom of Gonggam delivered a presentation on ¡®Public Legal Services in law schools and possible methods to link them to apprenticeship courses¡¯, and also discussed the goal and limitations of human rights law based on a survey to 25 law schools.
Thereafter, there were presentations made by DoGyun Kim of Seoul National University, SangGyun Jo of JeonNam University, and JaeHong Lim of YoungNam University on ¡®Methods of characterizing human rights law in law schools¡¯. Professor Kim explained how human rights law programs were designed at Seoul National University and shared his views concerning the major goals SNU has set, the training of international human rights law professionals, the training of lawyers able to establish and execute public interest through policy, and the training of human rights professionals on behalf of the socially weak.
Professor Jo indicated that the growth and development of human rights law will depend much on its connection to the new Bar exam, the ratio of successful applicants, scholarship and its relationship to other institutions. He also explained how JeonNam University will operate pro bono programs. Finally, Prof. Lim talked about the efforts YongNam University has made in this field, and stressed the importance for law schools in keeping their eyes open to the changes in the law school system and to the alternative methods available in delivering pro bono projects.
A presentation by SangHee Hahn on ¡®the current condition and prospects regarding the supply of legal service supply and their effects on law schools¡¯ followed. Professor Hahn stressed the need to diversify the quality and quantity of legal disputes in Korea as well as the need to develop a new training system which can adapt to the changes. He said that colleges should make continuous efforts to revise the current Bar exam to adapt to the law school system, enabling students to be exposed to diverse majors before joining the legal profession.
During the following discussion, Professor YooJung Lee of InHa University asserted that, despite the promises universities make to train legal experts on human rights, their possible range of operation is extremely limited. Also identified as problems were the shortage of funding, difficulties in actual training in current conditions, and the limited range of a possible future career. In response, SeungSoo Ha of JeJu University explained that something is required to recognize the value of the term ¡®public interest¡¯ and that lawyers should come up with meaningful programs to it give substance.
ChangSoo Lee, representative of Human Rights Solidarity for New Society, contended that law schools must be capable of teaching diverse perspectives, which would require much more effort than simply opening a few public interest law courses.
A heated discussion continued in the Question & Answer session. In particular, in response to the question that efforts to train experts in human rights could result in producing lawyers who are not well-rounded and only qualified with respect to human rights, professor DoGyun Kim replied that there is a fine line between training of an expert and teaching basic knowledge or perspectives concerning human rights. Professor Kim, however, argued that human rights experts are needed to recognize controversies and limitations of court rulings and seek methods to satisfy social needs. He concluded that, in order to train such experts, a high quality of education must be provided to students, and that this would be possible only through sufficient funding.