BY SUSAN VOGEL
A HIGH TECH PARTNERSHIP WITH SEOUL
For nearly three decades, Santa Clara Law and its strong partnerships in Korea have helped the country's legal system keep pace with the technology boom.
When Santa Clara Law Professor Philip Jimenez looks down Seoul’s broad avenues lined with skyscrapers and with five lanes of traffic rushing in each direction, he is amazed.
He has seen Seoul grow from a city of 8.5 million to 14 million and rise to become the world’s thirteenth largest economy with an overwhelming emphasis on technology. Between 1983 and 2011, the country’s per capita income rose from $3,000 to $22,500. Its unemployment rate is only 3 percent. “South Korea,” he says, “is going gangbusters.”
Jimenez first came to Korea in the summer of 1984 to teach a legal seminar. He could have left it at that. But the people he met kept pulling him back. “Koreans are so warm, so passionate,” he says. “Once friends, they will be lifelong friends.” Korea has become Jimenez’s home away from home, a place where he is connected, appreciated, and, among many in the legal field, revered.
During the past 27 years, Jimenez has nurtured a partnership between Santa Clara Law and Korean lawyers, judges, and legal institutions that has contributed to building a new legal system for Korea—one that has kept ahead of technology, thus allowing for tremendous economic growth. This legal system now holds promise for significant advances in the areas of civil rights and equality.
In 1984, South Korea was just 30 years out of the civil war that took the lives of three million Koreans, turned Seoul to rubble, and arbitrarily divided families. It was still under a military dictatorship and its economic future looked bleak. One problem was its legal system. “It did not have the protections for intellectual property that foreign investors were looking for,” says Jimenez.
Then a country of 39 million, South Korea had just 5,000 lawyers, according to Jimenez. For economic growth, it needed more lawyers, and those skilled in technology and international business. Law was then taught at the undergraduate level, and any college graduate could sit for the bar, but Korea’s Judicial Training Institute, which provided two years of mandatory training for all lawyers and judges, maxed out at 300 new trainees annually. Korea also needed laws protecting investors. “Korea’s legal system was one imposed on it by Japan during its 35 years of colonial rule [1910–45],” Jimenez says. “As Korea looked ahead to becoming a democratic nation, it also saw the opportunity to build a new legal system.”
After teaching the summer course on U.S. legal systems in 1984, Jimenez was hooked. “I was bowled over by the commitment, passion, and drive of the lawyers, judges, and scholars. I knew they would go far,” he says. And with Santa Clara Law launching its own computer law classes, Jimenez saw overlapping interests.
Top photo: Kyung Bok Palace, Seoul. Above: Santa Clara Law Professor Philip Jimenez, director of the Seoul Summer Abroad program. Right: Building in downtown Seoul.
Above: Hae-Suk Suh ’88 (a.k.a. Hazel Lee), Kyung Whan “Kenny” Ahn ’85, Yoo Suk “Shane” Hong ’99. Right: Basket craftsman, street market, in Sa Dong, Seoul.
Above left: Santa Clara Law Centennial Gathering and First Alumni Meeting, Seoul, October 2011. Above right: Kim Moon Whan, professor and former president, Kookmin University, Seoul; with Vinita Bali, managing director, Santa Clara Law Center for Global Law and Policy.
That fall, Santa Clara Law hosted its first visiting Korean scholar, Hon. Choon Geun Choi, sent by the Korean Ministry of Justice to study how California courts were integrating computers into their administration. He is now the first chair of Santa Clara Law’s alumni chapter in Seoul.
These early exchanges sowed valuable seeds. “In the 1980s, Professor Jimenez was the most loved instructor,” says Kyong Whan (“Kenny”) Ahn, LLB, LL.M, J.D. ’85. “Gradually, his name has become a living legend in the Korean legal profession. The name Santa Clara grew with Jimenez.”
One of the lawyers in Jimenez’s 1984 summer course was Moon Hwan Kim, LLB, LL.M, SJD, then a professor at Kookmin University, a private institution specializing in business and I.P. law. Professor Kim, says Jimenez, “has been the most influential person in the development of Santa Clara Law’s presence in Korea.” Professor Kim spent the 1986–87 academic year at Santa Clara Law as a Fulbright visiting scholar. During this time, his wife gave birth to a son, whom they named Philip Kim.
In 1989, with the help of Professor Kim, Santa Clara Law established internship programs with Korean law firms. Next, in 1994, came a summer abroad program with Kookmin, which has provided Santa Clara Law students amazing opportunities. For example, in the summer of 2008, students could choose between studying human rights at Korea’s Human Rights Commission with Professor Ahn, who was its chair, or studying high technology business law with Professor Kim, then president of Kookmin University. More than 200 Santa Clara Law students have studied in the program, under the guidance of Professor Kim and Santa Clara Law faculty including Jimenez, Professor Jiri Toman, and Vinita Bali.
Santa Clara Law students also may spend a semester abroad studying international law at Seoul National University.
Each year since 1986, Santa Clara Law has hosted one or two Korean scholars, who have shared their knowledge of Korean law with students and faculty and have learned about U.S. substantive and procedural law and legal education.
These experiences “provided critical momentum,” says Professor Ahn, in the reform of Korea’s legal system. The exchanges between Santa Clara Law and Korean students and scholars played a role in modernization in the 1990s that supported technology and economic growth. Shane Y. Hong ’99, now senior legal director and representative director of Oracle Korea Ltd., says, “In the 1990s, responding to liberalization and the opening of the general economy, Korea further streamlined its investment procedures, positively relaxed its regulations, and substantially expanded its tax reductions and exemptions in relation to foreign investment accompanied by advanced technology, in order to attract foreign investment into Korean high tech industries. SCU positively played a role in that, as it launched—under the guidance and leadership of Professor Phil Jimenez—its International Legal Study and Work Abroad Program. In that regard, I am of the view that SCU was very lucky and fortunate due to impeccable timing—i.e., readiness met opportunity for SCU.”
Three years ago, Santa Clara Law established a joint LL.M program with Seoul National University. Korean law students take an intensive eight-week I.P. course at Santa Clara Law, then return to Seoul National for the remainder of the year, earning their LL.Ms. Santa Clara Law students spend three weeks in Korea studying international trade and then do internships with Korean firms.
“[Moon Hwan Kim, then President Kookmin University] is the one in charge of our program…. It’s very nice to have such an important man helping us every day with our classes…. Yesterday we went on a tour of the Korean Constitutional Court.… We were able to see the whole building, and also meet two of the justices, which was a great honor.… The president of the university is going to be in charge of setting up our internships and is very well connected, so it’s very exciting to know that we all will be getting high-profile internships.… This weekend the American professor offered to take us sailing at the local yacht club on his boat, so we should have a very fun weekend, so in the meantime everyone’s kind of resting up to prepare for it.”
Seoul National University, sometimes dubbed “the Harvard of Korea,” is one of 25 universities that, under a 2009 law supported by Ahn, abolished the undergraduate study of law and opened new three-year graduate law schools modeled after U.S. law schools. In addition, the government is phasing in a U.S.-style post–law school bar exam, which, in 2017, will replace the current bar that is open to all college graduates.
Sang Jo Jong, professor of law and associate dean, Seoul National University, says that the revamping of the Korean system of legal education and bar entrance has been one of the two biggest changes over the last decade in the Korean legal system. He credits interactions with Santa Clara Law with “enabling us to learn about trends and developments in the U.S.”
Jong says that exchange programs such as the I.P. LL.M “help our students to further their presence on a global scale.” They “are critical in establishing exchanges between students and scholars that are key when it comes to successfully developing ties between foreign institutions,” he says.
The second biggest change in the Korean legal system, according to Jong, has been the influx of American lawyers. Many, like Shane Hong, bring top credentials in law and technology as well as cross-cultural competence.
Hong, who grew up in Los Altos, California, studied in Seoul in 1997 when he was a 2L. On a job-interviewing trip to Seoul the following year, he met his future wife, Tracy, who is Korean. With a B.A. in economics and international area studies from UCLA, a master’s of Pacific international affairs from University of California, San Diego, with a concentration in international economics, and his SCU law degree with a concentration in international and high tech law, plus five years experience negotiating contracts for Oracle, Hong was well prepared to enter practice in Korea. (Korea does not allow foreign firms; foreign lawyers practice as “foreign legal consultants.”) He was with a Korean law firm prior to joining Oracle Korea Ltd.
Hong says that as a Korean-American, he has had both challenges and advantages in Korea. One challenge is that “While Caucasians may be excused from language and even cultural fluency, Korean-Americans are not,” he says. In addition, he says, “educated Koreans are expected to speak, read, and write Korean, English, and Chinese.” These expectations “have significantly raised the bar and barriers to entry here,” he says. Hong had the advantage of being exposed to Korean culture and language as a child and having worked hard to keep up his language skills as an adult.
He credits Tracy, whom he married in 2005, with easing the transition to practice and life in Korea. To support other SCU lawyers in Korea, Hong worked with Jimenez and Dean Polden to set up the first annual alumni reunion, held in Seoul in October 2011. Besides connecting 25 alumni of SCU–Korea programs with lawyers and professors, the reunion was a “testament to SCU’s ongoing commitment to developing and strengthening its global network in and throughout Korea’s dynamic legal community,” says Hong.
Above: Hon. Choon Geun Choi, who was the first visiting scholar to Santa Clara Law from the Korean Ministry of Justice. He is a former judge at the Seoul District Court. He is clapping here in response to his election as chair of the Santa Clara Law Seoul Alumni group. Right, dinner in Seoul with directors, faculty, internship supervisors, and families of the Santa Clara Law Summer Program.
Santa Clara Law has educated, through its J.D. and LL.M programs, numerous Korean attorneys who have returned to Korea to take on important, high-profile roles.
After graduating in 1985, Ahn returned to Korea to teach at Seoul National University. Prior to enrolling in Santa Clara Law, Ahn had been involved in Korea’s turbulent struggle for democracy, which culminated in 1988, with a democratic election after a quarter-century of military rule. He served as dean from 2002 to 2004, then rejoined Santa Clara Law as a visiting scholar in 2005. Ahn is a highly regarded scholar in both Korean and U.S. law and a world leader in human rights. He has been involved “directly or indirectly in most major projects of legal reform in Korea,” says Jimenez.
Hae-Suk Suh, a.k.a. Hazel Lee ’88, became one of just 41 female members of the Korean parliament, the National Assembly, in 2004. She left a Seoul law firm she co-founded, Wuhyun Law P.C., where she specialized in international transactions, for the opportunity to contribute to making laws in the areas of telecommunications, biotech, and health care. She served on the National Assembly’s Science, Technology, Information and Telecommunications Committee; its National Policy Committee; its Special Committee on Climate Change; and its Special Committee on Korea-U.S. Fair Trade Agreement. She also served as a spokesperson of the then ruling party (Uri Party).
Suh returned to private practice in 2008, and currently “heads up a corporate team for one of Seoul’s top law firms, Logos Law,” says Jimenez.
Professor Kim estimates that approximately 80 Korean lawyers, visiting scholars, and students have studied or taught at Santa Clara Law.
Even without studying in Korea, Santa Clara Law students have the opportunity to develop skills in international law and cross-cultural competency through Professor Jimenez’s International Business Negotiations course.
Over Skype, Santa Clara Law students meet law students at Seoul National University. The students are given a scenario, such as a software license to negotiate, and begin emailing drafts of agreements back and forth and discussing terms over Skype. Finally, the Santa Clara Law students travel to Korea to complete the final negotiations (often funded by Santa Clara Law summer program alumni).
“This class got my attention,” says Santa Clara Law student Chung Park, Ph.D., ’12. “As a future patent attorney, I expect a lot of contact and cooperation with Korean patent lawyers, and I wanted to establish a human network in Korea.” A patent agent for nearly a decade with a Ph.D. from Stanford in aero/astronautical engineering, Park chose Santa Clara Law because of its strength in the I.P. field. Park says the class visit to Korea was invaluable both for successful completion of the negotiation and for establishing connections in Korea through visits to law firms and branch offices of U.S. companies.
When you meet a person in the flesh, the element of commonality and trust is strongly enhanced. This essentials of Korean business culture were highlighted by our in-person negotiations. The importance of trust and friendship is an inseparable element of their legal and business culture and meeting our counterparts in person drove the point home.
The experience through this course was phenomenal. Not only did all of the students really hone their professional legal, business, and negotiations skills, we also all had a chance to see much more of the world, broaden our horizons, and develop lasting friendships. The chance to learn about new and lucrative opportunities in a booming business environment, and the chance to make acquaintances that are not only a way into those opportunities, but also true friends, was a fantastic, eye-opening experience. The significance of the kkachi birds we saw all over Seoul National University’s campus exceeds just folklore. The students who participated in this exchange were truly blessed with good fortune and sincere new friendships on account of their journey.
—Mikelis Munters, International Negotiating in South Korea, The Advocate, Santa Clara Law Student Newspaper, February, 2011
Shane Hong says that this class was “one of the SCU classes that provided the academic springboard that launched my legal career in Korea.”
Korea’s booming economy is attracting some of the world’s brightest minds in law and technology, says Kenny Ahn. Santa Clara Law students are fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with Korea’s top legal scholars and practitioners. Much of the thanks, says Hong, goes to Jimenez. “Over the course of many years, Professor Jimenez has and continues to be instrumental and play a leading role in cultivating and fortifying his dynamic business and personal relationships with prominent Korean lawyers, judges, professors, and prosecutors, and this has positively contributed to SCU’s tremendous success in developing those important ties with Korea.” Professor Kim Moon Huan said, “Professor Jimenez and I have worked together for over twenty years building close ties between the Korean legal community and Santa Clara University. It has been my great pleasure to have participated in the creation of such a program.”
Each year, enrollment in SCU’s joint LL.M program grows: In 2010, eight students enrolled and in 2011, there were 11.
Undoubtedly, some of the students who return to Korea will be involved in further shaping Korea’s legal system to address new demands and needs. Some changes may reflect Santa Clara values. Jimenez says that, thanks to Ahn, the legal profession is attracting more women (now 40 percent in law schools versus 2 percent 30 years ago), and, also thanks to Ahn, “inroads are being make as to the idea of ‘giving back.’” In Korea, says Jimenez, “a Confucian culture, the idea of charity is fairly new. You bear your lot in life, which might also mean not interfering with people who are having a difficult time. Kenny [Ahn] has tried to develop the idea of charity. It has to be built.”
As Korea has become a democracy, demands are shifting to equal rights for foreign migrant workers, as well as for North Korean refugees, says Ahn. “Equal treatment has emerged as the most craved value in contemporary Korea.”
Santa Clara Law–trained lawyers will be particularly prepared to address these challenges. “The lessons on social justice and philanthropic mind-sets are the most valuable capital I took back to Korea from Santa Clara Law,” Ahn said.