Korea's dramatic social transformation in recent decades has led to an expansion in litigation and the role of the law. During this time the legal profession has undergone significant changes, yet Korea's legal education system, a legacy of the Japanese colonial period (1910-45), has remained frozen in the past. This chapter examines the causes and consequences of the stagnation within Korea's legal education system in order to provide a clearer picture of the situation, and considers prospects for change in the future.
Max Weber pointed out that, as part of the process of rationalization of the law, specialized training becomes an ineluctable requirement for those administering the law (Weber 1978:775-92). Although the mode of legal education differs from society to society, there are, according to Weber, typically two types: empirical legal training, and academic legal training. The former is represented by the "guildlike English method of having law taught by the lawyers," with a goal to instill professional skills and norms among students; the latter is offered in universities where legal theory and science is emphasized, cultivating a more liberal mode of instruction than the practical approach.
The Japanese and Korean legal education systems are not easily categorized in terms of the types described above. Both systems combine academic legal training for a large number, followed by specialized professional training for the tiny fraction that will become practicing lawyers, judges, and prosecutors. The dividing line is the entrance exam to a specialized training program, offered exclusively at the Judicial Research and Training Institute (JRTI) of the Korean Supreme Court. The relations between the practicing bar and legal education are fairly tenuous.
Both systems have come under increasing pressure, and in the mid-1990s both considered radical changes in legal education. These discussions led to significant results in Japan, which is in the midst of a major reform of its system and in April 2004 initiated a system of three-year graduate training. This was initially called an "American-style" law school