Question) I am an American expat working in South Korea. Originally I was working for a U.S. company incorporated in the state of New York, but 3 years ago I was seconded to the Korean branch of my U.S. company, and have been working for the branch until now. When I was seconded, my new employment contract provided that the New York state law shall apply to my employment relation in Korea. Now, my employment contract is expiring and I would like to know whether I am entitled to the severance pay under the Korean labor law. I know my employment contract and my company’s policy do not provide the right to severance pay. But, as I have been working in Korea for 3 years, I am wondering if the statutory rights of severance pay under the Korean labor law could be given to me.
Answer) The answer is Yes. Expats are entitled to severance pay under the Korean labor laws. (check here as to how the severance pay under Korean law is recognized and operates)
This answer could sound quite surprising considering the fact that the parties had previously agreed (i) the Korean labor should not apply and (ii) the severance pay should not be awarded. How come the Korean labor law intervenes in the parties’ employment relation? The answer lies in the provisions of the Private International Act of Korea which provides the general principles for the choice of law in Korea.
When a legal relation has certain foreign elements, the court must decide which jurisdiction’s law shall apply to interpret that legal relation. In Korea, the Private International Act provides the general rules and principles for the governing laws of the various types of legal relations. Specifically, the Act provides that if the employer and employee agree, the employment contract is governed by the law chosen by the parties. But, this does not mean the parties can freely determine which law and regulations apply to their employment relation. It is true in Korea that the party autonomy is a general principle of governing laws, but party autonomy is subject to limits imposed by the overriding public policy and mandatory rules.
In April 2013, attorney Mr. Wonil Chung successfully obtained a Supreme Court’s ruling which overturned lower court’s decision in connection with the sponsored links, Internet keyword advertising services, operated by Overture Services Inc., a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Yahoo! Inc. Before this ruling from the Supreme Court of South Korea, there had been an increased controversy over whether Overture system user’s deployment of an automated program to access to the sponsored links could fall into a crime causing a harm to the Internet network system. In this case, attorney Mr. Chung argued before the Supreme Court of South Korea that it cannot constitute a statutory crime, otherwise the result would be an over-reaching of Korean criminal statute and cause an excessive chilling effect on the free access to the Internet. Responding to Mr. Chung’s arguments, the Supreme Court of South Korea held that it does not constitute a statutory crime of interference with stable operation of the Internet network. With its ruling, the Court struck down the prosecutor’s attempt of excessive criminalization and reinforced online service user’s right of free and unrestricted access to the (more…)
Korean court reviews this issue on a case by case basis. If the court finds that the foreign jurisdiction’s requirements for the recognition of Korean judgment are similar or not more difficult to be met than the requirements under the Korean law, the court declares the existence of reciprocity. This does not require actual precedence in the foreign court that a Korean court judgment had been recognized. It just means a reasonable possibility that the Korean judgment would be recognized in that foreign jurisdiction.
The Korean courts have so far recognized the reciprocity with, among others, California(USA), New York(USA), Texas(USA), Washington(USA), China, Japan, and Canada. Then how about Australia?
Back in 1987, the Supreme Court of South Korea rejected the recognition of a judgment from the court of New South Wales, Australia on the ground that there was no reciprocity between the two jurisdictions. At that time, the Korean court found that the New South Wales law required the Australian court to review the merits of the foreign judgment in order to recognize it. This was a serious conflict and deviation from the Korean legal stance. According to the Korean rules, the courts should not consider whether the foreign judgment is substantially correct when granting the recognition of a foreign judgment. With this great discrepancy, the Korean court came to rule that the requirement for the recognition of judgment under New South Wales law was much difficult to be met than the Korean law, and, therefore, the reciprocity was not established.
It should be, however, noted that this ruling was rendered before Australia enacted the Foreign Judgments Act 1991 whereby South Korea was identified as one of the countries with which Australia has a reciprocity. Under this new act, (more…)
Q) I filed for divorce in Ontario, Canada. My husband lived in Canada and he was duly served with the court’s documents. I will have a final divorce ruling from the Canadian court including child support and alimony order soon. But the issue is he will probably leave Canada and head to South Korea after the ruling is issued. Will the Korean Courts recognize the Canadian court order in order to enforce his performance of child support and alimony payment?
A) There is a case where the Korean Supreme Court recognized and approved the Canadian court’s divorce/asset distribution/child support/alimony order. That order was issued from the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario.
As a matter of law, the Korean court recognizes a foreign ruling pursuant to the rules of foreign judgment recognition: (i) the foreign court has jurisdiction over the case in perspective of Korean law, (ii) the defendant was duly served, (iii) the ruling of the foreign court does not violate the social order of South Korea and (iv) there exists a mutual guaranty for recognition of rulings between the two jurisdictions.
For the last element, the Korean Supreme Court clearly declared that South Korea and Ontario have a mutual guaranty.
What is more important in this ruling is that the Supreme Court recognized the foreign court’s alimony order. Under Korean divorce law, there is no legal concept of alimony in a divorce. Therefore, some may argue that as the alimony is not the legal right established in Korea, recognizing the foreign court’s alimony ruling in Korea would violate the social order of South Korea. But, (more…)
It was reported that last month Apple’s South Korean office paid $945 of compensation to one of South Korean iPhone users for the breaching of privacy by the controversial iPhone user location tracking. Here is the detail from Reuters.
By the way, some news media reported that this was a ruling from a Korean district court. I, as a Korean lawyer, think that statement is half right and half wrong. Basically it is true that the court issued a ruling which ordered the Apple Korea to pay $945 to the user. But this was not a formal trial case, but a Request for a Payment Order case. Payment order is a more convenient & simplified legal procedure for claimant to get a judgment from the court compared to a formal lawsuit. Once a request filed, the Korean court does not question the debtor (in this case, the Apple Korea) and issue a Payment Order within 2 or 4 weeks (in certain courts, within a few days). This payment order, a sort of ruling, asks the opposing party to choose whether to admit the claim as written on the request or to make an objection. If no objection has been raised from the opposing party within 2 weeks, then (more…)
There exist growing needs for consumers to watch TV broadcastings from any place and by any way they want. In response to these needs, several new business models have come into; for example, an Internet TV recording and/or streaming service, RS-DVR, SlingBox and any other place/time-shifting devices hosting services. But the problem is that copyright holders, the TV broadcasting companies, are fiercely objecting to these new business models contending they are infringing their copyrights. It is quite interesting for an IP lawyer to see how the courts from various countries have found the answer to this legal issue.
Lets’ start with the situation in South Korea, where I’m practicing the law. Actually there have been two cases related to this issue; Ental TV case and MyTV case. Ental TV was an Internet-based TV recording service. The registered users paid some amount of fees to the service provider and the service provider recorded TV broadcastings on its server at the request of the individual users with its automated software program, then converted it into the PC file format and sent the file to the user via Internet. On April 30, 2009, the Seoul High Court ruled this Ental TV service infringed copyright of the TV Broadcasters. The court found that it was the service provider, not an individual user, who recorded and copied the TV program, because the service provider owned and managed all the facilities used in recording the TV program. Also the Court added that even though it was the individual user who copied the TV program, the very act of copying (more…)
Q) I have some questions about marriage and divorce law in Korea regarding two non-Koreans living in Korea. Can they divorce and re-marry in Korea?
A) The Korean court hears an international divorce lawsuit basically if the defendant resides in Korea. So long as the defendant resides in Korea, the duration of his residence does not matter. Even if the plaintiff does not reside in Korea, she can file a divorce lawsuit to a Korean court. If the defendant does not reside in Korea, the divorce lawsuit can be accepted only when the plaintiff fails to locate the defendant or the defendant answers the lawsuit filed under the Korean court.
Regarding the governing law, the divorce case shall be governed in the following order:
the same law of nationality of both spouses
the same law of the habitual residence of both spouses
the law of the place where is most closely connected with both spouses.
If one party is a Korean national having a habitual residence in Korea, notwithstanding the foregoing, the law of South Korea will be the governing law.
Q) I am on an F2 visa and teaching for 28 months at the same Hagwon. The contract between myself and the owner is basically a few written lines, just mention salary and final teaching date. There is no mentioning of the severance payment. According to the labor law, am I entitled to severance payment even though it is not mentioned in a short contract?
The term employee under the Korean labor law is someone who provides labor pursuant to his or her employer’s instructions or directions in exchange for wage compensation. The important factors for classifying someone as an employee are, (more…)
Q) I, as a foreign actress living in Korea, recently appeared in a Korean movie that was very successful. I had about 10 lines – 10 minutes of screen time. Now I see that the film company has put my picture on the back of the DVD case in which the movie has just been released. They Never asked for my permission and Never paid me any money for this. Do you believe that I have a case against the film company? Thank You.
A) I understand a certain portion of movie screen shot is printed on the back side of the DVD case. In this case, the producer, not an actor, has the right to the screen shot. So the producer does (more…)
South Korean police raided Google’s Seoul office on August 2 on suspicion that Google’s Seoul office has illegally gathered personal information for its street mapping service. The Korean police is investigating whether Google has violated “Protection of Communications Secrets Act”(PCSA) or “Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection”.
For example, according to the PCSA, no person shall censor any mail, wiretap any telecommunications, provide the communication confirmation data, record or listen to conversations between others that are not made public. It is reported that (more…)