Leader of Korean Civil Law
Professor Yang Chang soo (School of Law)
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Korea went through massive economic development since the 1970s. Various aspects of Koreans’ lives also greatly shifted along with it. Life expectency increased alongside quality of life. With the efforts of numerous citizens, democracy and human rights are now more settled in Korean society than it has ever been. To reflect new changes in society, it was essential for civil law, which adheres most closely to the lives of individuals, to develop as well. One former Supreme Court judge, Yang Chang soo, contributed highly to the development of Korean civil law. He is now a professor at Hanyang University’s School of Law.
Yang majored in law at university and passed the Korean judicial examination in 1974, the year when he graduated. He first started his career as a judge for the Seoul Central District Court, and then later spent 20 years teaching law at a university. Then, in 2008, he was nominated as a Supreme Court judge, a position he held until 2014. After his retirement from the Court, Yang chose HYU and started teaching law here.
It has now been two years since Yang started teaching at HYU. One of the reasons behind choosing HYU derived from the fact that HYU puts in a lot of effort in improving the quality of law education as an institution. “I appreciate that I am now back where I belong. I regard myself more as an educator than a jurist,” said Yang. Even when Yang worked diligently as a jurist, he also paid good amount of attention in setting the right direction of Korean law and how to educate it properly to students who are preparing to be a jurist.
One of Yang’s most remarkable achievements was to write the ‘Study of Civil Law’ series in nine volumes. “While I was working as a judge at the Seoul Central District Court, I realized there weren’t many detailed researches or papers done on civil conflicts that are actually occurring within Korea,” said Yang. To supplement existing civil law and to suggest a new perspective to it, Yang started to write the law series from 2004. It was a great hit after a while it was published, being acknowledged by courts in Korea. Regional courts bought hundreds of Yang’s books to designate them as a new material to educate judges working in the court. Even until today, Yang’s publications are reputed to be one of the best that built fundamental frames of Korean civil law while upgrading it to the next level.
After 20 years of working as a law professor, Yang reached the highest authority of law- serving as a judge for the Korean Supreme Court from 2008 to 2014. As the magnitude of the position implies, there were tremendous amounts of tasks to be done on a daily basis. “Every judge at the Supreme Court has to deal with more than 3000 cases a year, which made my life quite hectic at the time,” recalled Yang. Even though there was a considerable amount of duties he had to bear, Yang mentioned how his years of being a Supreme Court judge was a very momentous time in his life. “I was glad to have participated in the Korea’s top judiciary during the years when the country was reforming its laws based on different social economic circumstances,” commented Yang.
Yang always tries to deliver to students what is important in law. “When we look into the Korean Constitution, there are 10 rules that state the basic rights of an individual to pursue his or her happiness, including the responsibility of the state to ensure a citizen’s basic rights. Korea was a society with a huge Confucian influence in the past, which emphasizes the duty of an individual to a group, society, and a state. I think law shows which path the nation should take in the future- that is to put more priority in protecting and supporting every citizen’s rights, which will naturally lead to a country where democracy and the economy flourishes.”
Yang left advice for HYU students, including those who dream to work in the field of law. “Of course, it is important to understand and study facts in textbooks, improving one’s ability in thinking and analyzing logically. However, I believe that what more important is to emotionally understand and imagine in different circumstantial cases in courts. I don’t think this should be confined to certain fields of jobs. It encompasses other field of studies or jobs that HYU students will strive for with passion,” said Yang.
Yun Ji-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Choi Min-ju
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