Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Korea
Appeared in the Korea Times on September 22, 2007
by Sean Hayes
Dear Professor Sean Hayes: I have a judgment in a New York court against a Korean importer. I shipped my goods to the company and the company refuses to answer my calls, e-mails, and letters. I sued and won a default judgment in a New York court. No assets were found in the U.S. I believe they have assets in Korea. How can I enforce the judgments? / Cashed out in New York.
Dear Cashed out in New York: A Korean court should enforce your judgment. Most foreign commercial judgments are enforced with little difficulty. The situation, however, is sometimes more complicated when family law matters are concerned.
A Korean court requires proper service of process under the Hague Convention, that the New York court had jurisdiction over the dispute, that the New York courts enforce Korean judgments (reciprocity), and also that the judgment is not contrary to Korean "public order and good morals." Often snags occur during the enforcement of family court judgments because of the courts sometimes-conservative stance on divorce and custody.
Also, a Korean court is sometimes leery of enforcing a default judgment, since the Korean party has not had the opportunity to appear and state his case. This sometimes leads to the foreign party being required to sue in a Korean court _ a process that is often less time-consuming and costly than in New York.
Normally, it is advisable to first obtain a preliminary attachment and then file to enforce the New York judgment if the company is not a well-established company, since I all too often hear of cases where a company, in a troubled financial state, quickly spends down assets in order to avoid outstanding debts.
When navigating the enforcement of judgments in Korea a competent firm with significant experience handling foreign clients is needed. In order to save on legal fees the large firms are unadvisable to employ. The smaller firms do as good of a job and I believe even better job at a much lower cost. Most of the lawyers from the smaller firms have significant experience working at large firms and can handle 99 percent of the cases as well as the larger firms. The larger firms should only be employed in the most complex cases concerning highly specialized areas of law.