The Republic of Korea (commonly: South Korea) acceded to the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also called the Hague Service Convention, on January 13, 2000, and its provisions entered into force on the following August 1st.
US attorneys seeking service in South Korea should become familiar with the mandatory character of the Convention as set forth in Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).
Canadian attorneys should consult provincial precedent — Canadian courts take a more nuanced view of the Convention, but effectively reach the same conclusion: its limitations must be observed. Regardless of forum court requirements, the service rules of the receiving country must be observed, or enforcement of a judgment may become impossible.
South Korea is home to some of the world’s most well-known manufacturers, especially in the electronics (Samsung, LG) and automotive (Hyundai, Kia) industries. As such, Korean businesses are frequently sued in courts around the world, especially those in the United States.
A single authority in South Korea processes a significant number of Hague Service requests each day, so it is unsurprising that the expected timeframe for service varies. In LLS’ experience, Hague Requests are served between three and eight weeks from the date the documents arrive in South Korea. Expect to wait another four to six weeks from the date of service until the Hague Certificate is returned.
While the Korean government has indicated no specific translation requirements for documents served via the Central Authority, litigants are well-advised to submit a Korean translation with their English-language documents.
Despite making no formal declaration to that effect, foreign governments often refuse to execute Requests that Central Authority staff cannot understand. Alternatively, service becomes voluntary and the defendant is given the right to refuse the documents if a translation does not accompany them.
Further, US notions of due process require that a defendant understand the documents with which he or she is being served. As such, a Korean defendant might easily be able to quash service if documents are not translated. Moreover, documents served upon a defendant who speaks neither English nor Korean will likely require translation into a third language.
US practitioners should explore this issue with our legal staff.
The Korean Central Authority:National Court Administration
The Republic of Korea objects to all forms of alternative service under Article 10. As such, service may only be effected under the Central Authority channel outlined in Article 5.
LLS can assist you with service and can help you understand and meet the requirements for service of process, as well as a host of other legal procedures, in South Korea.
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