On November 24, 2017, the Korean National Assembly passed an amendment to the Court Organization Act (the “Amendment”), which will take effect in May 2018. Importantly, the Amendment establishes a new international litigation chamber (the “International Litigation Chamber”) within the Korean District Courts and the Patent Court, in which IP cases may be heard entirely in English or other foreign languages, with the consent of the parties (“International Cases”). Prior to the Amendment, all cases needed to be held in the Korean language to have legal effect.
While use of the Korean language in courts is the general rule in other courts, the Amendment creates an exception for foreign-languages in the International Litigation Chamber. This Amendment applies to pending cases at the time it goes into effect, and the Korean Supreme Court is expected to issue rules regarding the requirements and procedures for the management of the International Litigation Chamber, such as the requirements to determine which cases will be heard in a foreign language and the permissible languages for a particular case.