Article 1 of the UN Charter stipulates that the pacific settlement of international disputes in conformity with the principles of justice and international law is one of the purposes of the UN. Article 13 also states that the General Assembly shall initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification. In practice, the rule of law upholds the three pillars of the UN’s work: peace and security, development, and human rights. Indeed, the Republic of Korea’s remarkable political and economic achievements realized in less than half a century is due to its adherence to the rule of law. Based on this experience, the Republic of Korea has contributed to including the rule of law as one of the targets for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has also been encouraging other UN Member States to continue to make efforts to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels.
As a responsible member of the international community, the Republic of Korea has been actively participating in the international norm-making process in various fora, such as the UN General Assembly, the International Law Commission (ILC) and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). It has also been implementing and complying with its international obligations in a sincere and faithful manner as a party to major multilateral conventions. Moreover, the Republic of Korea has been making significant contributions to the efforts of the international community to enhance the rule of law and to put an end to impunity for perpetrators of heinous crimes through its nationals who have been serving as judges in various international judicial mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) and International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
The Republic of Korea has been constructively participating in discussions at the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly on agendas such as Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism, the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Mission, and United Nationsl Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.
Law of the Sea
The UN General Assembly has been playing a pivotal role in the formation and development of the international legal order on the seas and oceans. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adopted in 1982, and with a membership of 168 States Parties as of 26 June 2019, serves as the global legal framework for the governance of oceans and seas. The Republic of Korea is of the position that all activities in the oceans and seas are to be carried out within that framework and that the integrity of the Convention should be maintained. The Republic of Korea supports the efforts to achieving universality of the UNCLOS and ensuring all members of the international community to respect and implement the UNCLOS.
The Republic of Korea, while actively engaging in the discussions to further develop and complement the UNCLOS system, has been pursuing harmony between global values and national interests. With that in mind, the Republic of Korea has been participating in the Intergovernmental Conferences on an international legally binding instrument under the UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), in collaboration with like-minded states and other relevant ministries and research institutes. It has also been playing a very positive role, as a member of the Bureau of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects (UNEP), in the global efforts to improve the state of seas and oceans of the world. Furthermore, the Republic of Korea has been making additional contributions to the maintenance and development of the UNCLOS system through its nationals. As a case in point, Professor Jin-Hyun Paik of Seoul National University, has been serving as a judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) since 2009 and as the President of the Tribunal since 2017. Professor Emeritus Yong Ahn Park of Seoul National University has also been serving as a member of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf since its inception in 1997 and as the Chair of the Commission since 2017.
International Law Overview
The International Law Commission (ILC) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1947 for the purpose of promoting the progressive development of international law and its codification. The ILC has played an important role in the development of international law by preparing drafts for major international conventions, such as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Through the activities of its eminent scholars in the ILC, the Republic of Korea has been contributing to the development of international law. The late Professor Choung Il Chee was the first korean to serve in the 34-Member Commission, which is composed of "persons of recognized competence in international law (Article 2 para. 1, ILC Statute)". Since 2012, Professor Ki Gab Park of Korea University, has been serving as a member of the Commission. The ILC is currently conducting research and discussions on diverse topics, including peremptory norms of general international law(jus cogens), sea-level rise in relation to international law, identification of customary international law, and protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts. The result of discussions held within the ILC is reported to the UN General Assembly on an annual basis, and the Republic of Korea has been an active participant in the discussions regarding the report.
Rules on Commercial Transactions
Since its first election in 2004 as a member state of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law, the Republic of Korea has been making continued efforts to promote the modernization and harmonization of rules on commercial transactions worldwide, most notably through its proactive participation in the discussions of the working groups established by the Commission on issues such as Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises; Dispute Settlement; Electronic Commerce; Insolvency Law; and Security Interests.
In addition, Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, then Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN, chaired the 47th Session of the UNCITRAL from July 2014 to June 2015 and played a significant role in the international law-making process. In particular, he has contributed to the finalization and the adoption of the UN Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration. The Republic of Korea has also been active in the introduction of the outcome of the UNCITRAL’s work into its domestic legal system. For instance, the UNCITRAL’s model laws on international commercial arbitration and electronic commerce are reflected in Korea’s Arbitration Act as well as the Framework Act on Electronic Documents and Transactions. Moreover, the Republic of Korea acceded to the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, one of UNCITRAL’s major conventions, in 2004. The Republic of Korea’s pivotal role in conducting research on and dissemination of international commercial norms was further highlighted when it hosted the UNCITRAL Regional Center for Asia and the Pacific in 2012, the first of its kind in the UNCITRAL’s history. Since then, the Center has been providing appropriate capacity-building and technical assistance services in areas such as trade law reform for states in the Asia-Pacific region. The Republic of Korea's membership to UNCITRAL was most recently renewed in 2018 for the period of 2019-2025.
International Criminal Law
The international community has been making efforts to put an end to impunity for perpetrators of atrocities that have deeply shocked the conscience of humanity. The Republic of Korea, in joining the cause, has actively engaged in the process of drafting the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Upon the historic launch of the ICC on 1 July 2002, the Republic of Korea joined the Rome Statute system on 1 February 2003 and promptly began its activities to support the Court, while cranking up the relevant domestic legislative process, which was completed by the end of 2007. The Republic of Korea was also elected in 2005, 2011, 2014, and 2017, as a Member of the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties for the three-year terms and Mr. O-gon Kwon, a former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has been serving as the Persident of Assembly of State Paries since 2017. In its capacity as a Bureau Member, the Republic of Korea contributed to promoting transparency in the Court’s management and enhancing the efficiency of the international criminal justice architecture.
In this connection, the Republic of Korea has been actively encouraging and supporting its nationals to make meaningful contributions to the progress of the international criminal justice system through their work in major international criminal judicial bodies. Professor Sang-hyun Song, who was elected in 2003, is one of its earliest judges and served as the President of the ICC for six years from 2009 to 2015. During his term in the office, Professor Song helped lay the foundation of the Court as a representative international judicial organ. Following President Song, Judge Chang-ho Chung has been making considerable efforts to raise the efficiency level of the work of ICC chambers since 2015. Judge O-gon Kwon also sat on the bench of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia from November 2001 to March 2016, Judge Seon-ki Park has been serving as a judge at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) since his election in 2011, and Judge Kang-jin Baik began his career as a judge in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in June 2015.