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First court of bankruptcy has opening ceremony

Mar 03,2017
The country’s first bankruptcy court held its opening ceremony on Thursday to offer improved judicial services in bankruptcy and rehabilitation proceedings.

The ceremony opening the Seoul Bankruptcy Court was held at the auditorium of the Seoul Central District Court. Until now, local courts oversaw bankruptcy cases in their districts, but the need for an exclusive court has emerged as the number of bankruptcy and rehabilitation cases skyrocketed since the foreign exchange crisis in 1997.

The new court will mainly take over the roles of the Bankruptcy Division of the Seoul Central District Court. Last month, Judge Lee Kyung-choon was named the first chief justice of the new bankruptcy court. Including Lee, 35 judges will serve the new court, up from the 30 judges of the bankruptcy division.

The court will handle major bankruptcy cases, including that of Hanjin Shipping, as well as the growing number of personal bankruptcy and rehabilitee cases.

Reflecting the growing size of the economy and major financial and economic crises the country has suffered, an increasing number of bankruptcies were filed by companies and individuals.

The number of corporate bankruptcy cases filed was 835 in 2013, and the figure grew to 873 in 2014, 924 in 2015 and 936 last year.

The number of personal bankruptcy cases also skyrocketed. In 1998, only 350 cases were filed, but the number went up to 12,300 in 2004. In 2007, the number of personal bankruptcy cases filed in Korea peaked to reach 154,039. Since then, the cases gradually decreased, and 53,866 cases were filed in 2015.

Since the country adopted a rehabilitation program to rescue personal debtors in 2004, the number of cases filed under the system also grew consistently.

In the first year, 9,063 cases were filed and the number quickly went up to 48,541 in 2005. In 2013, 105,885 cases were filed and the number grew to 11,707 in 2014. In 2015, 10,096 cases were filed.

At the opening ceremony, Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae gave a speech to congratulate the opening of the new court. Yang served as the first senior judge overseeing the bankruptcy division of the Seoul Central District Court, when it was established at the request of the International Monetary Fund in 1999 in the aftermath of the 1997 foreign exchange crisis.

“The establishment will allow us to provide a faster and professional judicial service for various bankruptcy cases of individuals and companies,” he said. “The Seoul Bankruptcy Court is created amid the pains of the country and the economy. Speedy and proper legal judgments must be provided to both individuals and companies suffering from economic hardship.”

Chief Justice Lee of the bankruptcy court vowed to offer helpful plans to support corporate and individual debtors. “We will operate the system taking into account each special nature of the debtors,” he said.

In order to secure the transparency and fairness of related civil cases, the court will also operate civil litigation divisions. The court will be the fourth specialized court in the judicial system, after the family court, patent court and administrative court.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]