Nope. We’re not building rockets here. But we are building a ship of sorts, and a leaky vessel means the cargo may not make it to its destination. When we talk about cargo ships, there’s a significant chance the name Hanjin is painted on the side. It’s among the biggest shippers on the seven seas, and it gets its cargo to destination. It’s also often the defendant in lawsuits, and serving the conglomerate at its Seoul headquarters requires adherence to some particular rules.
Serving process in the Republic of Korea is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter. (Don’t bother with the South or North distinction. We really only deal with the south… unless there’s a very crazy saber rattling somewhere on the other side of the DMZ. For our purposes, just “Korea” will do.)
You’ve got three ways to go:
- Tap us on the shoulder for bespoke attention—and probably some amusing commentary to boot (see the upper right if you’re on a desktop, or way down below if you’re on a phone/tablet),
- Cruise over to the Hague Envoy platform at USM94.com to automate the completion of your forms in perhaps twenty minutes or so, or
- If you’re feeling froggy & would like to handle the whole thing yourself, keep reading. This lays out the framework you’ll need.
Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, before we cut to the chase.
- The roadmap to the overall process—the recipe to our Secret Sauce.
- The structure of the Convention itself is discussed in this four-part series.
- And an absolutely critical note: the Hague Service Convention does not pertain to subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request in most instances. Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
[Now, for the chase scene.]
Here’s how service is effected in Korea:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents. Korea’s declaration to Article 5(3) suggests it and, although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents will prompt the Central Authority to reject your request. To be sure, they say a translation should be attached to the service documents… in the words of that shoe company in Oregon, just do it. [On the flip side, a little practice tip… you’re going to have to translate the proof, because the Central Authority in Seoul doesn’t respond in English. Whether service is successful or not.]
- Fill out a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney. If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
- Send to the Central Authority.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—likely 3-4 months from submission to return of proof. (That’s a pre-pandemic projection. In Covid times… plan on 5-6 months.)
Article 10 alternative methods
- None. Korea objects to all of them, so Article 5 is the single avenue to proper service.
That’s all there is to it in Korea. There’s only one way to do it. Iconic brands like Samsung, LG, Hyundai… if you’re suing any of them, this is the route to take. Korea’s declarations and Central Authority information can be found here.
Bonus practice tip #1: if the idea is strategically sound, ask the defendant to waive service. Note that I didn’t say accept— I said waive. There’s a very important difference.
Bonus practice tip #2: if you’re defense counsel, always question the validity of service effected on your overseas client. The plaintiff may not have done it correctly.
For many Americans, our most lasting image of Korea is the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983. My most lasting image of Korea was a kid named Eric in the 4th grade. Eric’s dad was a staff NCO like my dad, and had met Eric’s mom in her hometown outside Seoul. My classes in those days looked like a UN conclave, but this guy really stood out– not because he was half Korean, but because he had this cool blue satin jacket with a dragon embroidered on the back and “KOREA” in big gold letters above it. I was nine at the time, so that thing rocked.