Nope.  We ain’t 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.)

Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, before we cut to the chase.

[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.
  • 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.

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—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.


Not specifically Eric's jacket.
Not specifically Eric’s jacket.

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 his mom in her hometown outside Seoul.  My classes in those days looked like a UN conclave, but Eric 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.

 

  • Thomas Brady

    Does this apply to serving U.S. citizens working in Korea?

    • It does, yes. The most important thing to remember is that the defendant’s *location* — not his citizenship or native language– determines the law under which he must be served.

      Things get more complicated if the American is a service member who lives on a military installation, but a U.S. civilian living & working in Seoul has to be served in the same manner as a Korean citizen living & working in Seoul.

  • Christina Caron-Moroney

    Mr. Lukken, do you ever assist other attorney’s in going through this process in exchange for a fee?