Abolishing colleges and departments of law has become unavoidable because students who want to be experts in law are less likely to prepare for the national bar exam than to enter law school, which has begun to play a key role in training legal experts.
“Law schools were adopted for nurturing legal experts from diverse fields,” said an official from MEST.
In 2008, MEST allowed the introduction of law schools at 25 universities, including Ewha Womans University, Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University. Originally, all 25 universities were required to abolish their colleges or departments of law by 2012.
The MEST policy on the Management and Establishment of Law Schools stated that no university with a law school could recruit students as law majors from 2009 on and that such a university would have to abolish its college of law or its department of law by 2012, when all students who entered law schools in 2008 would be graduating.
To effectively promote the abolition of colleges and departments of law, the ministry was to monitor whether or not universities had followed through on this in the ministry’s evaluation of law schools after five years.
However, the ministry’s decision on a five-year deadline faced strong protests from students majoring in law. Such students are already experiencing many difficulties, as colleges and departments of law no longer provide a sufficient number of courses.
“Every semester, the number of courses for law majors decreases,” said Kim You-jin (Yonsei University, 3), a student majoring in law. “This semester, I had to take a class for seniors since the course for juniors I wanted to take was already full. Furthermore, many famous professors no longer teach undergraduates majoring in law since they are only teaching in the law school.”
The graduation credits required at all 25 universities for undergraduates majoring in law have significantly decreased, dropping by as much as 15 to 20 credits. At Ewha, the required credits decreased by 17, from 81 to 64.
“When I heard that the college of law I attend would disappear, I was so upset,” Kim said. “The right to learn for law majors is being seriously violated, considering colleges people attend would be just gone.”
Law majors sent statements of protest against the ministry’s original decision to abolish colleges and departments of law by 2012.
“Forcing universities with law schools to abolish their colleges and departments of law violates their freedom to manage their own academic systems,” stated the Student Government Association of Chungbuk National University. “Providing an optimal learning environment for students majoring in law overrides the MEST policy because students have the right to study under favorable conditions.”
Despite the protests by students majoring in law, the MEST intends to abolish colleges and departments of law as quickly as possible.
“Abolishing colleges and departments of law is necessary for making the status of law schools stable since these schools are becoming the main institutions for nurturing law experts,” said an official from the MEST.