Max Planck Society

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Media Information
Online version Handwörterbuch des Europäischen Privatrechts

History Korea

During the first half of the last century Korea was under Japanese colonial rule that included the imposition of a continental European legal system which by and large was German in its origin. Indeed, for this reason modern Korean civil law was viewed by many Koreans as a foreign law which had robbed them of their own indigenous laws which were grounded in tradition. The civil code introduced by the Japanese was also initially in effect following the founding of the Korean Republic. More progressive legal reforms planned by the Korean Republic which had been established in 1948 were delayed, not least due to the outbreak in 1950 of the Korean War which resulted in a long-term constraint on the development of the nation. After the war legal reforms were again taken up, and on 22 February 1958 the Civil Code of the Republic of Korea was enacted. A commercial code followed in 1962 that also contained comprehensive corporate law regulations.

Research on Korean Law

The Institute has since 2005 expanded its expertise in East Asian law with an eye towards Korean civil law. On invitation of the Korean Legislation Research Institute, Knut Benjamin Pißler undertook a research stay in the Republic of Korea which included his completing an intensive language course at the Yonsei-University in Seoul from September 2004 until March 2005. As a result, the law of the Republic of Korea will in the future alongside the law of the People’s Republic of China represent a second research emphasis for Knut Benjamin Pißler. This increased breadth is particularly auspicious for comparative law research as it allows two Asian legal systems to be compared with one another and thus avoids an exclusively Eurocentric perspective.

Publications on Korean Law

The initial emphasis of the work of Knut Benjamin Pißler on Korean civil law is an accumulation of foundational legal literature on Korean law within the Institute library. His regular trips to South Korea serve for the acquisition of relevant standard reference works, commentaries and compilations of legal decisions. A first product of his research on the law of the Korean Republic has already manifested itself: Pißler’s German translation of the new Korean international private law regulations as well as an introduction discussing this field of law were published in the 2006 Rabel Journal of Comparative and International Private Law (Volume 2).


In 2010 a book titled "Einführung in das Koreanische Recht" (Introduction to Korean Law) was published by Springer. The book is the first German language work that provides a comprehensive overview of Korean law. At the end of 2008 Knut Benjamin Pißler spent two months at the Korean Legislation Research Institute in order to discuss individual texts which will be authored by Korean contributors.