By Jootaek Lee, Reference Librarian (Faculty) at Rutgers Law School
I recently visited Korea and was honored to be invited to attend a summer meeting hosted by the Development of International Law in Asia-Korea (“DILA-Korea”) and the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (“KIOST”) on June 1, 2018. About 20 Korean international law scholars, an ambassador and a congresswoman were invited and quite intensively discussed contemporary legal issues surrounding the Korean peninsular especially on territories and sea. The meeting started at 9:30am and continued until 6:00 pm and was quite overwhelming to me, but quite exciting to see and discuss the most current international legal issues among South Korea, North Korea, Japan and China.
The President of DILA-Korea, Professor Seokwoo Lee from the Inha University Law School started the meeting and briefly introduced the DILA-Korea. The Foundation for the Development of International Law in ASIA (“DILA”) is a non-government international organization and was established in 1989, seeking, identifying, and analyzing developments in international law in Asia and revealing common interests and concerns among Asian states ultimately to be shared with the international community. DILA-Korea hosts many scholarly meetings and colloquia every year. DILA publishes the famous Asian Yearbook of International Law, which summarizes Asian state practices and identifies international law issues and developments in Asia with the Asian perspectives; current editors-in-chief are Professor Seokwoo Lee and Professor Hee Eun Lee from Handong International Law School in Korea.
Heecheol Yang, Director, Ocean Policy Institute, KIOST, continued to introduce his organization and its research goals of looking towards the future ocean, reviving the ocean, searching for marine resources, protecting Korean ocean, and making safer ocean. He also introduced current research projects and ships and facilities used for research. I could see how Korean governments are making efforts to make sustainable developments of oceans surrounding Korea and to collaborate with Japan and China.
A guest speaker, congresswoman Sangjung Sim, introduced many political issues between South Korea and North Korea and how Korean congress is dealing with environmental problems in many different areas. Another guest speaker, Professor Joonsoo Jon from Sogang University, suggested strategies to facilitate commerce between South and North Korea; he emphasized the use of marine routes instead of roads and rails because marine routes are more cost-effective.
Three big topics were discussed among the scholars after the guest speakers. The first topic was about the current political changes surrounding the Korean peninsula, especially between South Korea and North Korea, and how it affects the existing legal issues relating to territories and sea. Also discussed are Northern Limit Line between South and North Korea, Pyunghwa Suyuk (artificial peaceful fishing zones between South Korea and North Korea), maritime boundaries between Korea and China, and the Agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea concerning Joint Development of the Southern Part of the Continental Shelf Adjacent to the Two Counties.
The second topic was about the development of international law in Asia. Eastphalia by Professor Sungwon Kim, Third World Approach to International Law (“TWAIL”) by Professor Buhmsuk Baek, and the Definition of a Region in International Law by Professor Sijin Oh were presented and discussed together with the attendants. Especially, the concept of Eastphalia compared with Westphalia was very interesting and received great attention from participants. Eastphalia was seeking to reflect Asian history, philosophies, theories, and humanism into the existing international law and suggesting openness and plural perspectives in global governance and Western-based power frame.
The third topic was about the publication of Brill’s Encyclopedia of Public International Law in Asia (BEPILA) – Korea. Most participants of the meeting chose their own topic and made presentations on their own terms to write on. For this project, Japanese and Chinese scholars are also participating. I was also honored to participate in this project and write on the terms relating to the international criminal law topic. The database for this project will be available soon for researchers.
Finally, after the meeting, participants enjoyed a great reception at the 23rd floor terrace of the hotel, commanding a nice view of Seoul. It was quite an exciting experience to me, and I hope to join this meeting every year. Anyone who is interested in Asian international law issues will find it worthwhile to pay attention to this organization and its publication, Asian Yearbook of International Law. Most participants of the meeting are also members of the Korean Society of International Law.