JUSTICE KITAEK LEE
The late of August 2017, Justice Kitaek Lee (이기택), a senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Korea visited Kenya. We met him and had the following interview.
Is it your first time in Kenya? How about Africa?
It is my second visit to Africa and my first in Kenya. I visited Egypt a while back.
Why did you come?
Africa is not well known in Korea so my interest came out of that realization. In addition, I personally see Kenya as a key African representative. With regards to my work, it was a dream of mine to meet students in the legal field receiving education to lead Kenya’s future entities. I had also heard about Korean studies being offered abroad in rare places, especially in Africa and was therefore curious to visit the University of Nairobi, Korean Studies department.
How do you find Kenya’s judiciary compared to the Republic of Korea’s judicial system?
Right now I don’t have a lot of understanding on the Kenyan judiciary but in Korea the court decides on its own working budget. The courts decide on their expenses by themselves in an independent manner. However, the Kenyan courts are governed by a committee when they want to pay something. The committee makes decisions on court budgetary matters.
What are some of the comparisons you’ve been able to observe between the two countries’ judicial systems?
The two countries have a history of colonization and although negative, we cannot really do anything about it. I want to see both countries work fiercely to keep the principles of an independent judiciary.
Are there some areas where Kenya and Korea can cooperate to improve their respective judicial systems.
Korea is collaborating with a lot of countries at the moment including Kenya by learning from each other’s advantages. I think it is also a good opportunity to help Kenya in the process of teaching law since Korea is advanced in legal matters. The two countries could legally and positively use each other’s advantages in carrying out business together.
For example, from a personal experience, there was a case in 2002 where the Code of Civil Procedure was amended (it is still being implemented). The process of that amendment had begun through some groundwork that was made in 1995. What I had wanted was to learn from as many countries with more knowledge in Code of Civil Procedure as possible and who could introduce it to Korea. But then I only managed to get information from a few countries because it was so difficult to get it, as the other countries were somewhat cautious and reluctant. Suppose Kenya and Korea work together on developing the Code of Civil Procedure and I take all of Kenya’s good points and put them in the Korean law then later it will not be good so I think this is part of the reason why I only managed to get help from a few countries.
You’ve come at a time when the Kenya’s Supreme Court has just cancelled the presidential elections, a milestone for any African country. What are your thoughts about the transformation of Kenya’s judicial system?
No comment. There are political laws that apply for every country, and there can be issues with these particular laws everywhere. I just hope people can learn from it and get better.
From the talks you’ve had with the faculty of Law at the University of Nairobi, and the interactions you’ve had with some of their students, how can you compare Kenya’s legal education system and that of Korea?
Until 2008 Korea used to use the undergraduate system similar to Kenya’s but in 2009 we switched to the American graduate school system, and hence the differences. From my meetings with the UoN law students, I personally felt the students were very advanced about legal matters. I was very moved.
Are there any areas you think Kenya can emulate Korea on judicial matters?
Korea underwent a lot of changes and development in a short period of time. In these changes, it included the judiciary positively changing the society. So in Korea’s judiciary, there is this helping ability. Kenya’s may also have or develop a similar helpful ability.