South Korea is likely to launch, at the end of this year if early or in the beginning of next year, a voluntary maritime arbitrators association in Seoul like LMAA (London Maritime Arbitrators Association) or SCMA (Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration).
'Committee on Activation of Maritime Dispute Resolution by Korean Court and Arbitration' (chaired by Prof. Kim In-Hyeon, Korea University) opened a preparatory meeting pm on Nov. 13 at Gwanghwamoon, Seoul and decided to have an inaugural meeting for foundation of SMAA (Seoul Maritime Arbitrators Association) at the end of this year or in the beginning of next year.
The Committee has geared up over the past two months for establishment of SMAA, and at the preparatory meeting, it has decided to form a sub-committee comprising ten members, and work on detailed plans to draft SMAA articles, fix criteria for nomination of arbitrators and arbitration procedures.
The preparatory meeting also has formed Secretariat of SMAA and has nominated Chung Sung-Han, ex-Dongnam Shipping's legal and insurance expert as its first Secretariat-General (SG) of SMAA. SG Chung Sung-Han has majored in maritime navigation at Korea Maritime University (class of 32st year). He has specialized in maritime law and insurance, and has worked until recently at Sechang & Co., a law firm as an expert in maritime law.
The SMAA Secretariat will open its temporary office at the Research Center for Maritime Law, Korea University until it is formally established, gear up to establish SMAA in close coordination with the preparatory sub-committee, and open a separate office once the opening of SMAA is finalized.
Speaking of the preparation to set up SMAA, Prof. Kim In-Hyeon, Korea University said: "A number of legal experts on Korea Maritime Law have had the same understanding that it is important to activate maritime arbitration and establish maritime arbitration chamber in a move to develop Korea Maritime Law, striving best to open in Korea a voluntary arbitration organization such as LMAA or SCMA. Now that the enactment of the relevant law for establishment of Maritime Arbitration Court is taking shape, we will expedite the opening of SMAA in a move to activate the maritime arbitration in Korea."
He added: "Once SMAA is set up, disputes can be settled at much lower cost and at a much quicker pace than through the legal courts or established arbitration institutes. Hence disputes like those maritime arbitration cases that have been handled overseas to date are expected to be resolved at home."
Amid the establishment of SMAA being pursued in full swing, Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB) is also pushing to found 'Asia-Pacific Arbitration Center (APAC)' early next year in collaboration with Busan City Administration, and there are indications that it is necessary to divide the role of the two bodies.
KCAB plans to reorganize and expand its Busan office into APAC so that maritime arbitration cases which were separately handled in Seoul and Busan before can be entirely handled by APAC. KCAB plans to increase the mere ongoing 20~30 arbitration cases to above 100 cases on an annual basis.
Referring to the worries that the role of SMAA overlaps that of APAC, Prof. Kim In-Hyeon stated with an emphasis: "Singapore has set up SIAC (Singapore International Arbitration Centre) similar to APAC in a move to catch up with LMAA. Nevertheless, the arbitration cost by SIAC was found uncompetitive with LMAA. Hence Singapore approved the establishment of SCMA as a voluntary arbitration body. Korea can have APAC like SIAC and SMAA as a voluntary arbitration body like SCMA."