Country Profile: South Korea

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Republic of Korea/South Korea (Taehan-min'guk), based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under South Korea's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has no legal status. 

Country Background

The Republic of Korea (or South Korea) is located on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. It is bounded by the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan, and the Korean Strait. South Korea's only land border is with North Korea to its north. The capital of South Korea is Seoul. The official language is Korean. The country’s population in 2017 was approximately 51.2 million. South Korea is a predominantly secular country, with over 50% of the population having no religious affiliation. In addition, about 20% of the population is Protestant, 16% is Buddhist, and 8% is Catholic.

Constitution & Legal Structure

South Korea is referred to as a presidential republic. In the aftermath of the bloody Korean War, North and South Korea split from each other, with North Korea establishing a brutal communist regime, and South Korea establishing a capitalist democracy, modeled off of many western governments. In 1988, the current Constitution of South Korea was adopted, and it has been in place ever since. With this Constitution, sovereignty lies with the citizens and government officials are elected through a democratic process. The president acts as the chief of state, while the prime minister acts as the chief of government. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legal system of South Korea is a mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought. The system of courts is divided into multiple levels, with the Supreme Court the highest ranked. 

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no constitutional status in South Korea.

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

Islamic law has no official jurisdiction of operation in South Korea.

Dominant School of Islamic Law

South Korea has no official school of Islamic law. 

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

Unofficial Databases


For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English and Arabic translation. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].