The Korea Herald


Criminal procedures for foreigners in Korea

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 29, 2023 - 10:28

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As of the end of September, the number of short-term and long-term foreign residents in Korea was 2.5 million, accounting for 4.89% of the total population of 51.37 million. It is anticipated that as of 2023, South Korea will be one of the first multicultural countries in Asia as the proportion of foreign citizens is soon expected to exceed 5% of the total population, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standards. At this juncture, a better understanding on criminal procedure in Korea is needed. We will examine the related issue with Da-eun Han, attorney at law.

Q. If someone becomes a suspect of a crime in Korea, what procedures can be expected?

In Korea, if someone becomes a suspect in a crime, the person will go through investigative procedures via the police and prosecutor's office, according to the Criminal Act and Criminal Procedure Act. The police will call the suspect in for questioning regarding the case. Once the interrogation is complete, the police investigate evidence related to the case. If the police investigation concludes that the suspect is believed to be guilty, the case will be transferred to the prosecutor's office. On the other hand, if the police investigation concludes that the suspect is believed to be not guilty, the case will be closed with no charge. If the prosecutor concludes that there is sufficient evidence to prove the suspect guilty, the case will go to court.

Q. If someone becomes a suspect, will a translator be present for the interrogation?

According to Article 244 of the Criminal Procedure Act, the statement of a criminal suspect shall be entered according to protocol, and information on protocol shall be made available to the criminal suspect or shall be read to him/her; the suspect shall be asked whether or not there is any omission or any fact mistakenly described, and if the criminal suspect states that he/she has no objection or any other opinion concerning the protocol, the suspect shall be required to sign acknowledging they accept/understand the above. According to Article 180 of the Criminal Procedure Act (Interpretation), a statement by a person not versed in the Korean language must be translated by an interpreter. Thus, investigative institutions in Korea employ interpreters when foreigners residing in Korea become victims of a crime or are investigated by the police as suspects.

Q. Other issues regarding investigative procedures for suspects of a foreign nationality

According to Article 4 of the Immigration Act, if a foreign citizen is accused of certain crimes in Korea, the minister of justice may suspend the departure of the individual who is accused of a crime punishable by death, imprisonment for life, imprisonment for a minimum term of three years, or shows a risk of destroying evidence, or shows a risk of fleeing. On the other hand, according to the Article 68 of the Immigration Act, if a foreign national residing in Korea is involved in a crime, whether intentionally or due to negligence, and receives a fine of more than 3 million won ($2,315) per fine, or more than 5 million won in total fines within 5 years, they will be subject to a judicial review by the Immigration Department, which will decide on whether the individual should be deported. Additionally, a foreign resident who is subject to criminal punishment three or more times whilst residing in Korea is at risk of deportation.

Law firm Law-Win’s international litigation advisory team was established to effectively resolve domestic and international legal disputes without language barriers, working with competent attorneys specialized in various practical areas such as criminal law, civil law, bankruptcy, etc., as well as with 49 interpreters skilled in over 14 languages. (English, Sinhala, Tamil, Thai, Arabic, Russian, French, Mongolian, Chinese, Burmese, Japanese, Khmer, German, Vietnamese, and Uzbek) -- Ed.