27 June 2017
SIAC Seminar on "Crystal Ball Gazing into the Future of International Arbitration"


By Saemee Kim, Associate, Lee & Ko

On 27 June 2017, SIAC held a successful seminar at Kim & Chang in Seoul, titled “Crystal Ball Gazing into the Future of International Arbitration”, which provided an insightful and practical discussion on the future of international arbitration. The panel, moderated by Dr. Eun Young Park (Kim & Chang, member of the SIAC Court of Arbitration), was composed of Gary Born (Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP; President of the SIAC Court of Arbitration), Matthew Christensen (Bae, Kim and Lee LLC), Robert Wachter (Lee & Ko), Sae Youn Kim (Yulchon LLC) and Jun Hee Kim (Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd). An audience of over 70 corporate counsel, practising lawyers and academics attended the seminar.

Dr. Eun Young Park kicked off the session with his welcome address and introduced the eight issues selected in advance by the attendees during the online registration: (1) Winter is coming: defending international arbitration: (2) Prospects of international arbitration in Korea and the APEC region, (3) Third-party funding (TPF); (4) Emergency Arbitration (EA), (5) Selecting an arbitral institution, (6) Arbitrator diversity; (7) Brexit’s impact on arbitration; and (8) Time limits for rendering of awards.

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Dr. Eun Young Park delivering Welcome Address

Members of the audience

Inspired by the Game of Thrones, Mr. Born began the discussion with the pithy phrase, “Winter is coming for international arbitration”. Continuing the Game of Thrones metaphor, he explained that after 30 years of a warm, peaceful, and constructive summer in which commercial arbitration and investment arbitration flourished, it was now time to defend arbitration from attacks by its critics.

Mr. Christensen shared a more optimistic view, citing the recent enactment of the Arbitration Promotion Act in Korea as an indication of positive prospects for international arbitration in Korea. Adding the perspective of an in-house counsel, Mr. Kim commented that although arbitration is not perfect, its flexibility and adaptability make it attractive to users.

As the discussion turned to the topical issues of TPF and EA, Mr. Born suggested that TPF may raise issues such as counsel ethics, disclosure obligations, and the authority of tribunals to order disclosure, which will need to be carefully managed. Ms. Kim explained that the traditional fee arrangement prevalent in Korea, which shares the litigation risk between counsel and clients, may explain TPF’s slow uptake in Korea. However, she stressed that TPF is not prohibited under Korean law and encouraged Korean lawyers to consider the change.

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Left to Right: Matthew Christensen, Jun Hee Kim and Gary Born

Left to Right: Dr. Eun Young Park, Kim Sae Youn and Robert Wachter

Dr. Park then raised the intriguing question of whether the EA mechanism is “good, bad or ugly.” For Mr. Born, the “ugly” part is the short turnaround time for respondents to respond. Nonetheless, the panellists agreed that EA is indispensable, and access to justice for parties outweighs the challenges for lawyers arising from the short time periods in an EA.

Regarding arbitral institutions, Mr. Wachter identified three issues to consider when selecting an institution: how the institution would select the presiding arbitrator of the tribunal, costs, and how fast the award would be rendered.

As the discussion moved to arbitrator diversity, the recent Arbitrator Intelligence (AI) project grabbed the audience’s interest. While Mr. Wachter suggested that AI could inadvertently create barriers to entry for minorities or young practitioners, as those candidates would likely have limited profiles, Mr. Born suggested that AI would actually increase arbitrator diversity by providing users with more information about lesser known candidates.

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Left to Right: Seah Lee, Matthew Christensen,
Robert Wachter, Gary Born, Kim Sae Youn,
Dr. Eun Young Park and Jun Hee Kim

Gary Born with members of the audience

Ms. Kim shared her view that Brexit will not necessarily affect international arbitration in England, although the attractiveness of the English courts as a forum for dispute resolution could be affected by the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Brussels Convention.

As for the last issue concerning time limits for rendering of awards, Mr. Kim shared his experience with respect to Indian arbitrations and emphasised that in addition to the efficiency of the arbitration proceedings, users should also be aware of potential issues at the enforcement stage, which might impact on the overall efficiency of the arbitration mechanism.

Mr. Born concluded the seminar with a reminder to the audience of the importance of arbitration, and a clarion call for arbitration lawyers to become a “hunter instead of being hunted.”
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