Lawyers accuse top law schools of age discrimination

A lawyers’ group filed a petition with South Korea’s human rights watchdog on Friday, accusing the nation’s top law schools of discriminating against relatively old applicants. 

The Seoul Bar Association submitted the petition to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, questioning the admission criteria by local law schools, saying they favored students aged under 30. The law schools officially do not have an age restriction for applicants. 


“Only a single-digit percentage of the students at Korea’s top law schools including Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Korea University are in their 30s or older,” Yim Je-hyuk, spokesperson for the Seoul Bar Association told The Korea Herald. 

“There seems to be some sort of discrimination in the admissions process against older applicants. The schools should remove the section requiring age-related information in the application forms.” 

According to data submitted to Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party by the Education Ministry, 82.4 percent of the 10,439 newly enrolled students at law schools nationwide from 2011 to 2015 were 20-somethings. 

The tendency was especially pronounced at the nation’s most prominent law schools. Nearly 98 percent of new students at Seoul National University during the period were in their 20s, with Korea University and Yonsei University having 99.5 percent and 96.2 percent, respectively.

The universities’ preference for 20-something applicants, however, could erode the purpose of the introduction of the law school system, Yim noted.

“Law schools were established to nurture legal professionals equipped with various experiences and backgrounds. But age discrimination goes against the purpose,” he said. 

The lawyers’ group also pointed out that such discrimination could lower the chances for poor students to enter the legal sector, further widening the gap between the rich and the poor. 

“The law schools are open to only students from wealthy families who can graduate from undergraduate schools within four years without having to worry about tuition fees and living expenses,” Yim said. 

By Ock Hyun-ju (