108 Jaemin Lee
1. KORUS Amendment and the Investment Chapter
The Republic of Korea and the United States of America (“US”) concluded a Free
Trade Agreement (“FTA”) on March 15, 2012.
Among many features contained
in the FTA, the investment arbitration (Investor-State Dispute Settlement: “ISDS”)
proceedings set forth in Chapter 11 of the Agreement turned out to be one of the
stickiest and most controversial issues.
Since then, many observers have been closely
watching how the ISDS mechanism in the Korea-US FTA (“KORUS”)
is applied and
implemented in practice. The level of interest and concern has ratcheted up with the
In September 2017, at the request of the Trump Administration of the US, the
two countries initiated negotiations to amend the KORUS.
countries’ domestic procedures, the amended KORUS went into effect on January 1,
Major areas so amended are: (i) enhanced US access to the Korean automobile
; (ii) improvement of procedures to verify countries of origin under the
1 Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), US - Korea Free Trade Agreement, available at https://ustr.
gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/korus-fta (last visited on Mar. 16 2019).
2 In many countries, the investment arbitration mechanism has become one of the most important issues in any BIT
discussion and negotiation. See UNCITRAL, Report of Working Group III (Investor-State Dispute Settlement Reform)
on the work of its thirty-fourth session (Vienna, Nov. 27-Dec. 1, 2017), U.N. Doc. A/CN.9/930/Add.1/Rev.1, 51st
session (June 25-July 13, 2018). This mechanism began to draw global attention starting from late 1990s. See J.
JACKSON, M. BRONCKERS & R. QUICK, NEW DIRECTIONS IN INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW: ESSAYS IN HONOUR OF JOHN H.
JACKSON 392-3 (2000).
3 The full text of the Korea-US FTA is available at http://www.fta.go.kr/us/doc/1 (last visited on Mar. 16, 2019).
4 Since 2012, seven cases have been submitted for ISDS proceedings against the government of the Republic of Korea
under various IIAs (as of Mar. 16 2019). Three of them are filed by the US investors under the KORUS. The three
proceedings were all raised in 2018. They are Elliott Associates, L.P. v. Republic of Korea; Mason Capital L.P. and
Mason Management LLC v. Republic of Korea (PCA Case No. 2018-55); and Jin Hae Seo v. Republic of Korea. See
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (“UNCTAD”), Investment Dispute Navigator, Korea, Republic
of – As Respondent, available at https://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/ISDS/CountryCases/111?partyRole=2 (last
visited on Mar. 16, 2019).
5 USTR, Statement on the Conclusion of US-Korea (KORUS) FTA Meetings in Seoul (Jan. 2, 2018), available at https://
ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/fact-sheets/2018/january/statement-conclusion-us-korea-korus-0; For an
overview of the renegotiation, see B. Williams et al., US-South Korea (KORUS) FTA, CRS REP.: IN FOCUS (Dec. 28,
2018), available at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10733.pdf (last visited on Mar. 16, 2019).
6 Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Korea’s National Assembly Ratifies Revised KORUS FTA (Dec. 7, 2018),
available at http://english.motie.go.kr/en/pc/pressreleases/bbs/bbsView.do?bbs_cd_n=2&bbs_seq_n=685 (last visited
on Mar. 16, 2019).
7 USTR, Fact Sheet on US-Korea Free Trade Agreement Outcomes, (Sept. 2018), available at https://ustr.gov/about-us/
policy-offices/press-office/fact-sheets/2018/september/fact-sheet-us-korea-free-trade (last visited on Mar. 16, 2019).