posted Feb 01, 2019

When Hyun Kim arrived at the UW in the mid-1980s, he thought he had his career path figured out: He would obtain a doctoral degree from the UW School of Law and then become a law professor. But a summer position with Bogle & Gates, one of Seattle’s largest law firms, changed all that.

“Working with their maritime practice team was inspiring, exciting and instructive,” Kim said. “Appearing in court and presenting oral arguments was thrilling. I decided to become a maritime lawyer after I returned to my country.”

Today, Kim is the founder and senior partner at the maritime law firm of Sechang & Co. in Seoul, where he provides legal advice to business and government agencies, including the ministries of oceans and fisheries, food and rural affairs, and agriculture.

He also serves as the president of the Korean Bar Association, which includes 14 local bars, more than 25,000 attorneys and more than 1,350 law firms. Since its inception in 1952, the KBA has contributed to the consolidation of democratic order and social justice in Korea by reviewing legislation, critiquing governmental policies, conducting public opinion polls and proposing alternative solutions to issues of public interest.

Kim was an adjunct professor for more than a decade and is the author of three books on law.

He selected UW Law for several reasons.

“UW is traditionally open-minded and accommodating to Asian lawyers and students,” he said. “Since Seattle is the nearest U.S. city to Korea, many Korean students study there. The UW also has a good reputation in the area of law along with medicine, business and marine study.”

Nearly 30 years later, Kim’s ties to Seattle remain strong. For six years, he served as president of the UW Alumni Association of Korea, stepping down in 2016, and he continues to host University of Washington delegations that visit his country.

Close ties between the UW School of Law and Korea were established more than 65 years ago when Professor Dan Fenno Henderson, a leading force in the development of Asian and comparative law in North America, founded UW’s Asian Law Center. Kim studied under Henderson and considers him a pivotal figure in his career.

“Prof. Henderson guided me kindly and thoroughly,” Kim said. “He was like a father figure to me.”

In 2017, Kim was elected president of the Korean Bar Association, where he campaigned for legislation requiring that all government branches and local governments in Korea hire lawyers.

“I also insisted that only lawyers be able to plead at the Supreme Court,” he said, “and urged that attorney-client privileges be formally legislated.”

In September, Kim will lead his colleagues onto the world stage when Seoul hosts the 2019 International Bar Association conference. About 6,000 lawyers are expected to attend.