The Korean legislative system consists of the Constitution as the paramount law, Acts to realize the constitutional notions, and administrative legislation including Presidential Decrees, Ordinances of the Prime Minister, Ordinances of Ministries and so forth to effectively implement the Acts. Since statutes form a certain hierarchy, subordinate statutes that are enacted under powers delegated by Acts or are enacted for the purpose of enforcing Acts, are not permitted to contain details in conflict with such Acts.
For cases on whether subordinate statutes are in conflict with Acts, which are raised in the course of enforcing such Acts, the Adjudication on the Constitutionality of Acts and the Constitutional Complaints of the Constitutional Court address on whether any Act is in violation of the Constitution. Futhermore, the Supreme Court holds the authority to make a final review on whether any order, rule, or disposition is in violation of the Constitution or Acts.
The Constitution, as the paramount law, stipulates fundamental matters pertaining to the rights and obligations of the people, fundamental structures of the Government, economic order, management of elections and such. The Constitution is the standard for the legislation and amendment of statutes of the Republic of Korea. If an Act, Presidential Decree or such is in violation of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court makes a decision on unconstitutionality of the relevant Act or Presidential Decree by referring to the provisons and preamble of the Constitution and interpreting the basic constitutional notions.
Acts are the forms of legal norms stipulated by the legislative principles of the National Assembly and prescribe the principle of legality, principle of legislated taxation, requirements for acquisition of Korean nationality, expropriation and indemnity of property rights, establishment of Ministries and categories of local governments and such.
All of the rights and freedoms of the people may be restricted by Acts where it is deemed necessary to do so for the purpose of safeguarding national security and maintaining public order or public welfare, and even if such rights and freedoms are restricted, essential elements of such rights and freedoms are protected from being infringed on. Emergency executive orders and emergency financial and economic executive orders are issued by the President in the event of any national emergency. They have the effect of Acts only when the President obtains such approval from the National Assembly.
Treaties mean agreements concluded in writing among nations while international laws mean international treaties, the enforcement power of which is generally recognized by the international community even though the Republic of Korea is not a signatory nation thereto, and include international customary laws. The Constitution of the Republic of Korea stipulates the observance of international law, and prescribes that treaties concluded and promulgated under the Constitution and international laws generally recognized have the same effect as those of domestic laws.
Where the Government concludes any treaty in conflict with domestic Acts, the Government is required to seek consent from the National Assembly. Some treaties require legislative measures for enactment as domestic Acts in order to be implemented.
Orders refer to all of statutes (excluding any treaties, international laws, and municipal ordinances and rules) prescribed by administrative power. Presidential Decrees issued by the President, the head of the Executive, consists of delegated orders and execution orders. The jurisdiction of such orders extends over all administrative affairs under the jurisdiction of the Executive.
Ordinances of the Prime Minister are enacted with respect to matters under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Safety and Security, the Ministry of Personnel Management, the Ministry of Government Legislation, the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, etc. that are administrative agencies under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister among the ministries of the Executive. Ordinances of the Prime Minister are generally viewed to stand on par with Ordinances of Ministries in their hierarchy.
Administrative Rules are established by administrative agencies for the purpose of setting their internal standards for performing duties or conducting affairs.
Hierarchy of Acts & Subordinate Statutes, Class1 Constitution, Class2 Acts·Emergency Executive Order·Emergency Financial and Economic Executive Order, Treaty·International Law, Class3 Presidential Decree, National Assembly Regulations·Supreme Court, Regulations·Constitutional Court, Regulations·National Election, Commission Regulations, Class4 Ordinances of the Prime Minister·Ordinances of the Ministries, Class5 Administrative Rules(DirectivesㆍEstablished Rules·Public Notices·Guidelines, etc.), Municipal Ordinances or Rule.