Reconceptualising ‘State Succession’

International Law Association Seminar Series at the University of Nottingham School of Law (organised in cooperation with International Law Association – British Branch)

Professor Keun-Gwan Lee, Professor at School of Law, Seoul National University, Korea and a Member-Elect of the International Law Commission

In this talk, Professor Lee will explore a central shortcoming of the international legal concept of state succession: its reliance on a problematic domestic law analogy. He will firstly ask why the field of international law dealing with the consequences of territorial change relies on a domestic law concept of de cujus to heres, which regulates the automatic and (in principle) universal transfer of rights and obligations.

Secondly, he will discuss the long-lasting deleterious effects of this domestic law analogy on how we conceptualize the law of ‘state succession’. Finally, he will examine how this misleading approach has affected the recent attempts at the codification and progressive development of international law undertaken by the Institut de droit international and the International Law Commission.

About the speaker

Keun-Gwan Lee is a Professor of Law at the School of Law, Seoul National University, Korea. He received his LL.B. from Seoul National University, LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. His research interests include, among others, the history and theory of international law (in particular, the ‘reception’ of modern international law in East Asia), the law of state succession (with particular reference to the relations between South and North Korea), the law of the sea and the international protection of cultural heritage. He served as director of studies (English-speaking section) at the Hague Academy of International Law in 2010.

He has worked closely with UNESCO in the protection of cultural property, serving as, among others, chairperson of the Inter-Governmental Committee Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin in the 2012-2014 period. He gave a lecture on the subject of the return of cultural objects to their countries of origin at the Hague Academy of International Law in 2018. In 2021, Professor Lee was elected to serve as a member of the International Law Commission starting in 2023.

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