Special Section: Asian Journeys

By what rules will rapid change be governed?

Photo illustration

Beijing First Intermediate People's Court.

In China, new laws are being drafted for trade, banking and finance, the environment, labor relations and the protection and accommodation of millions of citizens with disabilities—to name just a few areas.

In Japan, many aspiring lawyers are entering new, three-year law schools instead of getting their legal training as university undergraduates, while law firms in Tokyo are starting to resemble New York “mega-firms.”

In Korea, a Harvard-trained lawyer became the first woman appointed to the appellate bench, and nearly 20 percent of the country’s judges are women. In Taiwan, another woman, also a lawyer, is vice president—and may be her party’s candidate for president in 2008. Less than 30 years ago, she was imprisoned for sedition in a society that had yet to become a democracy.

These are merely snapshots of a region in rapid transition—change that increasingly involves law. Explaining that change is within the province of Harvard Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies program—the oldest and most comprehensive academic program in the U.S. devoted to the study of law and legal history of the nations and peoples of East Asia.

EALS scholars can tell you, for example, why law is a path to political power in Taiwan but has not traditionally been one in the People’s Republic of China, where engineers have been more likely to rise through party ranks than lawyers. And they can tell you why Japan, once known for producing more engineers per capita than the lawyer-rich U.S., is now engineering more lawyers than ever before.

No single issue of a magazine can cover all the territory that is Asia, or even East Asia. The following pages offer a glimpse, filtered through the prism of law, of some nations and peoples on journeys of remarkable transformation.

Why China?
Law will be crucial to China’s development.

Digital pathways to Asia
Can law keep up with technology? Some Harvard lawyers are finding out.

The rivals
Annette Lu and Ma Ying-jeou share a history. But they offer different futures for Taiwan.

Engineering lawyers
Japan is building up its legal profession.

Blood on the roof of the world
In Nepal, lawyers took bullets for the rule of law .

Asia 2006
Exchanging greetings—and ideas: HLS delegation barnstorms through Asia in mid-winter tour.