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Do-Hyun Kim et al. v. South Korea
Date of text:
March 01, 2020
Data source:
Sabin Center
Court name:
Constitutional Court
Reference number:
On March 13, 2020, nineteen youth activists filed a complaint in the South Korean Constitutional Court alleging that the nation's climate change law violates their fundamental rights, including the right to live and a clean environment. South Korea's Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth, which was amended in December 2019, commits to reducing annual nationwide greenhouse gases to 536 million tons by 2030, a 24% cut from 2017. The petitioners argue that this target is insufficient to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The petitioners submitted a supplemental complaint on May 15, 2020, to provide the Court with info on the facts and science of climate change, and, in their view, Korea's insufficient response to the threat. On September 28, 2020, the petitioners submitted a supplemental brief to provide the Court with updated info on recent severe climate impacts in South Korea, the need for a prompt hearing of the case, and the Irish Supreme Court's handling of a similar case in Friends of the Irish Environment v. Ireland. On January 26, 2021, the petitioners filed a second supplemental brief with arguments on the South Korean government's violation of its obligation to protect citizens from the harms of climate change. The brief argues that the obligation to respond to climate change is derived from the Korean constitution's guarantee of the right to a healthy environment, the obligation to prevent disasters, and the obligation to protect health and safety. Petitioners argue that the government has violated this obligation by failing to enact adequate and effective climate legislation, and that petitioners have standing to challenge legislative omissions due to inadequate protection of environmental rights. On April 15, 2021, the plaintiffs submitted a third supplemental brief presenting arguments that the climate change law and enforcement of that law are underprotecting their basic rights and are violating their equal rights.

Key environmental legal questions:

South Korean youth filed suit against the government alleging that insufficient action on climate change violates their fundamental rights.
Suits against governments; GHG emissions reduction and trading; Other