Korean criminologist studies comparative law at Penn State

August 07, 2012

From his early years of reading detective novels like Sherlock Holmes, Penn State Law student Joon Tae Lim has been interested in the study of crime and crime prevention. So, when the Korean National Police University was established in Yongin, South Korea during his high school years, Lim decided to attend the academy which launched his life-long career in the field.

After graduating from the university in 1989, Lim worked as a police inspector in various police fields, including the criminal investigation and crime prevention division for 11 years. Lim described his most unforgettable arrest as though it happened only yesterday. “The most memorable incident in my police career was a hit-and-run case which happened in the spring of 1992. After a long, 15-month investigation, I tracked down the female suspect, who was hiding behind the door of a large piece of furniture, and made the arrest. Even now, I cannot forget the tears that the victim’s family shed as a token of gratitude,” Lim said.

Inspired by his work as a police officer, Lim enrolled at Yonsei University where he majored in criminal law and procedure. During his study at Yonsei, he became interested in the German legal system, historically known for having influenced the Korean legal system. Supported by his government Lim was selected as a recipient of the South Korean Government Long-Term Fellowship for Overseas Study Program and was accepted into Freiburg University in Germany where he studied law for four years and was granted a doctor of law degree in criminology.

In 2000, after leaving the police force, Lim became a professor in the Department of Police Administration at Dongguk University in South Korea where he teaches criminal procedure law, criminal justice, and police administration law. His research and scholarship focuses on comparative criminal justice systems.

In 2001, after the arrest and strip search of a female suspect in police custody sparked a wave of public criticism, Lim was asked by the Korean police to conduct a comparative study of strip search protocols in other countries, including Germany, Switzerland, England and the United States. “During that time, I made my first visit to the United States as a visiting scholar in the College of Criminal Justice at the Sam Houston State University in Texas. I then visited the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, and the New York Police Department where I interviewed law enforcement officers about strip search procedures.”

Lim’s research and recommendations led to Korea implementing a new procedure for the strip search of women. “I take a lot of pride in my research. I published a 100-page paper about the comparative study and how the Korean police agents should carry out the strip search of women in detention,” Lim said. He has personally trained about 300 Korean police officers on how to properly organize a strip search of a woman. “It was a very unique situation. Until that time, no police officers knew how to search a woman. Today only female officers are allowed to strip search women in Korea,” he explained.

What the future holds

When Lim returns to teaching at Dongguk University after completing his master of laws (LL.M.) degree at Penn State Law, he plans to incorporate his knowledge in the classroom. “A long time ago our system was influenced by a contender (continental-French and German) system through Japan. Twenty years ago the German legal system was very close to ours. Day by day, the trend is changing. Recently our government established a new system and it is very similar to the Anglo-American system.”

Lim also plans to take the New York bar exam. One of the reasons he chose Penn State Law’s LL.M. program is for its emphasis on preparing foreign students to sit for a U.S. state bar exam. “Penn State Law is well known for its LL.M. program, and I was particularly impressed by its focus on preparing its students for bar examination,” Lim said. “I hope to focus on intellectual property law and industry secrets. Right now, there are so many industry-related spy cases. A few years ago there was a serious case, Kolon v. DuPont, between America and Korea over the theft of trade secrets about the manufacture of Kevlar, an anti-ballistic fiber used in police and military gear,” Lim explained. “Today many Chinese companies are trying to take high profile secrets from Korean companies. Through my intellectual property learning and interest in patents and trademarks, I will try to teach my students about these laws."

  • Joon Tae Lim

    IMAGE: Mary Szmolko

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015