I work at a government tribunal in Australia. I explained to my Korean-born wife that it's like a lower court, but there's a distinction in Australian law, even though I can't quite explain it even in English. Google Translate gives 법원 for court and 법정 for tribunal, but neither my wife or our niece could explain the difference. Our niece suggested that 법원 is court house and 법정 is court room. Papago gives both 법원 and 법정 for court and 법정 for tribunal, with the comment (특별한 문제를 다루는). Is there is a distinction in Korean law?

  • papago gives me 재판소 for tribunal, with the footnote, tribunal is a special type of 법원 ((특별한 문제를 다루는) 재판소, 법원, 조사[심사] 위원회)
    – user17915
    Dec 12, 2021 at 14:01
  • Here's what naver dictionary has to say: ko.dict.naver.com/#/entry/koko/ef2f6127aeb84176a0c2b8c8263a6c5e 법원이 소송 절차에 따라 송사를 심리하고 판결하는 곳.
    – user17915
    Dec 12, 2021 at 14:04
  • Based on this I'd say your niece is probably correct. Also I think 법원 implies the whole court complex (eg, 대법원 implies the entire supreme court, not just any section of it such as a courtroom). 법정 probably means the actual location where cases are handled (eg, inside a courtroom)
    – user17915
    Dec 12, 2021 at 14:07
  • @user17915: I saw 재판소 on papago, but the reverse translation was 'court' and not 'tribunal'.
    – Sydney
    Dec 16, 2021 at 9:49

2 Answers 2


법 is "law", and 재판 "court trial". 원(official/public house), 소(place), 정(room, courtyard) can come after these words.

  • 법원 = official word for court (지방 법원 (local), 고등 법원 (district or circuit?), 대법원 (supreme)). It means both the functional and physical court. E.g. 법원의 판결, 법원에 가야 한다.

  • 법정 = official word for courtroom, where the proceedings take place. E.g. 법정 진술 (courtroom testimony).

  • 재판소 = loose and more general word for 법원, e.g. courts in the old days or in foreign counties (e.g. 국제사법재판소 = ICJ, International Court of Justice). One case it is in the name of an official domestic court is 헌법재판소, the Constitutional Court.

  • 재판정 = loose word for 법정.

  • I may be asking for a word that doesn't exist. Australia has courts (criminal and civil), and it also has tribunals, boards, agencies etc which make decisions in administrative law, but which aren't courts. Does South Korea have anything like these?
    – Sydney
    Dec 16, 2021 at 9:48
  • I found the Administrative Appeals System (acrc.go.kr/en/…), which is broadly similar to where I work. The Korean page is not an exact copy of the English page, so I'm not sure what word might be the one I'm looking for.
    – Sydney
    Dec 16, 2021 at 9:53

법원 is a court as an institution or the building where the institution resides in. 법정 is a specific physical place that a trial takes place.

In Korean law, the term 법원 is used in most cases:


The term 법정 is used in a few cases for a specific Enforcement Rules such as:

  • 법정 좌석에 관한 규칙 (Enforcement Rule for the Court Seating)
  • 법정 등의 질서유지를 위한 재판에 관한 규칙 (Enforcement Rules on trials for the order in courts)

** The English translation of the name of the enforcement rules is not official.

You may notice that the term 법원 is about the institution and 법정 is about physical place.

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