J Korean Neuropsychiatr Assoc.  2009 Mar;48(2):92-101.

Comparison of Major Procedures of Korean Mental Health Law with Other Developed Countries

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Univeristy of Unsan, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea. jphong@amc.seoul.kr
  • 2Songpa-gu Community Mental Health Center, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Hanbyul Mental Hospital, Gimpo, Korea.
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, Kangwon National University College of Medicine, Chuncheon, Korea.
  • 6Department of Psychiatry, Incheon Medical Center Hospital, Incheon, Korea.


: The Mental Health Act is an initiative aimed at changing and shaping mental health services and protecting human rights of persons with mental disorders. Since the Mental Health Act was legislated in 1995, four amendments have been made according to the issues that arose from public concerns. However, there are still many debates about the human rights protection of the mentally ill. This study aimed to provide information regarding major aspects of the Mental Health Act by comparing them among several developed countries.
: Current Mental Health Acts of the state of Michigan in the United States, Scotland in England, the state of Victoria in Australia, and Japan were reviewed. Issues regarding the Korean Mental Health Act were collected from seminar materials, news media contents, and mental health professionals.
: The definition of subjects in Korean Mental Health Act was more inclusive than other countries and was derived from a medical classification of mental illness. Family members or guardians were granted important responsibilities for deciding the involuntary admission of mentally ill patients in Korea and Japan. In Western countries, Mental Health Review Tribunals or courts have the primary responsibility for important decisions about mentally ill patients. The regulation of immediate discharge after request by voluntarily admitted patients was not enacted in all countries except Korea. The mandatory procedure for involuntary admission in Western countries includes an individual case review with personal interview by a Mental Health Review Tribunal or court.
: The Korean Mental Health Act appears to meet the basic standards of Guidelines from international organizations. Our traditional culture and inherent health systems seem to influence the legal regulation of mental health service and might be related to the problems of human rights protection of mentally ill patients in Korea.


Mental Health Act; Forensic law; Mental health
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