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Kwan vs.

United States
84F Supp.2n 611(2000)
Facts:
The United States and Republic of Korea entered into an
agreement which provides that the United States would provide
military and economic assistance and pay the Republic of Korea
death and disability gratuities resulting from casualties in
Vietnam war at double the rates readily agreed to by the Joint
United States-Republic of Korea Military Committee, known as
Brown Commitment.
Kwan, et al, veterans of the Vietnam war did not receive the
benefits as provided for in the Brown Commitment. So, they filed
suit in the U.S court to recover payment. The United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that
Messrs. Kwan and Park lack standing to enforce a governmentto-government obligation, and that their claims are nonjusticiable
political questions.1 Thus plaintiff appealed the decision to the US
Supreme Court.

Issue:
W/N private persons like Kwan, et al are entitled to claim benefits
flowing from a treaty or executive agreements and to file suit to
enforce them
Held.
The US Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court.
Kwan and the other veterans cannot claim benefits flowing from a
treaty or executive agreements and cannot file a suit to enforce
them in their private capacity. A treaty or executive agreement
having the force of a treaty governs the relations among
contracting states, and not between or among states and

individual persons or among individuals. Thus, when the


foundation document is an agreement between governments,
non-governmental entities can not ordinarily challenge either
their interpretation or their implementation, in the absence of
express authorization for such private action. Since the
obligations in the Brown Commitment were not legislatively
executed, they cannot be judicially enforced.

EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE:


1. A criminal defendant has the right to raise the defense that
his prosecution would violate extradition treaties or human
rights treaties, and the rights of a foreign citizen provided by
treaties concerning property and inheritance. In this case, it
is as if the private person is allowed to raise the defense of
treaty in his private capacity.
2. A treaty that protects alien's right to inherit property,
preventing state from taking property for itself, can be raised
as a defense by a private person.
3.

A plaintiff creditor in its private capacity can use a treaty


allowing it to recover debts from citizens of Virginia despite
a state law canceling those debts.