The Legal 500

South Korea

Editorial

Overview

A significant amount of domestic activity in the Korean market over the past year has focused on the employment sector, in particular relating to the disputes arising from the jurisdiction’s singular ‘ordinary wage’ policies.

A number of class action lawsuits are currently pending before the Korean courts and the substantial retrospective wage pay-outs that could be ordered are potentially ruinous for small and medium sized companies. These companies are therefore choosing their counsel carefully, and many of the country’s biggest firms – including Lee & Ko and Kim & Chang – have been highly active in this area, as have Bae, Kim & Lee LLCYulchon, Yoon & Yang LLC and Shin & Kim.

Elsewhere, lawyers report a steady increase in outbound transactions and investment, fuelled largely by the importance the Korean government is now attaching to such activity. Korean companies are still mainly active in Asia and the US in this area, but European markets and projects are starting to be explored. There has also been a small spike in capital markets activity.

For foreign firms entering the market, the competition is stiff. A number are well positioned to compete with the domestic market leaders for cross-border corporate, banking and M&A work, but all are having to identify a USP to guarantee prosperity in the long term.

Firms in the spotlight

Press releases

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Legal Developments in South Korea

Legal Developments and updates from the leading lawyers in each jurisdiction. To contribute, send an email request to
  • Essilor’s Proposed Combination with an Optical Lens Maker in Korea is Blocked

    In its press release on March 17, 2014, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (the "KFTC") blocked the proposed acquisition of 50% shares by Essilor Amera Investment Pte. Ltd. (a subsidiary of Essilor International S.A., the largest optical lens maker in the world) in Daemyung Optical Co., Ltd. (the second largest optical lens maker in Korea) citing inter alia the likely lessening effect on price competition and the probable future abuses of the enhanced market power. On top of the expressed competitive concerns, the KFTC observed that allowing foreign firms to acquire local firms and turn them into their local sub-contractors worsens the competitive market structure of the domestic optical lens industry.
  • Recent Issues of Data Protection Regulation in Korea

    The Personal Information Protection Act ("PIPA") was enacted as a general law of personal information in March 2011 to fulfill the need for presiding rules to govern personal information protection. In fact, there have already been a number of special laws governing personal information protection in various special areas and cases, such as The Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization Information Protection ("Network Act") governing information and communications services, and the Use and Protection of Credit Information Act ("Credit Information Act") governing personal credit information. Special laws prevail over the general law, when in conflict with individual articles of the general law.
  • Comprehensive Measures to Protect Personal Data in the Financial Sector

    The following is a summary of the press releases made by the Financial Services Commission on 10 March 2014. These are action items and policies that the FSC and relevant ministries are seeking to implement. The following measures have developed from a series of measures previously announced since the data leakage from the three credit card companies were revealed last January.
  • Essilor’s Proposed Combination with an Optical Lens Maker in Korea is Blocked

    In its press release on March 17, 2014, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (the "KFTC") blocked the proposed acquisition of 50% shares by Essilor Amera Investment Pte. Ltd. (a subsidiary of Essilor International S.A., the largest optical lens maker in the world) in Daemyung Optical Co., Ltd. (the second largest optical lens maker in Korea) citing inter alia the likely lessening effect on price competition and the probable future abuses of the enhanced market power. On top of the expressed competitive concerns, the KFTC observed that allowing foreign firms to acquire local firms and turn them into their local sub-contractors worsens the competitive market structure of the domestic optical lens industry.
  • Ordinary Wage: After the 2013 Supreme Court Decision

    1. First Trial Court Decision on Employer's Good Faith Argument On December 18, 2013, the Supreme Court of Korea made an en banc decision that ordinary wage includes regularly paid fixed bonus amounts. The Supreme Court also expressly noted that if an employer is able to prove that (i) there is an agreement between the employer and the labor union that fixed bonuses are excluded from ordinary wages and (ii) paying employees for past underpayment of overtime wages will cause a substantial detriment to the management or a major threat to the existence of the company due to the unexpected financial burden, then employees' claims for past underpayment can be denied based on the principle of good faith. However, the Supreme Court did not provide specific criteria for such denial, which caused controversy over the definite scope of application of its judgment (please refer to our newsletter of December 19, 2013 in this regard).
  • Criminal Breach of Duty (Bae-im) under Korean Law

    Criminal breach of duty, or bae-im in Korean, is a typical crime on which owners, directors, officers or managers of corporations and businesses in Korea are frequently indicted. A person commits bae-im when he or she, in dealing with the affairs of another person, breaches his or her duty and obtains, or enables a third person to obtain, a pecuniary advantage through such breach, thereby causing a loss to the person to whom the duty is owed. Bae-im is similar to the concept of Untreue under German law, while bae-im is broader in scope than Untreue in that a mere attempt to commit bae-im is also punishable in Korea.
  • Greater Labor Protections for Non-regular Employees

    On September 19, 2014, the Act on Protection of Fixed-Term and Part-time Workers ("Temporary Workers Act") and the Act on Protection of Dispatch Workers ("Dispatch Workers Act") were amended to offer greater protections to non-regular workers. In particular, (i) employers will be subject to greater economic implications if they receive a corrective order for discriminatory treatment of non-regular workers and (ii) part-time workers will be entitled to receive compensation for any overtime work performed.
  • South Korea: Draft Act on Compensation and Relief of Environmental Pollution Damage

    The Korean Government has launched a government project to establish a system to compensate and insure against environmental pollution damage, and is pursuing the introduction of a legal relief system for environmental pollution damage. Such Government initiative is intended to address the current situation where environmental pollution accidents inflict serious damage on society due to the enormous amount of tax money that is required for curing the pollution, while companies that caused the accident sometimes go bankrupt because they cannot bear the financial burden of paying the compensation. Moreover, the victims of environmental pollution accidents are often unable to obtain proper compensation due to the burden of proving that their injury resulted from the pollution or due to the prolonged litigation process which is unavoidable in light of the nature of environmental pollution.
  • South Korea: KFTC Approves First Consent Decree

    On March 12, 2014, the Commissioners of the Korea Fair Trade Commission ("KFTC") approved a consent decree with Korea's major Internet portal companies, Naver and Naver Business Platform (collectively "Naver") and Daum Communications ("Daum"). This was the first time since its introduction that a consent decree was used to conclude a case before the KFTC. With this consent decree, the KFTC's investigation of Naver and Daum for their alleged abuse of market dominance ended without any finding of liability.
  • South Korea: Recent Developments in Broadcasting Regulations

    Recent regulatory developments in the ever-changing broadcasting environment are summarized below.

Press Releases worldwide

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  • VEGAS LEX continues to represent OGK-2 in its gas turbine engine quality dispute

    On January 14, 2015, the VEGAS LEX law firm won an appeal case in the Sixteenth Commercial Court of Appeals for the sake of the Second Generating Company of the Wholesale Power Market (OGK-2)* in a dispute over the quality of a gas turbine engine (GTD-110) supplied by NPO Saturn to compel the defendant to restore the equipment's operation after a breakdown. The court ordered NPO Saturn to repair the broken GTD-110, with the cost of repairs adding up to RUB1bln, which is comparable with the cost of new equipment.
  • VEGAS LEX helps collect lost profit for Khanty-Mansiysk Non-State Pension Fund

    On January 13, 2015, the VEGAS LEX Dispute Resolution Practice won a case in the Ninth Commercial Court of Appeals for the sake of the Khanty-Mansiysk Non-State Pension Fund* in a dispute over a trust management agreement with regard to the fund's pension reserves.
  • Positive Developments for the Economy of Cyprus

    Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 It has been around one year and a half since the Eurogroup decisions to recapitalise Bank of Cyprus via a bail-in on 25 th of March 2013. Cyprus has worked hard since then to exit the financial crisis and to maintain its status and reputation as an international financial centre. Within October 2014, several positive developments which took place suggest that Cyprus is on a good path. These positive developments include: /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif";}
  • Avellum Partners Advised Nadezhda Group on Corporate Restructuring

    Kyiv, 29 December 2014  - Avellum Partners advised Nadezhda Group ("Group"), operating in the liquefied petroleum and gas industry, on tax planning for holding structure of the Group, all legal and tax aspects of corporate restructuring and acquisition finance issues, aimed at obtaining finance from international finance institutions ("IFIs").
  • Avellum Partners Advised on Exchange Offer of Metinvest

    Kyiv, 14 January 2015  - Avellum Partners acted as Ukrainian legal counsel to Deutsche Bank AG, London Branch and ING Bank N.V., London Branch, who acted as Dealer Managers, in connection with the exchange offer of Metinvest B.V., the parent company of a vertically integrated group of steel and mining companies ("Metinvest") for its USD500 million 10.25% guaranteed notes due 2015, coupled with the new issue of USD289.7 million 10.5% guaranteed notes due 2017 ("Notes") under its USD1,500,000,000 Guaranteed Medium Term Note Programme and a 25% cash consideration. The Bank of New York Mellon, London Branch acted as the Exchange Agent. The Notes are listed and admitted to trading on the Global Exchange Market of the Irish Stock Exchange.
  • Gorodissky new practices

    In December 2014 the IP team of Gorodissky & Partners was joined by Valery Narezhny who will be in charge of the firm's new law practices such as taxes, customs and commercial laws. Valery graduated from Finance Academy under the Government of Russia (Moscow) majoring in "Finances and Credits" and the Academy of Law and Management (Moscow) majoring in "Civil Law", holds PhD degree in economics. He is specializing in taxes, currency, customs, labor and commercial laws and in court disputes. Valery started his carrier in the state bodies (Tax Policy Department, Ministry of Finance, and Government Administration), worked for a number of Russian and international law firms. He is author of more than 150 publications and 9 books on taxation and civil law issues. Valery Medvedev, Managing Partner, Gorodissky & Partners, commented: "It appears from our clients' enquiries that they are in the need to obtain consultations and professional advice relating not only to protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights but also to IP issues governed by taxes, labor, currency and commercial laws. Valery Narezhny having considerable experience and knowledge in these practices will no doubt enhance our team of lawyers and considerably enlarge the range of the firm's legal services"
  • HaoLiWen helps client resolve TP case with the customs

    HaoLiWen has advised a multinational client in a case of the customs challenge against import transfer pricing. Recently, this case was successfully closed. The customs has accepted the transfer pricing policies of the client.  The client has incurred no further import tax exposure, and the deposits put up with the customs for the shipments in question are to be refunded by the customs to the client.  
  • VEGAS LEX to support 2015 Jessup Moot Court Competition

    The VEGAS LEX law firm will support this year's Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, the largest and most prestigious law school competition, which will take place in Moscow from January 28 through February 1.
  • P+P Pöllath + Partners berät die Deutsche Bank und DN Capital bei Investitionen in Onlineportal Wi

    Der Onlinehändler Windeln.de hat seine bislang größte Finanzierungsrunde abgeschlossen. Mit einem Investitionsvolumen von insgesamt etwa EUR 45 Mio. beteiligten sich neben dem Hauptinvestor Goldman Sachs auch die bisherigen Geldgeber MCI Management, 360 Capital Partners, die Londoner Beteiligungsgesellschaft DN Capital sowie mehrere Deutsche Bank Fonds.
  • AT/USA: Schoenherr advises AIM Software Group on investment by Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe

    Schoenherr advised AIM Software Group ("AIM") on the receipt of an investment from and transfer of a majority interest to U.S.-based private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe ("WCAS"). AIM is a leading provider of data management software products to the financial services industry. Under the terms of the transaction, which was announced on 14 January 2015, AIM's existing management team will continue to operate the business and maintain a significant ownership stake in the company. WCAS is also investing primary capital in the business which will be used to further accelerate AIM's expansion.  read more...