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South Korea > Legal market overview
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South Korea’s domestic market remains sluggish, with lawyers reporting slim pickings on the M&A and capital markets fronts. In contrast, firms report an uptick in outbound transactions, and a marked increase in shipping finance. Also, more corporate private auctions are taking place as holding companies seek to sell off subsidiaries.
Outside the transactional arena, employment continues to be a busy area as companies seek to navigate South Korea’s idiosyncratic employment laws; and the ongoing Apple v Samsung patent litigation in relation to smartphones and software continues to generate headlines.
The South Korean market opened up to foreign firms in 2012, with a number taking the opportunity to open an office in the jurisdiction. Linklaters joins Allen & Overy, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Paul Hastings LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in the top tier of foreign firms this year; all have offices in the country except Allen & Overy, which continues to serve the jurisdiction from Hong Kong.
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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.
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.
Recent regulatory developments in the ever-changing broadcasting environment are summarized below.
On October 28, 2013, the Financial Services Commission (the “FSC”) announced an accounting system reformation plan related to the amendment to the Act on External Audit of Stock Companies (the “Plan”) aiming primarily at improving transparency of limited companies ( yuhan heosa ) and non-listed large company’s accounting system.
As noted in our previous issue, the Act on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances (K-REACH) and Chemicals Control Act (CCA) were recently enacted. Below are some of the key updates on K-REACH and CCA.
On November 27, 2013, the Korea Fair Trade Commission ("KFTC") agreed to apply for the first time the consent decree process in its investigation of Naver and Naver Business Platform (jointly, "Naver") and Daum Communications ("Daum") for their alleged violations of Korea's Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Law ("FTL").
On February 18, 2014, the Ministry of Environment of Korea ("MoE") announced an advance notice for the draft subordinate statutes of the K-REACH and Chemicals Control Act ("CCA"). Provided below are the key provisions of the legislation that is to take effect on January 1, 2015.
Ordinary wage, the standard in assessing compensation for overtime, nighttime and holiday work and unused annual leaves, refers to any money paid regularly, uniformly and on a fixed basis. On December 18, 2013, the Supreme Court rendered two full bench decisions on the scope of ordinary wage. Kim & Chang represented the Defendant-Appellant Kabul Autotech in both cases, in which the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the lower courts in favor of the Defendant-Appellant and remanded the cases.
Further to the Personal Information Protection Act ( PIPA ), the comprehensive data privacy law passed in March 2011 which will take effect on September 30, 2011, 1 the government has unveiled draft regulations to flesh out a number of the applicable requirements and standards. The drafts of the Enforcement Decree and the Enforcement Regulations, published on May 24, 2011, include significant requirements relating to data security, which, like other provisions, apply to any entity that handles personal information files for work purposes (referred to as “data handlers” below). Also now spelled out are various details concerning consent requirements, website sign-up rules, video camera restrictions, use of third party data handlers, reporting of leaks, and collective dispute mediation.
Kyiv, 11 August 2014 - Avellum Partners announced that it has acted as the Ukrainian legal counsel to Ferrexpo in connection with the following three export financing credits:
Avellum Partners announced that it has acted as the Ukrainian legal counsel to Ferrexpo in connection with the acquisition of an electrified railway of over two kilometers long and a power line.
Avellum Partners acted as the legal counsel to the owners of a leading Ukrainian FMCG producer in connection with its sale to a private investor.
KKR, a leading global investment firm, announced an investment in arago AG ("arago"). arago is a German-based high-tech company specialised in IT automation. KKR will acquire a minority stake in arago and support the global roll-out of arago's product portfolio with growth equity.
Funds Legal and Regulatory Update- Ogier
In early August 2014 „Popov & Partners" Law office was selected by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Bulgaria to perform public procurement named „Research and analysis of existing systems for enforcement in the EU Member States, research and exchange of the European good practices related to the construction of electronic system/portal for enforcement". The research is in the framework of „Effective and transparent enforcement, integrated with national and European electronic legal systems" implemented with the grant of the Operational Programme „Administrative Capacity", co-financed by the European Union through the European Social Fund.
In the middle of July 2014 "Popov and Partners" law office was awarded a public procurement, announced by the Ministry of Finance, with subject matter "Analysis of the structure of the Managing Authority of Operational Programme "Administrative Capacity" (OPAC) and development of an offer for structure of the Managing Authority of Operational Programme "Good Governance" (OPGG) in relation to the 2014-2020 programming period". The public procurement is part of a project for analysis of the structure of the Ministry of Finance and Operational Programme "Administrative Capacity" Directorate, realized with the financial support of Operational Programme "Administrative Capacity" (OPAC), co-funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund. The most fundamental aim of all project activities is to guarantee the effective execution of Operational Programme "Administrative Capacity" Directorate at the Ministry of Finance, in its capacity of Managing authority of the new Operational Programme "Good Governance" 2014 - 2020, which will replace Operational Programme "Administrative Capacity" and Operational Programme "Technical Assistance", implemented during the past programming period.
The international media company Bertelsmann is increasing its ownership of Gruner + Jahr to 100 percent by acquiring Jahr Holding's 25.1 percent shareholding. The transaction was agreed among Gruner + Jahr's shareholders. Bertelsmann's acquisition of the remaining shares in Gruner + Jahr will become effective on November 1, 2014. The purchase price is being paid in cash, and the parties have agreed not to disclose the amount.
Hengeler Mueller advises LEG Immobilien AG on acquisition of portfolio of around 9,600 residential uA subsidiary of LEG Immobilien AG ("LEG"), acting as the buyer, and Deutsche Annington Immobilien SE ("Deutsche Annington"), acting as the seller, yesterday signed an agreement for a portfolio transaction for around 9,600 residential units and related employees in North Rhine-Westphalia by way of share deal. The total transaction volume amounts to €484m. Following antitrust approval, the closing of the transaction is expected by the end of October 2014.