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  1. Shipping: local firms
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At boutique Choi & Kim, name partners J H Choi and C J Kim lead an internationally respected practice that acts for major P&I clubs including UK P&I Club and Steamship Mutual, as well as shipping companies such as Hyundai Merchant Marine. The team is well known for its contentious caseload that includes a full range of maritime matters including collisions, charter party disputes and wrongful arrest, as well as oil pollution claims and insolvency driven litigation. Choi recently provided ‘very good service on a stevedore damage claim’.

Kim & Chang’s ‘excellent service’ incorporates ‘very responsive and pro-active handling of cases and commercial advice that always includes a recommendation’. Practice head Byung-Suk Chung is highly active across a range of contentious mandates; as well as representing a significant number of creditors in insolvency claims against Hanjin Shipping, Chung also successfully defended the master and chief officer of the MV CSAV Tyndall in a criminal investigation arising from a collision that resulted in the deaths of four Korean nationals. The team also handled various international arbitrations including Dong-Seok Oh, Chul-Won Lee and Sungjean Seo representing a Korean shipyard in a dispute relating to the buyer’s early termination of a shipbuilding contract. On the non-contentious side, Chung assisted Hapag-Lloyd with amendment filings required by the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. Jin Hong Lee is another name to note.

Lee & Ko regularly handles disputes and financing deals in the areas of shipping, shipbuilding, and multi-modal transportation. Practice head Jin-Young Jung focuses on contentious matters and together with Chongsu Seo is defending Meritz Fire & Marine Insurance in two claims arising from the capsizal of MV Sewol. In another significant piece of litigation, Jung and Seok Pyo Hong are acting for a number of foreign and domestic logistic companies, forwarders and marine service providers concerning Hanjin Shipping’s rehabilitation proceeding. Concurrently a separate team of Wan Shik Lee and Eunjai Lee was also instructed by the bankrupt shipping company regarding its applications for recognition of the Korean rehabilitation proceeding in foreign jurisdictions. Jae Hwan Kim and Yun Jeong Seo, who leads on ship finance, are additional contacts.

Moon & Song witnessed some reorganisation in 2016, with the departure of Taeil Kwon and the promotion of name partner H Song, who is, according to one observer, ‘one of the major young maritime lawyers in Korea’. Managing partner Kwang-Myeong Moon , who ‘knows the shipping scene in Korea very well’ and is ‘sincere, commercial-minded, and fast’, heads the practice. Both lawyers are particularly recommended for P&I claims, and are acting for a number of foreign ship owners under the instruction of their P&I Clubs in relation to Hanjin Shipping’s rehabilitation and bankruptcy. In another highlight the team was instructed by the Korean government to recover unpaid costs arising from the removal of 1,400 Larchwood saw logs, which were washed away from MV Alfa. Other contentious work concerned ship collision, charter party cancellation and the misdelivery of cargo.

Sechang & Co. is acting for a range of domestic and international creditors in matters pertaining to the insolvencies of Hanjin Shipping and STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, and the team is also assisting various vessel buyers in cross-border manufacturing disputes with Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. Another area of strength is cargo recovery claims, where the team acts for insurers such as AIU Insurance and Hyundai Fire & Marine Insurance. Key figures include senior partner Hyun Kim, foreign attorney Thomas Kim and So-Hyun Yoon, who is recommended for his insolvency work.

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC’s ‘first-class’ team is, according to one client, ‘more than a match for London’s leading maritime law firms’ particularly for arbitrations arising from ship building contracts. Practice co-head Jong Ku Kang, who is ‘an excellent team leader and strategist’ has ‘very sound knowledge of Korean and English law’, is regularly instructed by P&I Clubs and shipping companies; Kang is advising Polaris Shipping on the sinking of very large ore carrier Stellar Daisy and the missing of 22 crew members. Other key lawyers include co-head Jaiyoung Kim, who, together with Tae-Jeong Kim, is defending Korea Western Power against a multimillion-dollar claim brought by an Indonesian company involving misdelivery of cargo; and junior foreign attorney Yoon Jeong Park, who has ‘an excellent legal mind and is at ease dealing with complex technical issues concerning ships’. The practice also handles non-contentious mandates including sale-and-leaseback of bulk carriers and ship financing.

Cho & Lee is best known for handling cargo recovery claims for foreign and domestic underwriters, although it also advises on disputes arising from bills of lading and charter parties. Managing partner Sung Keuk Cho, foreign attorney Hee-Joo Lee and Dong-Hyun Kim are the names to note.

Kwon & Co enters the rankings following the recent dissolution of Kwon & Moon. Name partner Taeil Kwon is noted for his ‘quick and commercial service’ and also for his ‘expertise in both English and Korean law and good relationship with many P&I Clubs’. Kwon handles the full spectrum of maritime matters and is particularly recommended for rehabilitation and bankruptcy proceedings; he is currently acting for more than 70 creditors of Hanjin Shipping. Another name to note is associate Justin Kim, who assisted Kwon with the defence of a casualty claim following an accident during a ship maintenance operation.

Suh & co handled a number of contentious matters for key client Britannia P&I Club, including defending Maersk AP Moller in a $150,000 cargo damage claim, and advising on criminal and civil cases arising from a collision between MV Panamax Blessing and MV Harmony Rise. The team is also assisting over 20 clients with rehabilitation and bankruptcy claims against Hanjin Shipping. Key lawyers include practice head Dong-Hee Suh, Jong-Hwa Choi and foreign legal consultant Deke Wilkins.

Yoon & Yang LLC is regularly instructed by domestic insurers and shipping companies such as Heungkuk Fire & Marine Insurance, Pan Ocean and Korea P&I on a range of contentious mandates. The experienced team includes practice head Hae Duk Jung and Sang-Pil Lee, who are acting for STX Corporation in an arbitration against Korea Southern Power seeking payment for transportation of coal. The duo also successfully represented Korea Marine Environment Management Corporation in a claim for containment costs following an oil spill by Hebei Spirit. Former managing partner Ju-Hung Lee is another key contact.

At Jipyong, practice head Choon-Won Lee frequently handles wet and dry matters, including accidents at sea, ship building disputes, and environmental and pollution issues. Lee’s recent work includes representing Hyundai Merchant Marine as slot charterers in proceedings arising from the sinking of Mol Comfort, and acting for 21st Century Shipbuilding in a shipbuilding dispute relating to the construction of five new-builds.

Yulchon advises a range of lenders, including Kookmin Bank and Korea Development Bank on shipping finance transactions. In 2016 senior foreign counsel Christopher Joon Tae Cho was particularly active; as well as assisting Sinokor Petrochemical with its financing of two motor tankers to be bareboat chartered to Sinokor Tanker, Cho also acted for K-Sure on the ECA covered financing of two product/crude oil tankers. Hee Woong Yoon heads the department.

Foreign firms

Who Represents Who

Find out which law firms are representing which Foreign firms clients in South Korea using The Legal 500's new comprehensive database of law firm/client relationships. Instantly search over 925,000 relationships, including over 83,000 Fortune 500, 46,000 FTSE350 and 13,000 DAX 30 relationships globally. Access is free for in-house lawyers, and by subscription for law firms. For more information, contact


At Stephenson Harwood, ‘client-oriented and results-driven’ office managing partner Michael Kim focuses on dry shipping and handles a mix of contentious and transactional matters. As well as advising key client Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering on issues arising from the construction and delivery of two drill ships to Angolese buyers, Kim is also acting for Eukor Car Carriers in relation to a number of disputes with bunker suppliers arising from the collapse of OW Bunkers. Below partner level Stuart Burrell impresses with his ‘in-depth knowledge and analytical skill’, and arbitration specialist Daehee Lee provides ‘prompt and appropriate advice’.

Clyde & Co LLP is ‘strongly recommended for maritime disputes’, with Singapore-based June Yeum providing ‘efficient and timely advice’ on arbitrations in the sector. Also in Singapore is Chris Metcalf, who regularly acts for Korean ship owners and charterers on both contentious and non-contentious issues. In London legal director Bethan Bradley was active in a number of high-value shipbuilding disputes including defending Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction in a claim by owners of a vessel arising from catastrophic damage to the main engine. Other names to note are London-based Robert Wilson and Shanghai-based Ik Wei Chong, who spearheads the development of the business across Asia.

Reed Smith LLP’s disputes-oriented practice acts for a range of major Korean clients, including Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, Pan Ocean and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. The team is regularly engaged on arbitrations arising from ship building disputes, and in 2016 was also busy in areas such as insolvency and bareboat chartering.

London-based Alex Andrews is the main contact.

At Watson Farley & Williams, Hong Kong-based Madeline Leong and Singapore-based Mei Lin Goh focus on lender-side ship finance mandates and regularly act for the likes of Woori Bank. Highlights included Leong acting for ING Bank on the $221m K-Sure-backed secured debt financing to BW LPG, relating to the funding of four VLGC new-build vessels, and Goh advising 12 banks on the restructuring of SK Shipping.

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