Antitrust and competition: local firms in South Korea

Kim & Chang

Over 100 attorneys comprise the antitrust and competition law practice group at Kim & Chang; led by practice head Kyung-Taek Jung, the lawyers are closely supported by the firm's seasoned in-house economists, forensic accountants and ex-Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) officials. Merger clearance work before the KFTC is a key piece of the practice, as is defending clients in investigations by the Commission. Cases handled in the latter space are varied in the allegations involved, covering abuse of superior bargaining position, abuse of market dominance, discriminatory treatment, unfair trade practices and cartels. Youngjin Jung has previous experience as a member of the cartel advisory board of the KFTC while Tae-Kyu Kang is the name to note for contested merger filings. The team welcomed a high number of recent new arrivals, including Min-Ho Lee from Lee & Ko (June 2019) and Hyun Gyu Lee from Bae, Kim & Lee LLC (September 2018).

Practice head(s):

Kyung-Taek Jung

Key clients

Audi Volkswagen Korea Ltd

Hyundai Motors

Walt Disney

Oracle

Samsung Electronics Co.,Ltd

Siemens

BMW

Visa

Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance Co.ltd

Yuhan Kimberley

Work highlights

  • Representation of Siemens and Alstom before the Korea Fair Trade Commission in the KFTC’s review of merger between Alstom and Siemen’s mobility segment.
  • Representation of The Walt Disney Company in the merger filing for its acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.
  • Representation of both parties in the KFTC’s review of the proposed establishment of a 50-50 joint venture between India’s Tata Steel and Germany’s thyssenkrupp AG that would combine the European flat carbon steel operations of the two companies and the steel mill services of thyssenkrupp.
  • Representation of Visa in the KFTC’s investigation into an alleged abuse of market dominance by Visa against local credit card companies triggered by complaints filed by the relevant local credit card companies.
  • Representation of both parties in the merger of BASF’s wet-end paper and water chemicals business with Solenis, a CD&R portfolio company.

Lee & Ko

Lee & Ko's antitrust and competition department comprises former officials of the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) and ex-judges of Korean courts, including the Supreme Court. Matters pertaining to cartels, abuse of dominance, merger control, unfair trade practices and antitrust litigation all fall within the remit of the group. Blue-chip clients from a wide range of industry sectors (including semiconductors, automotive, pharmaceuticals, shipping and financial services) regularly instruct the firm. The practice was marked by a recent uptick in investigation work, especially in cases seeing Korean conglomerate 'chaebol' businesses accused of unfair trade practices. Team head Hwan Jeong has a wide-ranging practice. Also highly recommended are managing partner Yong Seok Ahn and Suruyn Kim. Min-Ho Lee departed for Kim & Chang.

Practice head(s):

Hwan Jeong

Other key lawyers:

Yong Seok Ahn; Suruyn Kim

Key clients

Deutsche Bank

Rubycon Corporation

Federation of Korean Music Performers

21 Century Fox

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited

LG Corp. / LG Electronics

Biogen Therapeutics Inc.

Yang-ho Cho (Chairman, Hanjin Group)

Lotte Asset Development / Lotte Fuji Film / Lotte Global Logis

LG Electronics

Mitsubishi Electric

Korean Association of Paediatricians

Cargill Agri Purina, Inc.

Huawei / MediaTek / Samsung Electronics

Work highlights

  • Represented Deutsche Bank throughout the KFTC’s four year-long investigation of the global FX market manipulations.
  • Represented Japanese capacitor-maker, Rubycon Corporation, a global top 3 capacitor-maker, throughout the KFTC’s 4-year investigation into price-fixing of aluminum and tantalum capacitors
  • Represented the Federation of Korean Music Performers in a unique and precedent-setting cartel investigation considering the interplay of the Copyrights Act and the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act.
  • Represented 21st Century Fox in obtaining Korean merger clearance of Disney’s $71.3 bn acquisition of its media holdings, the world’s premier portfolio of cable, broadcast, film, pay-TV and satellite assets, spanning six continents across the globe.
  • Represented Japanese pharmaceuticals giant, Takeda, in obtaining Korean merger clearance of its $62 bn acquisition of UK-listed Shire.

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC

The antitrust and competition bench at Bae, Kim & Lee LLC comprises 40 lawyers solely dedicated to this practice area. Practitioners include Korean attorneys, foreign attorneys, former judges and former KFTC officials across both the junior and senior levels. The firm has a reputation for successfully representing clients in competition investigations and litigation before both the KFTC and the courts; these often involve allegations of domestic and international cartel activities, abuse of market dominance and unfair business practices. Cross-jurisdictional merger filing is another core piece of the practice, which is led by key contact Keumseok Oh. Foreign attorney Sanghoon Shin boasts nine years' prior experience at KFTC. Joon Kyu An and Jong Ha Park were made up to partner in January 2019.

Practice head(s):

Keumseok Oh

Other key lawyers:

Sanghoon Shin; Joon Kyu An; Jong Ha Park

Key clients

Samsung Group (Samsung Electronics, Samsung SDI, etc.)

LG Group (LG Electronics, LG Uplus, LG Chem, etc.)

Lotte Group (Lotte Shopping, Lotte Chemical, Hotel Lotte, etc.)

Shinsegae Group (Shinsegae E&C, Shinsegae Chosun Hotel, Shinsegae Food, Emart, etc.)

SK Group (SK Hynix, SK Gas, SK Energy, SK Telecom, etc.)

Hyosung Corp.

Hankook Tire

Yamaha Music Korea

GS Group (GS E&C, GS Retail, GS Home Shopping, etc.)

CJ Group (CJ Logistics, CJ O Shopping, etc.)

Work highlights

  • Represented three non-life insurers alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy involving colluding to, among other things, restrict entry of potential competitors, price-fixing, allocation of reinsurance.
  • Represented Nichicon from the beginning stages of KFTC’s investigation into alleged information exchange and price-fixing and prepared the response and briefs in response to the examiner’s report and also represented Nichicon at the KFTC’s plenary hearing.
  • Succeeded in resolving the KFTC’s concerns and obtained approval for the joint venture between BMW and Daimler AG .
  • Conducted a compliance audit of Robert Bosch Korea, a supplier of power tools, in relation to its transactions with dealers.
  • Acting as counsel for Samsung Electronics, BKL filed an appeal, and at the same time sought conjunctive relief to stay the execution of the a corrective order given by the KFTC including an order for public announcement.

Shin & Kim

Shin & Kim is heavily involved in antitrust investigations in South Korea, including those involving abuses of dominance and collusive practices. It is instructed on an especially high number of cartel investigations. On the non-contentious side, the group handles merger clearance mandates. The firm also works on matters regarding previously unchartered areas of Korean antitrust law such as the Act on Fair Transactions in Large Franchise and Retail Business and the Act on Fair Transactions in Subcontracting. Practice head Young Chul Yim doubles up as managing partner of the firm. Sangdon Lee is the name to note for merger control and cartel-related work. Hyuna Kim departed for Bae, Kim & Lee LLC in May 2019.

Practice head(s):

Young Chul Yim

Other key lawyers:

Sangdon Lee

Key clients

Qualcomm Inc.

Mercedes-Benz Korea Ltd.

HoeghAutoliners AS

Linde AG

KCC Corporation, WonikQnC Corporation and SJL Partners

Genie Music Corporation

SAMBO A&T Co., Ltd.

Meritz Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Ltd.

Heungkuk Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Ltd.

The-K Non-Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

Blackstone Group L.P.

SK Telecom Co., Ltd. (“SKT”) and SK Broadband Co., Ltd. (“SKB”)

Merck KGaA (“Merck”)

Work highlights

  • Representing Qualcomm in an appeal to the Korean Supreme Court regarding the KFTC’s 2009 decision against Qualcomm for certain of Qualcomm’s business practices.
  • Represents a global automaker in an alleged vertical collusion on labor costs for repair and maintenance throughout the litigation stage arguing a prior decision by the KFTC.
  • Represented HoeghAutoliners AS in an appeal at the Seoul High Court against the KFTC’s decision regarding the finding of collusion in three individual tenders.
  • Provided legal advice to Linde AG regarding its contemplated merger with Praxair.
  • Represented Genie Music Corporation in Genie’s merger with CJ Digital Music Corporation.

Yoon & Yang LLC

Yoon & Yang LLC's competition team is jointly led by Hoil Yoon and Seong-Sig Kim. The group frequently acts for businesses in merger clearance matters on both domestic and cross-border M&A transactions. On the contentious side, the firm defends clients against KFTC allegations relating to abuse of market dominance, cartels, resale price maintenance and unfair business practices. Recent work highlights span the industry sectors of technology, aerospace and healthcare. The firm's ongoing involvement in Qualcomm's administrative lawsuit against the KFTC’s abuse of dominance decision is emblematic of its high-quality expertise. Sangoh (Jason) Jeon focuses on fair trade laws.

Practice head(s):

Hoil Yoon; Seong-Sig Kim

Other key lawyers:

Sang Oh Jeon

Key clients

Microsoft Corporation

Intel Corporation

Cathay Pacific Airways

Oriental Brewery Company

Merck & Co

United Technologies Corporation

British America Tobacco

Qualcomm Corporation

LG Electronics

MAN Bus & Truck

Work highlights

  • Successfully defended (with US counsel) a class action brought to the US District Court in the Northern District of California by consumers in the United States against Korean ramen manufacturer Ottogi Company for its alleged involvement in a ramen price-fixing cartel.
  • Obtained successful merger clearance of United Technologies Corporation’s acquisition of Rockwell Collins.
  • Obtained successful Merger Clearance of Tyson Foods’ acquisition of Keystone Foods.
  • Successful representation in litigation for alleged unreasonable support of LS Corp. and LS Cable & System Ltd.
  • Represented two companies in an alleged cartel conduct claim brought by the KFTC against six aluminum capacitor manufacturers/sellers and seven tantalum capacitor manufacturers/sellers.

Yulchon

Hee Woong Yoon and Sung Bom Park together head up the antitrust and competition department at Yulchon, which regularly assists clients with cartel and Abuse of Dominance investigations, and issues related to unfair trade practices and deceptive advertising. In addition to high-profile behavioral cases of this kind, the practice group also handles high-value merger clearance mandates for blue-chip corporations operating in a wide range of sectors including aviation, industrial, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and electronics. Chevron Corporation and Abbott Laboratories are two impressive new additions to the team's enviable client roster. Cecil Chung is the name to note for international antitrust work. In Seon Choi departed for Kim & Chang in August 2018.

Practice head(s):

Hee Woong Yoon; Sung Bom Park

Other key lawyers:

Cecil Saehoon Chung

Key clients

Qualcomm

Schaeffler AG

Spectris plc

Delta Air Lines

Audi Volkswagen Korea

GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)

BI (Boehringer Ingelheim)

Glencore

Agoda

L’Oreal

KT

BASF

ELNA

Praxair

Boeing

Corning Precision Materials Korea(CPM Korea)

Ingersoll-Rand

Chevron Corporation

Abbott Laboratories

CSAV

Continental AG

Work highlights

  • Defense of Qualcomm in KFTC’s Abuse of Dominance Matter.
  • Successfully represented Delta Air Lines in its ‘metal-neutral’ joint venture with Korean Air, the first of its kind in Korea.
  • Successfully represented Praxair in its $90bn merger of equals with Linde and secured conditional clearance from the Korea Fair Trade Commission.
  • Successful Representation of Schaeffler Korea Before Korean Supreme Court in cartel matter.
  • Representation of Continental in administrative fine recalculation matter.

Jipyong

Gee-Hong Kim heads up the antitrust and competition practice group at Jipyong. The team undertakes numerous contentious matters, including representing clients in both KFTC investigations and before the administrative courts. With a bench comprising former judges, prosecutors and KFTC officers, the firm is particularly well-placed to handle such instructions. Byung Joo Lee is noted for strong capabilities in KFTC investigation defence work, especially for matters involving allegations of cartels, abuse of market-dominant position and unfair trade practices. Also recommended is Poom Jang.

Practice head(s):

Gee Hong Kim

Other key lawyers:

Byung Joo Lee; Poom Jang

Key clients

Active key clients (over the last 12 months)

SeAH Steel Corp.

Genesis BBQ Co., Ltd.

KCC Corp.

SK Holdings

NH

Naver Corp.

Kakao Corp.

Hyundai E&C Co., Ltd.

Samkwang Glass Ind. Co., Ltd.

Intel Corp.

AU Optronics

Work highlights

  • Represented the KFTC in a lawsuit initiated by Qualcomm, defeating Qualcomm’s request for revocation of the penalties of about KRW 273.1bn, the KFTC imposed for Qualcomm’s abuse of market dominance.
  • Represented Coway Co in KFTC proceedings where Coway was alleged to have violated the labelling and advertising law.
  • Successfully represented Samkwang Glass in initiating a lawsuit seeking revocation of the KFTC’s imposition of the penalties and prevailed on all relief requested.
  • In a case where a finance company was investigated by the prosecution for violation of the obligation to report and submit materials on affiliates under the antitrust law, Jipyong successfully obtained the prosecution’s decision not to indict the company by submitting a detailed legal opinion to the prosecutors’ office providing a detailed account of the facts and applicable antitrust laws.