Next Generation Partners

Corporate and M&A: foreign firms in South Korea

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton have a strong track record in advising Korean clients on the disposal of businesses and overseas investments as well as advising foreign clients on direct investments and other corporate transactions in Korea. The practice is known for its expertise in high-end cross-border matters and is led by Sang Jin Han, who handles M&A and private equity transactions.

Practice head(s):

Sang Jin Han

Other key lawyers:

Jiun Kim

Testimonials

‘It is foremost Sang Jin Han who leads the team on the ground in Korea. He is a very experienced, diligent and reliable lawyer. He himself attends all the major discussions with clients and the counterparty, often times very late in the evening (or until very early in the next morning).’

‘The M&A team in Korea stands out for its solid and extensive experience in high profile cross-border M&A transactions. The quality of lawyers is also unmatched by other firms in the market.’

‘SJ Han is a seasoned M&A lawyer who has been involved in most high profile M&A transactions in Korea, other than purely domestic transactions. His experience really stands out in the market and clients can rely on him to be providing most up-to-date and in-depth advice.’

Key clients

Blackstone Group

CJ Group companies

GIC Private Equity

Hahn & Company and its portfolio companies

Hanwha Group companies

Korea Investment Corporation

MBK Partners and its portfolio companies

Naver Corporation

Samsung Group companies

SK Group companies

Work highlights

  • Advising NAVER Corporation, the former parent company of LINE Corporation, in a series of transactions to combine the businesses of LINE and Z Holdings Corporation, a subsidiary of SoftBank Corp.
  • Advised SK Global Chemical, and its newly created French subsidiary, SK Functional Polymer, in its acquisition of Arkema’s functional polyolefin business.
  • Advising GIC Private Equity in the restructuring of its $130m investment in Yanolja.

Ashurst

The team at Ashurst handles a diverse range of M&A transactions, with particular strengths in out-bound acquisitions and investments for large Korean conglomerates. John Kim leads the group, and his expertise is reflected in the firm’s work on multibillion-dollar mandates that involve issues across multiple industries, including automobile, real estate, infrastructure and private equity, with recent growth in high-tech industries such as solar energy and carbon black. Huiyeon Kim and senior associate Woo Kim are also recommended, working closely on the firm’s major transactions.

Practice head(s):

John Kim

Other key lawyers:

Huiyeon Kim; Woo Kim

Testimonials

‘Ashurst are clearly the most knowledgeable in their field and especially in the mobility industry.’

‘Another one of Ashurst’s strengths is that they provide top quality service and a very quick turnaround.’

‘John Kim: John is one of the most highly regarded advisors in the Korean legal realm. If any company has been involved in a significant or complex cross border, M&A/investment transaction, John’s name would have come up for recommendation. He is known to provide creative and effective solutions for his clients as well as provide exceptional client care.’

‘Huiyeon Kim: Huiyeon is another partner that I worked with closely during the project. She is a rock star. Huiyeon is amazing at explaining complex issues and handled all the execution of this project alongside her associates.’

‘Woo Kim was the main point of contact during the whole deal. Woo Kim is a senior associate with the team and is a great, energetic person who understands how to handle complex matters. He has excellent drafting skills and has also made great consulting firm/PE firm grade presentations to keep us updated of the project in both English and in Korean.’

‘This is the first year that I have worked with John Kim and his team. Our company chose to work with Ashurst due to their sheer amount of experience in international transactions and their longstanding reputation in the international legal market in Korea.’

 ‘Ashurst really understood our commercial needs and the time crunch we were in and made it work in a very efficient way. We were overall very happy with the execution of the deal that Ashurst provided and the feedback from our team was also very positive.’

‘Ashurst has a very successful record when it comes to cross border M&A/investment advisory deals. The Automotive industry is one of many that Ashurst has expertise in but they are excellent in general M&A advisory with multi-jurisdictional aspects.’

Key clients

Hyundai Motor Group

Hyundai Motor Company

Hanwha Solutions

Hanwha Q Cells

Hyundai Glovis

KTB Asset Management

Samsung Bioepis

Work highlights

  • Advised Hyundai Motor Group on the establishment of a $4bn joint venture with Aptiv PLC for the design, development and commercialisation of software technologies, services, systems, vehicle architecture and other related enabling offerings with respect to Level 4 and 5 autonomous driving.
  • Advised Hyundai Motor Company on its investment in a vehicle manufacturing plant in Indonesia with a potential annual capacity of 250,000.
  • Advised Hanwha Solutions in their acquisition of a U.S.-based hydrogen tank maker Cimarron, armed with patented technology to store hydrogen fuel for spaceship.

O’Melveny & Myers

The arrival of Daniel Sae-Chin Kim in February 2021 has augmented O’Melveny & Myers’ M&A offering, with expertise in joint ventures, growth investments, leveraged acquisitions, carve-outs and spin-offs. Kim, who was previously at Paul Hastings LLP, is a preeminent practitioner and the go-to for multinational clients, having led on some of Korea’s most important cross-border M&A transactions in the past decade. He is supported by a deep bench that includes Joseph Kim, who has built strong client relationships with a range of financial institutions; Jae Wan Chi, former Head of the Global Legal Affairs team at Samsung, and Youngwook Shin. Jinkang Albert Nah left the firm in July 2021 to join Lee & Ko.

Practice head(s):

Daniel Sae-Chin Kim

Key clients

DI Chemicals

DL Group

Dongwon Industries

GS Energy

Hanwha Group

Samsung Display

Samsung Electronics

Samsung SDI

SeAH Group

SEEK Limited

SK Group

Work highlights

  • Advised Samsung Display in its $6.5bn deal with Corning, including $5bn conversion of preferred shares of Corning Inc., and the subsequent $1.5bn sale of Corning common shares back to Corning.
  • Advised Dongwon Industries in its industry-first land-based salmon farming business joint venture with Salmon Evolution.
  • Advised Kineta Inc. in its proposed share exchange and strategic transaction with Cheongbo Industrial.

Paul Hastings LLP

Paul Hastings LLP’ Seoul office leverages specialist expertise from across the firm’s global network of offices, co-ordinating with Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo as well as the US and Europe to handle major global M&A transactions. The corporate team is able to draw on its knowledge in complementary practice areas, such as tax, IP and employment to best serve the needs of clients through its multidisciplinary approach. It is particularly strong in the TMT sector, attracting major players such as HYBE, whilst also advising those in the retail, leisure, manufacturing and finance space. Practice head Dong Chul Kim has extensive expertise in handling high-risk M&A transactions on behalf of global household name corporations. Daniel Sae-Chin Kim left the firm in February 2021 to join O’Melveny & Myers and was replaced by Iksoo Kim, who joined the firm from Greenberg Traurig LLP. Kim has a strong track record representing strategic and private equity clients in domestic and cross-border transactions.

Practice head(s):

Dong Chul Kim

Other key lawyers:

Iksoo Kim

Testimonials

‘Paul Hastings has exceptionally strong partners and associates that know their material in and out. Excellent connectivity and collaboration between their offices in Seoul and the US. In a recent cross-border M&A transaction, their team was comprised of a diverse group of highly skilled partners and associates both in terms of gender and ethnicity.’

Key clients

HYBE (formerly Big Hit Entertainment)

Samsung Group

Hotel Shilla

SeAH Group companies

Hanwha Group companies

Dong-A Pharmaceuticals

Temasek Holdings

SoftBank

Hansol Paper

Korea East-West Power

Korea Investment Corporation

CJ Group companies

LG Group companies

Golfzon Group companies

Lotte Group

Seoul Semiconductor

SK hynix

Dongwon Group

AmorePacific

Daelim Industrial

IYUNO Media Group

CJ ENM

Work highlights

  • Advised IYUNO Media Group on its agreement with Imagica Group Inc. to acquire 100% of SDI Media.
  • Advised Dongwon Industries, one of the world’s leading seafood enterprises based in South Korea, on its strategic investment to acquire a minority stake in Salmon Evolution.
  • Advised HYBE (formerly Big Hit Entertainment Co.), Ltd., a leading entertainment and media company, in the $1bn acquisition of Ithaca Holdings.

Ropes & Gray LLP

Loyal clients are the backbone of Ropes & Gray LLP’s corporate and M&A practice, retained as trusted counsel for leading global private equity firms and institutional investors. It has also seen continued growth of its Korean corporate client base and advises on overseas investments. Jaewoo Lee’s practice focuses on private equity transactions and is ‘one of the best M&A lawyers in the Korean market’ according to clients. Lee co-heads the department with William Kim, who advises Korean multinational companies and their US subsidiaries in a broad range of corporate matters, including strategic alliances, joint ventures and project finance. Kelly Hyunsoo Jin is also recommended whilst senior associates Keun Shin and Ethan Kim provide strong support to the team.

Practice head(s):

Jaewoo Lee; William Kim

Testimonials

‘Jaewoo Lee and his R&G team are great practitioners in the corporate and M&A areas. They have near-perfect kwowledge, sophistication and experience in advising key corporate clients and PE houses. They try to suggest creative solutions to overcome legal and practical hurdels that are always impressive. ’

‘Jaewoo Lee, a partner of R&G, is one of the best M&A lawyers in the Korean market. He continuously makes efforts to structure a deal while referencing to prior cases, rules, court cases and practical needs of clients. He is also very diligent to learn Korean laws and practices and apply them to solve real-world problems. Also he has lots of expertise expriences to provide a workable and seasoned advice to clients.’

Key clients

Bain Capital

Bain Capital Credit

Hugel

Korea Investment Corporation

KKR

Korea Resources Corporation

LG International

Mirae Asset Capital

Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Investment Pte. Ltd.

TPG Capital

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP has a strong track record in advising on domestic and international M&A transactions, particularly into the US and Europe. The team represents financial institutions, government entities and sovereign wealth funds in connection with their outbound investments and acquisitions in different sectors. Head of department, H Young Shin has worked on matters in the automotive, energy, TMT, construction and real estate industries. Notably, the team has advised SK hynix on its $9bn acquisition of the NAND memory and storage business of Intel Corporation, the largest ever acquisition by a South Korean company, with associate Hyungsoo Kim as one of the lead associates on this deal.

Practice head(s):

H Young Shin

Other key lawyers:

Hyungsoo Kim

Key clients

SK hynix Inc.

Hanwha Group

White & Case LLP (Foreign Legal Consultant Office)

Handling cross-border mandates, with a particular focus on outbound M&A transactions and investments, the team at White & Case LLP (Foreign Legal Consultant Office) leverages its global network of offices to advise its wide-ranging client base of Korean and international companies. Dongho Lee has extensive experience advising conglomerates and private equity firms on strategic alliances and joint ventures and is head of the Seoul practice. Won Sun Jung is another key practitioner who advises companies on overseas expansion.

Practice head(s):

Dongho Lee

Other key lawyers:

Won Sun Jung; Yoonyoung Choi

Testimonials

‘The team delivered an excellent product, and organic collaboration between their international offices, maximizing synergy with the experts over the global office.’

‘Our major contact in White & Case is partner Dongho Lee. He has worked with our company for long time with consistant professionalism. We worked with him in various topics, in M&A category – IPO, Funding, Mergering and etc. He gave us what we needed in every project within the proper time and with a sincere manner. Also flexible with what client needed.’

Key clients

Carlyle Group

Green Cross Holdings

Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO)

SK Networks

Work highlights

  • Represented the Carlyle Group on its $200m strategic investment and partnership between Carlyle Asia Partners V and KB Financial Group Inc., Korea’s largest bank.
  • Represented Green Cross in relation to Artiva Biotherapeutics’ $78m Series A financing from 5AM Ventures, venBio Partners and RA Capital Management. Green Cross is the founder and controlling shareholder of Artiva.
  • Represented SK Networks Co., Ltd. in connection with its investment in a $60m Series B financing by Chai Pay Holding Company Pte. Ltd., one of the leading payment technology companies in Korea.  

Baker McKenzie LLP, Foreign Legal Consultant Office

Won Lee heads the corporate and M&A department at Baker McKenzie LLP, Foreign Legal Consultant Office, acting for leading domestic and international corporate clients on cross-border transactions in various industries, including energy, ports, mining, steel and automotive. Key members of the team include Jae-Hyon Ahn, who has significant experience in energy and infrastructure projects, and counsel Albert Chung, who focuses on cross-border M&A, with particular emphasis on investments of Korean companies in the energy and social infrastructure sectors.

Practice head(s):

Won Lee

Testimonials

‘Diversity of legal services – appropriate for clients seeking a firm providing “one stop-service” for complex outbound M&A deals.’

‘Very responsive and thoughtful.’

Key clients

SK Telecom Co., Ltd.

SK E&S Co., Ltd.

Work highlights

  • Advising the South Korean ICT company SK Telecom, on all legal aspects of the transaction, in relation to the establishment of a 5G technology joint venture with Deutsche Telekom.
  • Representing SK E&S Co., Ltd. on its contemplated strategic partnership in the Asian markets with Plug Power, a NASDAQ listed hydrogen energy company in relation to the SK Group’s $1.5 billion investment in Plug Power.

DLA Piper

Acting for public and private companies that range from multinational enterprises to emerging companies, DLA Piper has a diverse client list which also includes banks, venture capital and private equity houses, pension funds and other financial institutions. It advises on the full range of corporate matters and has significant cross-border M&A experience, with the ‘superb’ Daniel Lee as the country managing partner in Korea. DK Donghyun Kim handles a wide range of cross-border projects involving corporate, technology, energy and construction sectors. Theresa Huh and Ted Yi are also recommended, with Huh taking on SEC filing compliance and other general corporate matters. Based in Hong Kong, Luke Gannon is the firm’s corporate head in Asia.

Practice head(s):

Daniel Lee; Luke Gannon 

Other key lawyers:

DK Donghyun Kim; Theresa Huh; Ted Yi

Testimonials

‘DLA has put together a team composed of proper number of senior and junior attorneys. Their operation of the team was efficient and cost effective. ’

‘I was impressed by the commitment of managing partner (Daniel Lee) to get the project concluded properly and efficiently. He is always prompt in responding to client’s requests. He is also striving to make sure client’s needs are taken care of. I believe his in-house experience puts him in a unique position to understand the corporate clients’ needs better than anyone.’

‘DK Kim – he is the main contact point between DLA Korea and our firm. He pays keen attention to deals and provides timely advice. Specifically, he works very diligently, in that he works over all time zones required for the client. Our team never had problems with reaching out to him.’

‘Theresa Huh understands our project details and what we are in need of. She is also very easy to communicate as she, like Mr. Kim, is reachable anytime even in the weekends. With her attentiveness, she pays attention to every detail and prevents possible problems in advance.’

‘DLA Piper is one of the best firms I have ever worked with. The lawyers are highly knowledgeable and familiar with international litigation matters in Korea. They fully understand our needs and provide us with the best legal advice, that’s why we keep going back to them.’

‘Ted Yi did an excellent job managing his legal team and advised us on an effective legal strategy. He is a very capable and highly experienced lawyer in his fields of specialization.’

‘Daniel Lee is a superb lawyer with a great deal of experience in every aspect of business.’

‘Attorneys at DLA advised and contributed Private Equity Fund contracts closing. Especially regarding negotiation of LPA terms and conditions, Subscription doc and Side letters. We are able to get prompt answers from DLA. most of cases, We are satisfied with DLA’s legal service. ’

Key clients

Hyundai Engineering Co., Ltd.

Korean Overseas Infrastructure & Urban Development Corporation (KIND)

POSCO

Work highlights

  • Representing Hyundai Engineering Co., Ltd. and Korean Overseas Infrastructure & Urban Development Corporation in connecting with an equity financing of Grupa Azoty’s Polimery Police polypropylene project.
  • Advising POSCO, one of the largest steel maker and mining investor, with the potential acquisition of 30% of the Ravensthorpe Nickel Project (“Project”) in Western Australia for $240m.

Dechert

Dechert represents Korean conglomerate clients on complex cross-border M&A and strategic transactions. Counsel Spencer Park and associate Amos Yoo leverage their real estate investment and financing expertise to help clients in multiple jurisdictions. Susan Yoon is also recommended. Former practice head David Cho departed in January 2022.

Other key lawyers:

Spencer Park; Amos Yoo; Susan Yoon

Testimonials

‘Very dedicated team. Their team members have been very helpful not only for M&A side works but also in other areas too. They have been very straightforward whenever we ask any complicated assignments.’

Key clients

SK holdings Co., Ltd.

SK hynix Inc.

SK Materials Co., Ltd.

SK Global Chemical Co., Ltd.

SK Siltron Co., Ltd.

SK Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd.

SK Telecom Co., Ltd.

SK Inc.

Qoo10 Pte. Ltd.

LINK Asset Management Co., Ltd.

Alpha Asset Management

Hana Alternative Asset Management

KTB Asset Management

Mirae Asset Securities (Hong Kong) Ltd.

Naver Corporation

Hanwha Q CELLS Co., Ltd.

Oaktree Real Estate (Asia)

Work highlights

  • Advised SK holdings Co., Ltd. on its $300m investment in Chindata Group Holdings.
  • Advised SK holdings Co., Ltd. on $200m investment in Pharmavant 5, Inc., a holding company that wholly owns an operating subsidiary in the U.S., Oncopia Therapeutics, Inc., which focused on targeted protein decomposition treatments.
  • Advised SK Inc. on its investment in Monolith Materials, Inc., a U.S.-based leader in green hydrogen technologies.

Latham & Watkins LLP

Latham & Watkins LLP’s global corporate and M&A practice in Korea is part of a network of lawyers spread across Asia, United States, Europe and the Middle East. The Seoul-based team handles both outbound and inbound M&A transactions and acts for leading companies across a range of industries, including banking, life sciences, semiconductor and IT. Based in both Hong Kong and Seoul, Wonsuk Kang has worked on multibillion-dollar acquisitions and joint ventures in the technology and financial services sector.

Practice head(s):

Wonsuk Kang

Key clients

Hyundai Motor Company

Kia Motors Corporation

CJ CheilJedang

LG Display

Samsung Engineering Co., Ltd.

Work highlights

  • Representing Hyundai Motor Group in its $1.1bn acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that specializes in building dynamic robots and software for human simulation, from SoftBank Group Corp.
  • Represented Hyundai Motor Company in the establishment of its $4bn joint venture with Aptiv, an Ireland-based manufacturer and distributor of vehicle components, to form an autonomous driving platform.
  • Represented Hyundai on the acquisition of Sixt SE’s entire shareholding in Sixt Leasing SE as well as on a voluntary public takeover bid for all remaining shares in Sixt Leasing SE through Hyundai Capital Bank Europe (HCBE), a joint venture between Santander Consumer Bank AG and Hyundai Capital Services Inc.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

Based in Hong Kong, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP‘s corporate and M&A practice handles both inbound and outbound transactions as well as private equity investments. Practice head Jin Hyuk Park has extensive M&A and capital markets experience across Asia, with a particular focus on buyouts and minority investments representing both private equity and strategic clients.

Practice head(s):

Jin Hyuk Park

Key clients

Bank of America Merill Lynch

BNP Paribas

Citigroup Global Markets Inc.

Crédit Agricole CIB

Credit Suisse

J.P. Morgan

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P.

Korea Electric Power Corporation

Korea Expressway Corporation

Mizuho

Morgan Stanley

Nomura

Shinhan Financial Group

Shinhan Bank

SK Biopharmaceuticals Co., Ltd.

SK Inc.

Société Générale

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking

Corporation Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised SK Group in its $1.6bn strategic investment in Plug Power Inc.
  • Advised SK Inc. in its acquisition of a controlling stake in Yposkesi.
  • Advised KKR in its ₩440.8bn investment in TSK corp. Co., Ltd.