International arbitration in South Korea

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP's local dispute resolution team comprises three lawyers who are based full time in Seoul, and the overall Korea arbitration group is also able to leverage the expertise of 13 partners and 40 associates across a network of six different offices. Key contacts on the ground are practice head Mike McClure, who has particular experience of resolving issues arising from the construction, infrastructure, energy, financial services and TMT sectors. He is highlighted by a client as someone who 'finds a way to achieve a satisfactory resolution'. 'Smart and fast' of counsel Dana Kim is also recommended, as is senior associate Philip Kim, whose practice is centred on contractual disputes and matters governed by public international law.

Practice head(s):

Mike McClure

Other key lawyers:

Dana Kim; Philip Kim

Testimonials

HSF’s key competence is that they have the winning combination of true expertise and pragmatism.

Mike McClure is a reliable and dedicated advocate, who always finds a way to achieve a satisfactory resolution.

The HSF Seoul office has a deep understanding of the essence of the Korean market.

Dana Kim is smart and fast and, most importantly, has the ability to grasp and meet her client’s complex needs.

Truly bilingual and bicultural, they are able to effectively communicate with their clients and achieve goals in a timely manner.

Key clients

Ministry of Justice of The Republic of Korea

Hyundai Heavy Industries

Samsung C&T Corporation

Work highlights

  • Successfully represented the Republic of Korea in its investor-state dispute, arising from claims of alleged expropriation of real property in Korea by a US citizen.
  • Represented Hyundai Heavy Industries in its successful settlement of an ICC arbitration, arising out of the $10.3bn Barzan gas pipeline project in Qatar.
  • Acting for an Asian consortium of investment funds in an ICC arbitration concerning a post-M&A dispute in the financial services sector.

Kim & Chang

Kim & Chang's 'leading international arbitration practice' has 'numerous excellent attorneys', many of whom hold leadership positions in major arbitration organisations; joint practice heads Byung-Chol Yoon and Eun Young Park serve in key positions in a number of such institutions, including the LCIA and the SIAC. The team is active in an increasing number of high-value shipbuilding arbitrations, as well as energy disputes which concern the construction of complex, specialised offshore structures. Elsewhere, the group demonstrates expertise representing international banking, financial, and insurance companies in various high-profile M&A-related cases. The firm fields a number of foreign-qualified practitioners, including Sungjean Seo, Joel Richardson, Sup Joon Byun, and Una Cho, all of whom bring extensive US trial and advocacy experience to the team. Other names to note are Kay-Jannes WegnerMatthew Christensen and Sae Youn Kim. Key recent hires include Woo-Chul Hwang and Hyungkeun Lee, from Bae, Kim & Lee LLC and Yulchon respectively.

Testimonials

One of the top international arbitration practices in Korea.

This is leading international arbitration practice in Korea and one of the best in the Asia-Pacific region.

There are numerous excellent attorneys on this team.

The team has picked up some heavyweight IA practitioners recently.

Key clients

Schindler Holding AG

Affinity Equity Partners

Baring Private Equity Asia

GIC Special Investments Private Limited

Standard Chartered Private Equity

Lone Star

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems

USG Boral

Hyundai Heavy Industries

Hyundai Motor Company

Hanwha

Samsung Heavy Industries

Hyundai Engineering & Construction

LG Chemical

GS Engineering & Construction

Hyundai Engineering Co., Ltd.

Korean Re

Wemade Co., Ltd.

Work highlights

  • Represented a Korean IT software company in ICC arbitration against several Chinese parties.
  • Acting for a large Korean engineering and construction company relating to claims brought by another Korean party in connection with one of the largest power and water projects in the Middle East.
  • Successfully represented two major Korean construction companies, which are jointly working on the construction of a nuclear power plant in the UAE, in an LCIA arbitration.

Lee & Ko

Lee & Ko's strong capabilities and experience in investor-state disputes were evidenced recently by it representing the Republic of Korea in two important ISDS cases. Other areas of strength include IP and life sciences, M&A disputes, general commercial disputes and sports arbitration. In addition, the firm fields a newly-formed international construction dispute resolution group, which is jointly led by David Kim and Sanghoon HanSunyoung Kim is particularly noted as having 'diverse language capabilities, networking connections and insights'. Senior associate Saemee Kim is also recommended. The team is jointly led by Sean (Sungwoo) Lim and Robert Wachter.

Testimonials

Lee & Ko is well positioned to offer dynamic and strategic scenario planning in a case that involves unpredictable directions.

The team provides a one-to-one customised service which increase the probability of a winning verdict.

Sunyoung Kim possesses the diverse language capabilities, networking connections, and insights required of an international lawyer.

Key clients

Republic of Korea (for three separate ISD cases)

Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation

Dr. Chang Jae Shin (Chairman of Kyobo Life Insurance) (for two separate ICC cases)

Hyundai Rotem Co., Ltd

GS Engineering & Construction Corporation

YG Entertainment Inc.

The Republic of Korea represented by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration

Hyundai Steel Company

Consus Management

KB Kookmin Bank

Work highlights

  • Representing the Korean government of the ROK in the $770m ISDS dispute brought by Elliott Associates.
  • Representing a leading Japanese pharmaceutical company in an ICC arbitration, involving a potential ground-breaking medical treatment, against the Korean affiliate of a large conglomerate.
  • Representing a Korean insurance chaebol in a $2bn dispute with other shareholders.

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC

The majority of Bae, Kim & Lee LLC's arbitration work is centred on international commercial disputes and large multijurisdictional construction cases. The team regularly represents public and private sector clients in arbitration cases involving complex financial issues, defence contracts, global license agreements and distributorships, joint ventures, post-M&A claims and shareholder disputes. The group includes international mediation specialist Hongjoong Kim and David MacArthur, who typically focuses on engineering and IP disputes. Junu Kim is a key contact for investment treaty work. Woojae Kim and Sejin Kim both made partners in January 2020. Tony Dongwook Kang is another key figure. Former practice head John Bang joined Peter & Kim in January 2021.

Practice head(s):

Tony Dongwook Kang

Testimonials

The team understands the legal position very well but really excels at understanding the commercial nuances of their cases and is very strategic in determining litigation strategy.’

Woojae Kim is a gifted advocate who specialises in construction arbitration.’

Every team member is first-rate in their extensive know-how and shows flawless attention to detail.’

Key clients

POSCO Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd.

Republic of Korea

Asiana Airlines, Inc.

Lippo Group Ltd.

Daiso-Asung Corporation Ltd.

Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO)

CVC Asia Pacific Ltd.

Hana Financial Group

Kolon Life Science, Inc.

JW Holdings Corporation

Work highlights

  • Represented POSCO in an ICC arbitration related to the development of the $35bn New Songdo International Business District.
  • Acted for the Republic of Korea in an ad-hoc investment treaty arbitration initiated by Schindler Holdings, under the UNCITRAL Rules.
  • Represented KEPCO in a high-value LCIA dispute against a consortium of two of Korea’s largest construction and engineering companies, over the construction of the first nuclear power station in the UAE.

Shin & Kim

Shin & Kim's 'strong' international dispute resolution group comprises of an 'exceptionally talented group of lawyers' who focus exclusively on arbitration cases across a wide range of industries and geographical regions. It receives instructions from almost all of the public generation companies in Korea, and is also known for its increasing strength in handling ISD work; a team led by practice head Jae Min JeonRockey YooYoungwon Yoon and foreign attorney Arie Eernisse is representing KOWEPO in a significant outbound $400m case against the Government of India. The team was further strengthened by the recent arrival of Jae-Hwan Kim and Chongsu Seo from Lee & Ko.

Practice head(s):

Jae Min Jeon

Testimonials

An exceptionally talented group of lawyers providing legal services from a comprehensive and strategic perspective.

An excellent firm with a strong international arbitration offering.

Jae Min Jeon is undoubtedly one of the best lawyers in Korea, not only within the boundary of international dispute, but also in general.

Arie Eernisse is developing as a very good advocate: calm, measured and precise, with a thorough knowledge of his case.

Key clients

Baring Private Equity Asia

Lone Star Funds

LSF-KEB Holdings SCA

International Petroleum Investment Company

AIG

Lotte Group

SK Group

KCC Group

Korea Marine Transport Co., Ltd.

KOWEPO

SL Corporation

K-Water

Dongwon Group

Work highlights

  • Representing the Korea Western Power in an ISD arbitration filed against the Government of India.
  • Represented K-Water and JSC Nenskra Hydro in ICC arbitration, arising as a result of the construction project of one of the largest hydropower plants in Georgia.
  • Representing Lone Star Funds in a $4.4bn ICSID arbitration.

White & Case LLP (Foreign Legal Consultant Office)

Construction-related arbitration is a mainstay of the work at White & Case LLP (Foreign Legal Consultant Office). The team has an enviable track record, which includes having successfully resolved construction disputes arising from energy and infrastructure projects around the world, including in the areas of downstream oil & gas, LNG and power. 'Outstanding' London-based practitioner David Robertson, who is recommended by a client as having 'incredibly deep knowledge', advises South Korean clients on disputes both within and outside of the region. Mark Goodrich, who is also based in London, is another key name to note for high-end construction sector disputes. Matthew Secomb heads up the Asia-Pacific team from the Singapore office.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Secomb

Other key lawyers:

David Robertson; Mark Goodrich;

Testimonials

White and Case has the right expertise where it matters.

David Robertson is an outstanding partner with an incredibly deep knowledge and experience in the construction industry.

White & Case has highly available partners with wide-ranging expertise who are truly dedicated to the cases.’

Key clients

Ministry of Justice, Republic of Korea.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Work highlights

  • Representing an Asian energy company in a major LNG pricing dispute.
  • Representing a consortium of EPC contractors in a $2bn SIAC arbitration seated in Singapore, which relates to a contract to design, procure and construct a refinery and petrochemical plant in a Southeast Asian country.
  • Representing the Government of Korea in two major investment treaty arbitrations.

Yulchon

Yulchon's international dispute resolution team handles complex cross-border litigation, arbitration proceedings and mediations for notable commercial clients. It has expertise in a wide range of areas, including construction, finance, joint ventures, distribution agreements and global trade deals. Yun Jae Baek is an active arbitrator for various institutions, including the KCAB, the ICC and the SIAC. Baek co-heads the practice with YongSang Kim, who joined the firm in May 2020 from O'Melveny. Kim's arrival further enhances the group's capabilities in matters involving US litigation. Other key practitioners include Jeonghye Sophie AhnHyun Ah Park and Jae Hyong Woo.

Other key lawyers:

Hyun Ah Park; Jae Hyong Woo

Key clients

KT

Hyundai Engineering & Construction

Daelim Industrial

Knorr-Bremse

Siemens AG

POSCO Daewoo

Republic of Korea

Hanwha Corp.

GS Engineering & Construction

POSCO

Work highlights

  • Representing the Republic of Korea in an ICSID claim, brought under the 1988 Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Government of Malaysia for the Promotion and Protection of Investments, by a Malaysian corporation.
  • Representing a Korean state-run energy company in a KCAB arbitration involving a purchase contract with a French nuclear reactor company.
  • Representing a wholly owned subsidiary of the largest electricity utility in Korea in an ICC arbitration involving a license agreement with a Korean subsidiary of a German multinational software corporation.

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance's global litigation and dispute resolution practice is highly active in matters with a nexus to Korea. According to a client, Hong Kong-based practitioner Thomas Walsh 'knows Korea very well and has earned the trust of his clients there'. Also based in Hong Kong is Ling Ho , who heads up the Asia Pacific intellectual property group and is highly active in a number of complex IP and technology-related disputes. Elsewhere, Paul Sandosham in Singapore is the key name to note for oil and gas disputes, as is London-based partner Alex Panayides. Construction disputes in the Middle East are the focus of James Abbott. Paris-based practitioner Jason Fry QC is the global co-head of the firm's international arbitration group.

Practice head(s):

Thomas Walsh

Testimonials

Simply one of the best all-around arbitration practices out there.

Thomas Walsh is very thorough and leaves no stone unturned – he knows Korea very well and has earned the trust of his clients there.

Work highlights

  • Represented a prime contractor in $600m LCIA arbitration proceedings relating to a dispute arising out of the construction of a nuclear power plant project.
  • Represented a Korean construction company in a $2bn ICC arbitration proceeding following a dispute which arose out of the construction of a new urban district within the Free Economic Zone in Korea.
  • Represented the main contractor as a respondent in two SIAC arbitration proceedings which related to the construction of the largest observation wheel in the world.

KL Partners

KL Partners has a stellar reputation in investor-state arbitration cases, as was demonstrated by it acting as lead counsel in the first-ever ISD proceedings brought against the Republic of Korea. It has since been retained by two additional investor claimants. In addition, the prior experience of its founding partners, including current managing partner Beomsu Kim, as corporate attorneys ensures that the practice remains a popular choice for complex post-M&A arbitration cases. Dispute resolution head Dong-Seok (Johan) Oh has particular expertise in the construction, engineering and project finance sectors. Eun Nyung (Ian) Lee acts as lead counsel on all arbitration cases which are governed by Korean law. Young Suk Park, who has been involved in investment treaty disputes under the ICSID Convention and NAFTA, is the current chair of the international arbitration group.

Key clients

Elliot Funds

Mason Capital Management LLC

Vogo Funds (VIG Partners)

Lone Star Funds

ChuanQi IP Co., Ltd.

Posco Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd.

Korea Resources Corporation

Work highlights

  • Representing a leading Korean construction company in ICC dispute board proceedings relating to a state construction project in Vietnam.
  • Representing a leading Korean construction company in ICC arbitration relating to the New Songdo International City Development in Incheon, Korea.
  • Representing a state-owned company in KCAB arbitration relating to a $8.7bn international mining project in Madagascar.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP

The international arbitration team at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP is highly regarded by notable Korean companies and foreign corporates with a presence in Korea, for whom it handles complex and high-value disputes from its Hong Kong office. Team members have decades of experience acting both as counsel and arbitrators under all major international arbitration rules, including ICC, ICDR, SIAC, CIETAC, VIAC, SCC, ICSID and UNCITRAL. John Rhie, who has an extensive track record representing clients in both commercial and investment treaty arbitrations, leads the group. Another key member of the firm is Duncan Watson, who splits his time between the Sydney and Hong Kong offices, and is instructed by Korean clients from a broad array of industries, including private equity and financial services, energy and resources, manufacturing, infrastructure and intellectual property. Senior associates Tom Brebner and James Chun are also recommended.

Practice head(s):

John Rhie

Other key lawyers:

Duncan Watson; Tom Brebner; James Chun

Key clients

Schindler Group, Schindler Management AG

MBK Partners

Work highlights

  • Representing Schindler Group, one of the world’s leading providers of elevators, escalators and moving walks, in an investment treaty arbitration against the Republic of Korea.

Yoon & Yang LLC

Yoon & Yang LLC's team is praised by a client as a 'serious player in the international arbitration sector', which has been 'notching up some significant victories'. Representing both domestic and global clients in complex commercial disputes has traditionally been the cornerstone of the practice, but the group is increasingly also focusing on arbitrations in other sectors, including construction, intellectual property, infrastructure, commodities, trading, aviation and insurance. In January 2020, the team was further strengthened by the arrival of Seung-Kook Synn, formerly a general counsel at GE Korea. As a former presiding judge at the Suwon District Court, practice head Junsang Lee is well placed to act in cases governed by civil law. Myung-Ahn Kim and Sam Kim are also recommended; the latter is singled out as an 'exceptional advocate for the client'.

Practice head(s):

Junsang Lee

Testimonials

A serious player in the international arbitration sector.

They are very good lawyers and have been notching up some significant victories.

Junsang Lee and Myung-Ahn Kim are both are exceptional lawyers.

Sam Kim is both an effective manager of a case and exceptional advocate for the client.

Key clients

General Electric Company (GE)

Hyundai Autoever

STX Corporation

POSCO ICT Company

GM Trading

The Engineering Pte. Ltd.

Seoul Broadcasting System

Korea Water Resources Corporation

Otis Elevator Korea

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power

YD Online

Work highlights

  • Successfully represented the Republic of Korea in the very first ISDS arbitration brought by a US investor against the Korean government, which sought monetary damages under the Korea-US FTA.
  • Successfully defended STX Corporation in a KCAB arbitration brought by KSP, seeking recovery of unjust enrichment or payment of damages based on an investment agreement made between the two parties.

Clyde & Co Clasis Singapore

Clyde & Co Clasis Singapore's dispute resolution team fields specialist practitioners in each of three core sectors; Ik Wei Chong focuses on shipping-related matters, while Jon Howes (who recently joined the firm from Pinsent Masons MPillay) jointly heads up the Asia Pacific projects and construction group and counts notable Korean corporations among his regular clients. Nicholas Sykes' practice is centred on non-marine insurance and he specialises in large-scale engineering, construction, property and energy insurance losses. Senior associate and shipping specialist Paul Collier relocated to the Singapore office in October 2019.

Other key lawyers:

Paul Collier

Mayer Brown

Mayer Brown's Korea-facing international arbitration offering utilises its local knowledge and expertise to assist clients with disputes in every major emerging market in the world, including South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The firm is particularly valued by Korean international contractors, due to its highly specialised global construction practice, which handles all manner of English law disputes. Practice head Yu-Jin Tay leads the Asia arbitration team from Singapore, where he holds a number of leadership positions, including Vice President of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators. Also notable are Hong-Kong based practitioners Menachem Hasofer and John Hickin; the latter is a key name for banking and commercial disputes.

Testimonials

Strong team with a focus on the problem and willingness to overcome difficulties in any case.

The Mayer Brown international arbitration team excels in advising clients with diverse backgrounds and business approaches.

Yu-Jin Tay stands out in his performance for his pin-pointed advice for very challenging and complex disputes.

Reed Smith LLP

Reed Smith LLP's Korea business team includes London-based commercial litigator Alex Andrews, who works primarily in the maritime field. Shareena Edmonds, who is also in London, specialises in the management and resolution of disputes arising from major international energy and infrastructure projects, and has represented owners and contractors in a number of complex, high-value disputes around the world. Another key member of the London team is Vincent Rowan, who is an expert in the field of construction and engineering law.

Testimonials

Very good understanding of the technical aspects of construction, ability to communicate difficult news to clients, ability to manage expert teams, and a strong work ethic.

Shareena Edmonds is the most impressive lawyer. She is brilliant at developing case strategy and seeing the big picture from day one.