Labour and employment: local firms in South Korea

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC

Leveraging full service labour advisory and contentious capabilities, Bae, Kim & Lee LLC is known for its longstanding relationship with the Ministry of Employment and Labour and National Labour Relations Commission, which often instruct Wook Rae Lee and Jeong Han Lee on issues ranging from minimum wage to collective bargaining. Comprised of criminal and labour law experts, it also offers a specialist industrial accident task force for health and safety work. US. licensed attorney Hye Chong Elizabeth Yu and Sang Min Kim advise some of Korea’s largest employers on dismissals, worker dispatch issues and wage disputes.

Practice head(s):

Wook Rae Lee

Other key lawyers:

Jeong Han Lee; Sang Min Kim; Hye Chong Elizabeth Yu

Testimonials

‘The team is able to help clients and in-house counsels in all areas of Korean labour law. They are also able to communicate and clarify unfamiliar legal issues and identify the crux of the matter swiftly and offer practical solutions.’

‘Elizabeth Yu is a reliable and trustworthy advisor who is able to help me to better understand the local legal requirement in plain languages and direct me to the right route of solution.’

‘The teamwork is good. It seems that the team talks a lot and exchanges opinions, which means a lot to clients.’

‘Sangmin Kim is a good listener and spent quickly understood the issues at hand. We are very impressed with the results.’

Key clients

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. (DSME)

HYUNDAI KEFICO Corporation

Kumho Tire Co., Ltd.

LG Electronics

Orange Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

Owens Corning

POSCO

Samsung Electronics

Samsung SDI Co., Ltd.

Seoul National University

Work highlights

  • Represented LG Electronics against its white-collar labor union which filed an application for division of bargaining unit from the existing union.
  • Represented Seoul National University in the lawsuit for confirmation of invalidity of dismissal.
  • Advised Owens Corning in dealing with risks in a rigid labor union.

Kim & Chang

Handling the full range of labour law issues, Kim & Chang‘s advisory practice is particularly sought after for its expertise in post-merger integration and compensation and benefits design. Weon Jung Kim  and Chun Wook Hyun co-head the practice, advising on employment implications of cross-border transactions, restructuring, collective bargaining and discrimination disputes. Wan Joo , Ki Young Kim and Hyun Jae Park are the other key partners. Senior associate Do-Yoon Kim focuses on contentious issues, assisting in wage cases, compliance audits and industrial actions.

Practice head(s):

Chun Wook Hyun; Weon Jung Kim

Other key lawyers:

Wan Joo; Ki Young Kim; Hyun Jae Park; Do-Yoon Kim

Testimonials

‘K&C’s employment law team is very knowledgeable and practical in their advice and guidance to my company’s team. They are responsive and willing to work with me to come up with a solution that works for my business and constraints on legal budgets.’

‘Comprehensive advice, not just subject matter expertise but practical advice with understanding of the client’s business and circumstances’

‘Hyunjae Park – ability to break down difficult issues and thinks from the perspective of the client’

‘K&C has a strong presence in various areas which makes them a perfect firm to provide comprehensive advice on complex cases that need collaboration among different teams such as employment, compliance, corporate etc.’

‘Kim & Chang, the biggest law firm in Korea. The way of they work is effective and efficient, with good communication throughout and always produce a high quality result.’

‘In my opinion, K&C is the No 1 law firm in Korea in the HR field. Their strength is in consulting field as well as litigation.’

‘Kim Weonjung offers very precise and comprehensive consulting service,  providing possible alternatives with pros. & cons analysis, and gives honest feedback. Whenever I ask for his legal opinion, I can see his full engagement, so I’m very comfortable to work with him.’

‘The team has profound knowledge and experience both in regulations and practices. In particular, they have lots of experience of dealing with  industrial unions and recruitment of management level people. No other legal team in Korea can compete.’

Key clients

Hyundai Motor Company

POSCO

Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd.

Citibank

Hana Bank

Oracle Corporation

Pfizer Inc.

SK Hynix

Asiana Airlines

eBay Inc.

Work highlights

  • Successfully represented an American car manufacturer in a case where the contractual clauses in the existing collective bargaining agreement executed by the former entity is still applicable to the new company after a spin-off was at issue.
  • Advised regarding issues related to Citibank Korea’s Consumer Finance business wind-down and voluntary resignation programme implementation.
  • Assisted eBay in successfully concluding the sale of eBay Korea to the Shinsegae Group (Emart) by providing legal and strategic advice with respect to employment issues.

Lee & Ko

Praised for its ‘abundant expertise in HR and labour law’ Lee & Ko maintains its strong contentious employment credentials, particularly in wrongful termination claims and challenges against disciplinary actions, alongside its equally strong advisory practice, advising on issues ranging from employee status to workforce reduction. Sang-Hoon Lee and Chang Soo Jin each hold over 30 years of practice in employment law. Foreign attorney William Kim and senior associate Shawn (Seong Ho) Han continue to be involved in internal investigations, restrictive covenants and workforce restructuring matters. Jae Hoon Choi advises on issues arising from corporate restructuring, business transfers and M&A.

Practice head(s):

Sang hoon Lee; Changsoo Jin

Other key lawyers:

William Kim; Jaehoon Choi; Shawn (Seong Ho) Han

Testimonials

‘They are not bound by legal theories, but try to give practical solutions to their clients’ problems. They fully accept the client’s problem as their own, and work hard to solve it beyond the scope of customer-provided explanations and materials.’

‘Jae Hoon Choi is great. He works for me as if he were me.’

‘The best law firm in Korea, with abundant expertise in HR and labour law. In terms of cost, it is also highly efficient from the customer’s point of view.’

‘Strong all-round team’

‘Lee & Ko’s Labour and Employment team has successfully litigated cases in relation to various labour issues.’

‘The team is very responsive and has extensive experience and knowledge in this practice area.’

‘William Kim is professional and responsive, and has extensive experience in the practice area. Apart from his solid legal knowledge and expertise in delivering advice or contract draft, one of the benefit for high remark is that he is very fluent in English, thus facilitated internal communication for foreign company.’

Key clients

Sampyo Group

S&I Engineering and Construction

Hanwha Total Petrochemical

Hyundai Motor Company

Glaxosmithkline (GSK)

Logos Property Group

Hilti Corporation

Maritime Stewardship Council

Cambly, Inc.

Korea Electric Power Corporation

Amnesty International

Technicolor

National Democratic Institute (US)

Dechra Pharmaceuticals

Orchard Asset Management

Work highlights

  • Represented Sampyo Industry in various claims and investigations following a fatal landslide occurred at one of the client’s quarries during the demolition process.
  • Represented Hanwha Total Petrochemical in litigation concerning ex-gratia retention bonuses for employees for agreed retention periods which were not returned after resignation.
  • Acted for Hilti Corporation in a dispute against former employees which started a competing business after misappropriating 20,000 files and have begun to bid against Hilti and circulate brochures with false information regarding the Client’s products.

Shin & Kim

Shin & Kim is best known for its handling of complex employment litigation, primarily litigation concerning wages, workplace accident claims and trade union disputes. Continuing to strengthen its advisory practice, the firm recruited Sery Lee from Kim & Chang and Young Woo Seo from the Ministry of Employment and Labour to bolster its offering in investigations and terminations, among others. Litigator Young-Seok Ki, who continues to be active in contentious employment work, stepped down as head of practice in favour of Dong-Wook Kim, who is active across all contentious, advisory and health and safety issues.

Practice head(s):

Dong-Wook Kim

Other key lawyers:

Young-Seok Ki; Sery Lee; Young Woo Seo

Testimonials

‘Shin & Kim’s long established team is led by Kim Dong-Wook, who is a distinguished figure on the market and also an efficient team leader. The team is comprised of experienced partners, the former government officials, talented and trained associate lawyers and staff, all showing exceptional performance.’

‘Kim Dong-Wook is by far the top individual in the labour and employment practice. He had worked as a government official at the Ministry of Employment and Labour for eight  years and still maintains good relations with the authority. I wholeheartedly recommend Dong-Wook to the other clients in trouble.’

Key clients

Hyundai Motor Company

KB Securities Co., Ltd.

SK Planet Co., Ltd

Kyobo Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Ltd.

SK Telecom Co., Ltd.

Kolon Industries, Inc.

BBC

Mirae Asset Global Investments Co., Ltd.

Glaxo Smithkline Korea Co.,Ltd.

Sejong Investment Development Co.

KB Insurance Co., Ltd.

Valeo Electrical Systems Korea

Walt Disney Co., Korea

Amazon

Daewon Kang Up Co., Ltd.

Samsung Display Co., Ltd.

The Industrial Bank of Korea

Yoon & Yang LLC

Yoon & Yang LLC‘s employment practice is well-balanced between advisory and litigation services, and is instructed by Korean and foreign clients on issues such illegal worker dispatch and workplace discrimination investigations. It also demonstrates capabilities advising on cross-border M&A and supporting employers with establishing performance-based salary systems. Litigator Young Soon Kwon; investigations expert Hyunsu Shin, and health and safety partner Jae Chul Ko, have joined the practice. Managing partner Sang Hoon Park , practice head Tae Hwan Oh and litigator, Seong Hong , are the other key figures.

Practice head(s):

Tae Hwan Oh

Other key lawyers:

Young Soon Kwon; Hyunsu Shin; Jae Chul Ko; Sang Hoon Park; Seong Hong

Testimonials

‘They are really detail-oriented and look into all diverse aspects of the issue for a client. The most important is their legal assessment has excellent quality. Their legal assessment was very accurate and touched every relevant law. Efficient advice.’

‘Yoon & Yang’s positive attributes are its speed and accuracy. Yoon & Yang’s legal services are very concise, with its legal opinions streamlined with core arguments and conclusions, making them easier to understand.’

Key clients

Samsung Electronics

Samsung C&T Corp.

HYUNDAI MOTOR COMPANY

Kia Motors Corporation

SK Hynix Inc.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd.

British American Tobacco Korea

IBM Korea

GM Korea

AstraZeneca Korea

Work highlights

  • Currently advising all Samsung Group affiliates on the comprehensive HR issues including holding numerous sessions at Yoon & Yang Academy for the HR managers of all Samsung Group affiliates.
  • Successful representation for Hyundai Motor Company in the litigations claimed by subcontractors’ workers regarding the protection of dispatched workers in South Korea.
  • Currently advising CJ Group, Samsung Group, DL E&C on the newly enacted Serious Accident Punishment Act in Korea.

Yulchon

Yulchon continues to grow its health and safety practice, and recently welcomed two former senior officials from the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency and Ministry of Employment and Labour, Kwan Woo Kim and Eun Gyu Paek, respectively. Practice head Sang Wook Cho, Jung Woo Lee and Jae Woo Park are its key litigators, with Soojung Lee and foreign counsel Christopher Mandel bringing their combined foreign expertise and knowledge working with international employers on cross-border employment law mandates.

Practice head(s):

Sang Wook Cho

Other key lawyers:

Kwan Woo Kim; Eun Gyu Paek; Jae Woo Park; Soojung Lee; Jung Woo Lee; Christopher Mandel

Testimonials

‘Yulchon’s labour team is highly professional and manages clients’ inquiries and concerns in a customized manner and provides practical solutions. They are also very efficient in time management from the cost perspective and they are responsive and diligent. Their legal expertise is top-notch among other major law firms in Korea.’

‘Soojung Lee has extensive knowledge and experiences in Korean legal issues as well and she is capable of explaining very complicated legal issues in a structured and concise manner. She has also deep understanding of the way foreign companies operating in Korea and she provides customized solutions for foreign clients. She is a very good communicator and responsive to clients’ inquiries in a timely and efficient manner.’

‘Jaewoo Park, a partner lawyer, is very smart and bright.’

‘We work with the employment team at Yulchon on many of our South Korean employment matters. We find them to provide a good, efficient service. They are also great at presenting webinars on topical employment law subjects.’

‘Soojung Lee and Christopher Mandel are great practitioners: smart, responsive and practical.’

‘Jung-Woo Lee and Hyun-Young Seo are very customer oriented and committed to create positive outcomes for customers.’

‘I have worked with Yulchon’s labour and employment team for 11 years, and the team is very impressive and useful.’

‘Sang Wook Cho provides comprehensive and effective legal services in all types of labour issues.’

Key clients

ASML

Canon Korea

CBRE

Hyundai Motors Group

Kelly Services

Lotte Group

Samsung Group

Siemens

SK Hynix

Synopsys

Volkswagen Group Korea

Woori Bank

Work highlights

  • Represented Woori Bank in its defense against claims by ex-employees seeking rescission of their resignations and payment of additional severance. Obtained a potentially precedent-setting judgement in the first instance, if upheld on appeal.
  • Successfully represented Kangwon Land in defending against unjust-dismissal lawsuits brought by hundreds of employees who were terminated due to corrupt hiring practices.
  • Represented SK Hynix before the Supreme Court (after prevailing below) in litigation over whether certain profit-sharing bonuses should be counted in calculating employees’ statutory severance benefits.

Dentons Lee

Dentons Lee‘s key partner Yong-Moon Kim‘s practice has a litigation focus, with extensive experience representing clients in collective bargaining, unfair labour practice claims, and Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement related disputes. Following the introduction of the Serious Accidents Punishment Act, the firm has taken steps to bolster its occupational health and safety offering with the establishment of the Safety Management Institute. Senior associates Yo-Sub Shim and Si-Won Lee are key names below partner level.

Practice head(s):

Yong-Moon Kim

Other key lawyers:

Yo-Sub Shim; Si-Won Lee

Key clients

Hyundai Heavy Industry

Hyundai Steel

Hotel Lotte Group (Lotte Hotel, Lotte Chemical, Lotte Global Logistics, etc.)

Ikea Korea

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power

Mirae Asset

Ildong Pharmaceutical

Sampyo Cement

Work highlights

  • Successfully defended Hyundai Steel’s position against a labor union’s (belonging to a subcontractor) collective bargaining requests. The union made four requests and all were rejected by the court except for one that related to industrial safety.
  • Advised Ikea Korea on suspension of union members who work in the food and logistics department from entering the workplace to prohibit health and safety problems and conducted a safety education program.

Hwang Hong & Co

Distinguished as Korea’s only women-owned employment boutique, Hwang Hong & Co is led by co-founders Jennifer In-Kyu Hwang and Soowon Hong, specialising in contentious employment and advisory matters, respectively. ‘Stand-out employment attorney‘ and foreign consultant Brendon Carr advises on the full range of matters, ranging from M&A employment due diligence through to senior executive and employee terminations and internal investigations.

Practice head(s):

Jennifer In-Kyu Hwang; Soowon Hong

Other key lawyers:

Brendon Carr

Testimonials

‘Brendon Carr is extremely responsive and provides succinct practical advice. The depth of analysis to foresee various scenarios provides vital pre-emptive capabilities for clients.’

‘Women-owned firm; small compared to other Korean firms providing employment law advice; responsive and commercial (no small thing in Korea!); greater ability to negotiate fees’

‘Brendan Carr is incredibly knowledgeable and able to thoughtfully “translate” both legal and cultural nuances to non-Korean clients; he is constantly taking the extra step to provide commercial advice that is not just practical for a business, but also pertinent to client’s industry.’

‘HHC Law is our go-to firm for employment law in Korea. They are practical and commercial in their approach and help us navigate the complex local legal system’

‘Brendon Carr is a stand-out employment attorney. He is pragmatic and has a great depth of market practice and knowledge.’

Key clients

Meta

Netflix

The Carlyle Group

Nike

NVIDIA

Thermo Fisher

Diageo

Agoda.com

Pure Storage

Bank of America

Work highlights

  • Handling Meta’s day-to-day inquiries across the full spectrum of employment law concerns, including response to and obligations in respect of COVID-19.
  • Assisted JUUL Labs with the design and implementation of a massive workforce restructuring and subsequent litigation.
  • Korean employment law counsel for NVIDIA’s US$40 billion strategic acquisition of Arm Limited, the UK-based designer of reduced-instruction set computing (RISC).

Jipyong

A favourite among employers for high-stakes litigation, Jipyong is active in employment termination, wrongful dismissal cases and contentious labour union matters. Chang Young Kwon and managing partner and former judge, Ji Hyung Kim are among its top litigators. Kwang-Sun Lee heads the practice.

Practice head(s):

Kwang Sun Lee

Other key lawyers:

Chang Young Kwon; Ji Hyung Kim

Key clients

Hankook Tire & Technology Co Ltd

Paris Croissant

Work highlights

  • Successfully represented an employer in an administrative action brought by the employer objecting to the judgment of the Labour Relations Commission that accepted an unfair labour practice and won the case.
  • Represented a creditor as the holding company in a claim for preliminary injunction for the prohibition of business interference in a case, where a trade union consisting of the employees hired by the creditor’s subsidiary held a rally in front of the main stores of the creditor, occupying the roads and the court issued a preliminary injunction.