Firm Profile > Lee & Ko > Seoul , South Korea

Lee & Ko
SEOUL 04532
South Korea

Antitrust and competition: local firms Tier 1

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.

Banking and finance: local firms Tier 1

Lee & Ko's practice encompasses the full gamut of banking and finance work including project finance, acquisition finance, structured finance, securitisation, trade finance and derivatives transactions. The firm has both major Korean banks and multinational financial institutions on its enviable client list. Woo Young Jung, who leads the practice, has a strong historical record of handling matters related to ship financing, securitization and banking regulation. Yeo Kyoon Yoon and Myoung Chul Kwak are some other key practitioners. Yoon was involved in some of the firm's most recent and significant acquisition financing highlights while Kwak is noted for his expertise in leveraged finance transactions.

Corporate and M&A: local firms Tier 1

Lee & Ko's M&A practice has been a pillar of the firm's work since the firm's inception in 1977. Hyun Tae KimSang Gon Kim and Hyeong Gun Lee jointly lead the team, whose outstanding deal execution capabilities make it a strong choice for Korean and cross-border transactions. Its extensive experience spans a multitude of industries, such as construction, financial services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, energy, logistics and technology, among various others. In 2018, Sang Gon KimHo Joon MoonKi Wook Kang and Seung Hwan Lee were among the advisers to The Carlyle Group on the sale of ADT Caps to to SK Telecom and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets. In another highlight, Sang Gon KimJang Hyuk YeoSung Min Kim and others acted for  LG Electronics and LG Corporation on their acquisition of ZKW Holding GmbH (an Austria-based automotive lighting and headlight systems provider) for $1.25bn. Yong Joon YoonEdward Kim and Kyungchun Kim are also notable individuals. Chee Kwan Kim joined from Clifford Chance.

Dispute resolution: local firms Tier 1

Lee & Ko's depth of manpower underpins its ability to assist clients with large, high-profile and high-stakes litigation, with it housing practitioners active in 40 different practice groups. In addition to being adept in domestic matters, a sizeable portion its team's workload has a cross-border dimension, notably in areas such as white-collar crime, shipping and insurance. A group led by Pyoung Keun Song and Jongsoo (Jay) Yoon  recently represented the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) in court proceedings issued by Facebook Ireland Ltd; the case arose from the KCC's imposition of fines because Facebook changed a connection path, which slowed down the speed of users attempting to access Facebook through SK Broadband and LG Uplus. In 2018, the firm acted for Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd in a lawsuit filed by retired pilots seeking a judgment that no debt was due for loans provided by the airline to finance participation in flight training courses. Won Seok Ko heads up the team, which includes administrative litigation head Seon Tae Kim and Chan Ik Jang, who leads on construction and real estate litigation.  Seong Won ChangYang Suk HanJeong Kyoo Han and Sang Yong Ra each have over 20 years of experience serving as judges. Jae Heon Park is another key figure.

Insurance: local firms Tier 1

Lee & Ko's broad practice includes advising on regulations and transactions, as well as representing clients on contentious issues. Jin Hong Kwon is one of three practice heads and has extensive experience in advising on regulatory compliance. Fellow practice head John JungKyum Kim is particularly skilled in advising international clients and works on advisory, transactional and contentious issues. Also leading the team Jae Hwan Kim, who focuses on corporate and commercial insurance matters. Other important members of the team include Jin-Young Jung, who specialises in maritime insurance; Chongsu Seo, who is well known for acting on behalf of insurers in claims issues; and Sae Um Kim, who advises on regulations and insurance claims.

Intellectual property: local firms Tier 1

Un Ho Kim leads the IP department at Lee & Ko, which comprises IP trial lawyers and patent attorneys who possess expertise across a broad range of sectors including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, telecommunications and software. Besides patent and trade mark prosecution, the group also acts for clients in cases pertaining to trade secrets and unfair competition and copyright enforcement. The firm's dedication to further developing its offering was evinced by the 18 new clients who recently instructed it on IP matters, including Korean media giant BigHit Entertainment. Choong Jin Oh and Hui Jin Yang are both highly recommended. Also of note is Young Mo Kwon, whose practice in this area spans over 30 years.

International arbitration Tier 1

Lee & Ko has a growing and varied portfolio of complex arbitration cases, with Sean (Sungwoo) Lim and Robert Wachter jointly leading the team, which acts as the lead counsel in the majority of its matters. David Kim has been instrumental in increasing the volume of construction arbitration work undertaken by the firm, and generates mandates from large construction companies such as Hyundai Rotem and GS Engineering & Construction. Elsewhere, the firm is active in matters with a nexus to shipping, life sciences, sport and energy and natural resources, among other sectors. In one highlight, the team is acting for the CEO of Kyobo Life Insurance in a $2bn shareholder dispute. On the investor-state side,  Lim, Wachter, Kim, Sanghoon Han and others are acting as co-counsel to the Korean government in an arbitration brought by Mason Capital LP and Mason Management LLC over the client's alleged intervention in  the merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries. The team is also acting as co-counsel to the Korean government in a similar matter brought by Elliott Associates. Sunyoung Kim is another name to note.

Projects and energy: local firms Tier 1

Lee & Ko's practice advises investors, insurers, contractors, government agencies and banks in regards to project and energy matters. The firm undertakes domestic and cross border work in power projects and in relation to conventional and renewable energy matters. Dong Eun Kim, co heading the team, represented Shinhan BNP Parisbas Asset Management and Korea Investment & Securities in restructuring financing for Uikeongbu Light Rail. Tom Shin , also a co head, has been active on financing for renewable energy projects, including wind and solar. Hun Ko has acted for financial institutions and construction companies in relation to project finance for renewable energy, PPI projects and real estate work. Hyunsu Kim, experienced in infrastructure projects, real estate development and project finance, is recommended.

Real estate: local firms Tier 1

Besides regularly handling high-value commercial property transactions, Lee & Ko has also developed a strong reputation for contentious real estate work including disputes arising from the construction sector; Chang Ik Chang is the name to note on this front. Reconstruction and redevelopment mandates and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) related work are some other core areas of operation. Jin Wook Yang is recommended for his real estate development expertise. Yang is joined by Junghwan Lee and Dong Seok Woo, whose practices encompass both domestic and overseas projects, in leading the offering. Also notable is Jee In Kim, who specialises in matters involving overseas real estate investment by Korean institutional investors.

Regulatory: compliance and investigations: local firms Tier 1

Praised as ‘one of the top firms in Korea for government investigations’, the team at Lee & Ko also handles regulatory and compliance matters in the competition, financial regulation, tax, employment, environment and automobile sectors, among others. With the support of an in-house digital forensics team, the department is split between white-collar crime, compliance and internal investigation practices which are headed by Chang-Hee Suh and Kyunghoon Lee. A standout name to note is Tae Yop Lee who is a market leader for corporate crime liability, foreign exchange and trade-related breaches. He recently formed a team representing Hanjin Group and Koren Air in charges which included criminal breach of fiduciary duty, self-dealing transactions and embezzlement.

Shipping: local firms Tier 1

At Lee & KoJin Young Jung heads up a specialist team which focuses on shipping disputes. Contentious work spans areas such as marine casualty, ship arrests, marine cargo claims, shipping insolvency and marine insurance claims. In 2018, Jin Young Jung and Lee Sang-hyeop defended Meritz Fire & Marine Insurance Co  against a lawsuit brought by Korea Development Bank (as pledgee of the insurance claim) in relation to the sinking of vehicle-passenger ferry MV Sewol. Yang Ho Yoon is also recommended for maritime disputes. Yun Jeong Suh, who leads the shipping finance practice, acts for a mix of domestic and international financial institutions, and shipping companies. Elsewhere, the firm has a strong track record advising on shipping regulation,  and ship sales and purchases, among other matters.

TMT: local firms Tier 1

TMT is a core area of practice for Lee & Ko, where the team continue to be involved in the regulatory side; advising on the establishment of legislation and regulatory guidelines aimed at promoting data economy, artificial intelligence, and big data. The practice also has notable expertise across a range of IT, telecom, media, fintech, data privacy and litigation. Department head Soon-Yub Samuel Kwon advises on various corporate, investment and commercial transaction, while Kwang Bae Park has a particular focus on issues arising in the telecom services, media, Internal portal services, open-market platforms, and online advertising. Hwan Kyoung Ko, Ju Bong Jang and Hyunjun Kim are also of note.

Capital markets: local firms Tier 2

Lee & Ko is active in the debt capital markets, equity capital markets, derivatives, private equity and investment funds arenas. Areas of expertise include subordinated bonds, hybrid bonds, securitization, domestic and cross-border IPOs, disputes and regulatory matters. The firm has particular expertise in the fintech and bio-tech sectors and advises banks, insurance companies, securities companies, asset management companies, credit-specialized financial companies, financial holding companies, major corporates and public enterprises. Wonsik Choo is recommended for his experience in equity issuances, IPOs, listing, de-listing, M&A financing and compliance. Hyunjoo Oh is adept at handling securities, structured capital market products, derivatives, capital markets licensing, compliance issues, foreign exchange regulations and disputes.

Labour and employment: local firms Tier 2

Lee & Ko advises clients on layoff strategy, collective bargaining negotiations, performance improvement schemes and covers the full spectrum of labour and employment disputes. Sang-Hoon Lee and Chang-Soo Jin jointly spearhead the practice group and recently welcomed consultant Yong Hee Lee from the Ministry of Employment and Labour to the practice. Senior associate William Kim has developed an expertise in advising foreign clients on employment contracts, changes to work rules, sexual harassment investigations, employment discrimination, general compliance matters, employee discipline and terminations, amongs others. He is a key contact alongside Jae-Hoon Choi and Yong Moon Kim .

Tax: local firms Tier 2

Jay Shim and Myung Sub Kim jointly lead the tax practice group at Lee & Ko. The offering spans bespoke corporate tax advisory, assistance with tax audits, tax planning (both inbound and outbound) and customs law cases. On the contentious side, the team handles both administrative tax disputes and tax litigation. A number of recent arrivals further strengthened the bench, which now accommodates 4 former research judges from the tax division of the supreme court; especially of note is ex-chief research judge Sung Hwan Kim, who joined in March 2019. Also recommended are Byeong Jun Son and Sung Hyun Ryu, both of whom possess significant litigious tax expertise.

  • Premier full-service law firm in Korea


  • Founded in 1977, and comprising more than 700 professionals, organized into 7 practice groups with 40 specialty teams


  • One-stop service for all legal needs, based on efficient collaboration among highly specialized team


  • Emphasis on responsiveness & practical solutions


  • 7 major practice groups: (i) corporate and M&A, (ii) banking, finance and securities, (iii) litigation (both civil and criminal) & alternative dispute resolution (iv) tax & customs, (v) antitrust & competition, (vi) labour & employment and (vii) intellectual property


  • 40 specialised teams : Within the firm’s seven major practice groups there are approximately 40 highly specialised teams of legal professionals including the following: anti-corruption & FCPA; antitrust & competition; aviation; banking; bankruptcy, insolvency & corporate restructuring; capital markets & securities; class actions & consumer claims; construction; consumer goods & services; corporate and M&A; corporate governance; derivatives; dispute resolution; energy; entertainment; environment; finance (acquisition finance, asset finance, project finance, structured finance); foreign direct investment; healthcare; industry & manufacturing; infrastructure; insurance; intellectual property; internal investigations; international practice (Chinese, European, Japanese practice); international trade; investment funds; labour & employment; maritime & shipping; overseas investment; private equity & venture capital; privatisation; product liability; real estate; regulatory compliance; tax & customs (tax consulting, audits, dispute resolution, transfer pricing); technology, media & telecommunications; and white-collar crime.


  • Recognition & Awards


  • “Best Firm in South Korea” – Euromoney (2018)
  • “Korea Deal Firm of the Year” – Thomson Reuters (2018)
  • “Korea Finance Firm of the Year” – The Asian Lawyer (2018)
  • “Korea TMT Firm of the Year” – The Asian Lawyer (2019)
  • “Labour and Employment Law Firm of the Year” – Thomson Reuters (2018)
  • “Competition Lawyer of the Year” – The Asian Lawyer, Asia Legal Awards (2017)
  • “Behavioural Matter of the Year (Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa)” – Global Competition Review (2017)
  • “Transfer Pricing firm of the Year” – Euromoney ITR Asia Tax Awards (2016)
  • “Korea Patent Firm of the Year” – Asia IP Awards (2018)
  • “Korea Trademark Contentious Firm of the Year Award 2019” – MIP (2019)
  • Tier 1 in all or a majority of practice areas by Asia Pacific Legal 500, IFLR 1000, Asialaw Profiles and Chambers Asia
Number of fee-earners : 700+

South Korea

KFTC Enhances the Predictability and Clarity of Decisions but Potentially Increase the Overall Administrative Fine Levels

Facing continued criticisms that the existing rules allowed overly broad discretion to the Korea Fair Trade Commission (the “KFTC”) in setting the amount of administrative fine, the KFTC amended the Notification on Detailed Standards for Imposition of Administrative Fine (the “Notification”). The amendments (the “Amendments”) were passed by the KFTC’s full Committee of Commissioners on December 21, 2016, and came into effect on December 30, 2016.