Kim & Chang is a dominant force in dispute resolution in South Korea with more than 200 experienced lawyers in the practice group alone. As the largest domestic firm in the country, it houses many of the market’s top litigation and arbitration specialists, and peers acknowledge the firm’s strength and deep bench across all practice areas and industry sectors. The group’s vast resources allows teams to be agile and diverse, mirroring the dispute resolution needs of its clients. It is well suited to large-scale litigation in multiple jurisdictions, with its lawyers experienced at handling high-stakes cases with an enviable track record of achieving favourable outcomes for clients. For example, over the past three years, Kim & Chang was the number one leader of domestic law firms, having more than $58 million cancelled in KFTC administrative lawsuit fines for its clients. The firm’s litigation practice covers a broad range of areas, including general commercial litigation, intellectual property disputes, antitrust and competition litigation, product liability claims, labour and employment disputes, and white-collar criminal defence. The firm is also a go-to for international clients needing representation in cross-border disputes and international arbitration proceedings.
The firm ranks in the top tier across all benchmark tables as it regularly features in the most complex and landmark cases. The firm’s in-house forensic and legal technical team provides its litigators with a significant advantage as case management becomes more complex with fact-finding involving high volumes of electronic data.
Key contacts in the commercial disputes team are Sang-Hyuk Ha, Cheolhee Park, Woo-Jin Shin and Kyeong Shim. Cheol-Hwan Choi, In Sung Yoon, Sang Wook Kang, Dae Kwon Yang, Jinho Hong, Youngshik Jung and Chanik Park are among the main competition specialists. Leading the intellectual property team are Jay Yang, Duck Soon Chang, Sang-Wook Han, Seong-Soo Park and Yu-Seog Won, while the main labour and employment litigators are Hakjoon Kim, Je Ho Lee and Junho Hong.
The international arbitration team is large and notable figures include Byung-Chol Yoon, Sae Youn Kim, Byung-Woo Im, Joel Richardson and Matthew Christensen. In white-collar crime, Chang Hoon Baek, Yong Sang Kim and Hye Kwan Lee are three of the key partners. Hye Kwang Lee, Jin Yeong Chung and Yong Sang Kim are recommended for their product liability and recall prowess. Jin Yeong Chung, Chiyong Rim, Hwal Sub Shim, Seok Jong Chung, Hee-Jeong Kim and Janghoon Kim are the go-to partners[CW1] for insolvency disputes; and Byung-Moon Jung and Sang Woo Lee are key tax litigation practitioners. Construction experts Yong Ho Ryu and Song-Ho Lee are the key contacts for contentious construction and engineering matters.
A highlight for the commercial disputes team during the research period was representing the major shareholders and current CEO of Ourhome in a preliminary injunction case seeking to prevent the exercise of voting rights in violation of the shareholders' agreement. The dispute is with the former CEO and largest shareholder of the company over management control. Precedent in this matter has been unclear, so the decision on the preliminary injunction, which was in favour of the client, was significant in that it identified a simple method of securing the effectiveness of the shareholder’s agreement which is common in practice, and declared a method in which the principle of freedom of contract can be harmoniously respected even in the corporate law area.
The firm’s antitrust litigators successfully defended a US-based advanced materials company in a five-year investigation into alleged unfair trade practices by the client in the Korean market. This case is the first case where the Supreme Court explicitly ruled on the issue of brand value and concluded that a non-price vertical restraint is legal under Korean competition law.
The construction team defended Posco E&C as the original contractor in a case where workers were injured or killed in a fall accident that occurred at the construction site for the Busan LCT. The lawyers helped the client’s officials and employees receive a verdict of acquittal on charges of violation of the occupational safety rules under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
On the intellectual property front, the firm prevailed for AstraZeneca in the first ever court decision in the country to find infringement by a prodrug of a compound patent. This decision will enhance protection of innovative drug patents in Korea. Four private equity claimants located in Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea enlisted the arbitration team for a complex, high-stakes, one-of-a-kind ICC arbitration case that involved the exercise of put options. Among the firm’s many ‘firsts’ was its representation of car-hailing company Socar in a labour case that determined whether platform workers may be recognised as employees.
In a landmark matter, the tax litigation team was victorious for its individual taxpayer client in a Supreme Court decision on the tie-breaker rule under a tax treaty. The team helped the client have their tax assessment of $99 million cancelled. This was the first time the Supreme Court provided detailed guidelines on when the next tiebreaker test, the habitual abode test, may be applied to determine residency under a tax treaty, where there is uncertainty regarding the centre of vital interests. This landmark Supreme Court decision will help other taxpayers in applying the tie-breaker rule under a tax treaty in similar circumstances where it is difficult to determine the centre of vital interests.
International arbitration stalwarts Eun Young Park and Kay-Jannes Wegner departed last year. Park started his own independent practice, while Wegner went to Mayer Brown in Singapore. The international arbitration department brought in Sue Hyun Lim from KCAB International and Allen Kim from Sidley Austin. The antitrust group welcomed three new members, with two coming from the Seoul High Court and one from the KFTC. The firm’s intellectual property, tax and employment groups also saw an inflow of new lawyers from peer firms, government bodies and corporates.
“The team has excellent market knowledge and legal analysis. They have perfect team organisation and English communication.” – Class actions
“They provided thorough assessment of the previous ruling, and explored it to emphasise key elements of our arguments, based on legal principles and precedents.” – Commercial and transactions
“Kim & Chang were excellent, coordinating all of the legal and governmental services for our case.” – Competition and antitrust
“They are very professional and have deep knowledge.” – Government and regulatory
“The team helped with legal advice for a contract with a third party. The lawyers considered the latest legal issues and gave us legal advice prior to strategy change or new product import.” – Government and regulatory
“Kim & Chang has one of the strongest international arbitration teams in Korea.” – International arbitration
“Kim & Chang did well by providing us with thorough legal analysis and professional advice based on its experience.” – Labour and employment
“The team offered good coordination of experts (litigators and employment lawyers) to provide seamless advice as a full-service law firm. They truly understand the needs of in-house counsel.” – Labour and employment
“It has strong expertise in trials and jurisprudence.” – Labour and employment
“They gain a deep understanding of the client's business model as a basis for their defence work. They have excellent relationship management towards, but not limited to, tax offices. They are very client-focused and very responsive.” – Tax
“Kim & Chang understands the client.” – Tax
“Great communications and good knowledge.”
“Absolutely client-focused, excellent relationship management. He sets up and manages his team(s) to be very efficient and they have a deep knowledge of legislation.”
“Excellent legal knowledge and long experience in the South Korean legal system. He has perfect team organisation and English language skills for international project coordination.”
“He understands the client.”
“Dedicated and professional.”
“He arranges all related experts for any topic and he provides efficient advice within our budget.”
“He deeply understands the company's concerns and thinks about finding the best solution for the company.”
“He was very analytical and agile in providing deliverables, and was quite good at and confident in communicating his insights and recommendations.”
“She is at the pinnacle of her career, one of the best.”
“He effectively managed a complex litigation project involving multiple counterparties in civil and criminal cases.”
Lee & Ko excels across all areas of dispute resolution. Its team of talented and experienced litigators is led by no less than 25 partners and 70 lawyers who together encompass over 40 different specialties. The disputes team frequently collaborates with an extensive roster of practice area specialists, from construction to insolvency, and employs the expertise of industry specialists such as economic analysts, international trade experts, accountants, tax specialists, patent attorneys and regulatory analysts. The group comprises over 80 former Supreme Court Justices and assistant Attorney Generals, among others. A key strength of the firm’s dispute resolution practice is its ability to handle cross-border disputes. Its litigators have experience in managing disputes that involve multiple jurisdictions and are skilled in navigating the complexities of international litigation and arbitration. They are also experienced in working with foreign counsel and managing local counsel in other jurisdictions. The firm is a known market leader for handling Serious Accidents Punishment Act matters and its product liability group has been increasingly active in the past year. To provide on-the-ground support for its expanding roster of TMT clients, a regional office was opened early last year in Pangyo, the Silicon Valley of South Korea.
Won Seok Ko, Yang Suk Han, Seon Tae Kim, Jin Soo Han, Heonmyung Jeong and Dong Jae Yi are key figures for general corporate disputes. Antitrust litigators Inseok Lee, Byong Ki Chung, Yong Seok Ahn, Hwan Jeong, Pyoung Keun Song, Young Hoon Jung and Eulhwan Kang are the main contacts for contentious competition matters, while Chanik Jang, Jin Wook Yang and Soon Pyo Nam are core figures in the construction litigation offering. Eunjai Lee, Wanshik Lee, Jiwoong Lim, Jung Hyun Lee and Seok Pyo Hong feature for insolvency, while Jae Hoon Kim, Youngmo Kwon, Un Ho Kim and Choong Jin Oh are the senior figures for intellectual property litigation.
Sean Sungwoo Lim and Robert Wachter lead the international arbitration group alongside David Kim and Sanghoon Han, who co-head the construction arbitration practice group. The key labour and employment practitioners are Sang Hoon Lee, Chang Soo Jin and Hyunseok Song. On the product liability and recall side, the main partners include In Sang Kang, Jin So and Jae Deog Bae. Jay Shim, Ok Hyun Ma, Tom Kwon and Sunghwan Kim are the key tax disputes contacts, while Yeong Seok Park and Tae Ki Ghil head up the sizeable white-collar crimes group.
A seasoned team represented the CEO and controlling shareholder of Kyobo Life Insurance in a $1.8 billion dispute with PE shareholders, global funds Affinity Equity Partners, IMM PE, Baring PE and GSIC[CW1] . LG Uplus also enlisted Lee & Ko for its class action matter initiated by thousands of consumers concerning the late release of 5G services due to a delay in equipment installation. In a seminal construction industry matter, the firm went to bat for Daewoo E&C and secured a groundbreaking win against the Reconstruction[CW2] Association over its unfair practice of changing lead constructors.
One notable highlight was the firm’s win for its client in a landmark case, the first ever regarding an injunction that cancelled a private investment business in the name of the public good. Here, the litigation group secured a win for its client, Ilsan Grand Bridge Corporation against Gyeonggi Province. This high-profile case garnered a lot of varying public opinions and was the first instance to deal with an administrative order under the Act on Public-Private Partnerships in Infrastructure. This case will likely serve as an important precedent for private investment businesses.
In a precedent-setting matter, the white-collar team is defending Sampyo Industry in a case that is the first instance of the Serious Accident Punishment Act (SAPA) being applied. SAPA came into effect in January 2022. The market has been closely watching this case since SAPA imposes potentially severe criminal sanctions on CEOs in cases of a serious industrial accident. As this matter is the very first case where a CEO of a company was charged under SAPA, the case will set the standard for future like cases in the country.
The competition team is acting for Broadcom in relation to a KFTC investigation over its alleged abuse of market dominance and unfair trade practices involving Samsung Electronics. It also assisted nine shipping companies and the Korean Shipowners’ Association in a case where the KFTC alleged that 23 shipping companies agreed on the freight rate for ocean container freight services on Korea-Southeast Asian routes. The competition regulator was also investigating the clients’ agreement on freight rates for services on Korea-China routes. The construction team acted for Dunchon Apartment Reconstruction Association and its contractor consortium against several commercial real estate owners in an injunction case. The firm is additionally assisting Woori Bank in a litigation against SK Ecoplant for construction claims of over $10 million.
During the research period, the IP group represented GlaxoSmithKline in a bet-the-company patent infringement and damages action against pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences Korea with regards to anti-HIV medications. The case spanned the globe with suits simultaneously taking place in the US, UK, France, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Australia and Canada. With the firm’s deep expertise in multi-jurisdictional litigation, the case was successfully concluded with a global settlement by the client withdrawing[CW3] its claims in exchange for royalty payments. This enabled GSK to keep solidifying its position in the Korean market as a lead maker of its blockbuster drug.
The international arbitration team continues to counsel the government of Korea in an investment treaty arbitration under the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and 2013 United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Arbitration Rules brought by American hedge fund Elliott Associates. At the time, the matter was the first investment treaty arbitration case initiated under the KORUS FTA and the fourth case against the Republic of Korea. This case was the first transparent investment arbitration proceeding to be conducted against the Republic of Korea pursuant to the transparency provisions in the KORUS FTA. Another international arbitration highlight was the team’s successful representation of the chairman and chief executive of Kyobo Life Insurance Company in an arbitration that was commenced by Guardian Holdings and Apfin Investment over a shareholder agreement dispute.
The Lee & Ko employment litigation team was successful for Megastudy, defending it from claims from lecturers who demanded employee status despite being hired as independent contractors. The team additionally defended Samsung Insurance from a similar claim in the Supreme Court, where its accident response agents alleged employee status and demanded severance payments upon termination. The client won in the highest court after Lee & Ko reversed its district-level loss, where the client was represented by another law firm.
In a seminal tax matter, the firm acted for Dongwon Loex in a tax litigation against the local tax authorities’ imposition of acquisition tax in relation to a split-off. This is the first case where the court ruled that the acquisition of asset due to a split-off is the acquisition of asset without consideration for tax purposes. The team assisted Biogen in successfully obtaining a tax ruling in relation to the securities transaction tax arising from a high-profile M&A deal.
The disputes team bolstered its expertise with numerous partner hires across all practice areas. These additions include senior lawyers from the prosecutor’s office, the police agency, government institutions and a law professor. For example, corporate and finance litigation specialist Kyung Hwan Han was a presiding judge in the Korean judiciary for more than two decades. Another recently recruited partner who brings his expertise in product liability, white-collar crime and management right disputes, Kiri Yi was also a judge in the Korean judiciary for 19 years. Renowned environmental law authority and environment, energy and ESG policy specialist, Hongkyun Kim, was a professor of the Hanyang University School of Law for more than 23 years.
Antitrust litigator Jeannie (Yee Jean) Jeong joined from Shin & Kim, and senior adviser Min Seok Si joined from the Ministry of Employment and Labour, where he served for nearly 30 years. Si was also the head of the Seoul Employment and Labor Office. Several senior counsels joined the tax department from the leading ‘Big 4’ accounting firms, while two tax partners were hired from SMPP Legal and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
“The Lee & Ko team is extremely talented. The lawyers go into the details of every single documentation and advise on all possible measures. They are proactive with the do's and don’ts, and most importantly, they find the most practical, timely and cost-effective ways to resolve the dispute.” – Commercial and transactions
“We appreciate their local expertise, ease of communication, and ability to translate domestic dynamics and issues to a foreign attorney.” – Government and regulatory
“Lee & Ko has an excellent reputation in patent litigation. They are enormously dedicated and skilled practitioners. We have complete faith and trust in their work. They have always been able to deliver practical and often creative solutions to our patent issues. Lee & Ko is one of, if not the best patent litigation firm in South Korea. Their expertise in patent litigation is unparalleled. We have also been very impressed with their client care. They are hugely responsive and they put in the hours as needed to get the job done. We have only very positive experiences with Lee & Ko.” – Intellectual property
“Prompt and quick service.” – Intellectual property
“Prompt and seamless collaboration on a nine-figure arbitration.” – International arbitration
“Strategised well to respond to the audit with a holistic approach.” – Trade and customs
“We appreciated her attention to detail, knowledge of law and court practices, proactive thinking to involve experts, problem-solving and patience.”
“Jae Hoon Kim is a senior statesman in the patent litigation field. He is well versed in the ins and outs of patent litigation in South Korea and has huge gravitas. He also makes himself available when needed by clients.”
“Highly responsive and efficient, with excellent client management skills.”
“He fully understood the needs of the company and delivered a very well-arranged consult. In addition, his approach to solving the issue was practical based on the experiences and knowledge he gained throughout his career.”
“Prompt and efficient. Very commercially effective.”
“Communications are very good. He explains issues very well.”
Boutique arbitration law firm RosettaLegal was established at the end of 2017 by Young Seok Lee. Lee decided to strike out on his own when he was head of Yulchon’s international dispute resolution group. The firm is niche and composed of three lawyers who handle significant arbitration matters for top-end clients seeking an alternative to the ‘Big Six’. It handles domestic and international arbitration cases in an array of industry sectors, including international trade, distributorship, insurance, telecommunication, technical licence, construction, engineering, infrastructure and shipbuilding. Since its inception, the Rosetta team has handled more than 10 international arbitration cases worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lee is the firm’s key contact. He is a member of the ICC Korea international arbitration committee and has served as the chair of the Korean Council for International Arbitration, the secretary-general of Seoul International Dispute Resolution Center and the chair for the Korea International Trade Law Association. Lee is also active as an arbitrator for various arbitration institutions. Other main figures include partners David Yang and Jeong Min Lee. Yang, who recently joined the firm from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, specialises in cross-border litigation and has experience in Latin America-related disputes. Arbitration expert Lee is a member of the International Centre for Dispute Resolution translation committee and a member of the international committee of the Korean Bar Association.
In a recent highlight, Young[CW1] Seok Lee and his team successfully represented a renowned Korean machinery company against claims filed by a subsidiary of an industrial conglomerate in an SIAC arbitration in relation to a sale and purchase of machines. Due to the complexity of the case, it was bifurcated into two stages, the first to decide on the governing law and the second to decide on the merits.
In another high-stakes matter, the team successfully assisted a power-generation consortium comprising Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Hwachon Plant Construction, Sean E&C and Nepal Hydro & Electrical, in an UNCITRAL arbitration relating to a dispute over the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in Nepal. The team also acted for a Korean asset management company in an SIAC arbitration case filed by a Singapore-based consultancy.
Shin & Kim offers its clients an established dispute resolution offering that focuses on six core specialised litigation practice groups: administrative, tax and fair trade law; construction, real estate and project finance; capital markets and financial disputes; corporate labour and bankruptcy; intellectual property and product liability; and criminal. The team has a strong reputation for public law, construction and real estate, financial, general corporate and intellectual property disputes.
The firm has been busy recruiting talent for its litigation group in order to keep apace of evolving market trends across industry sectors. The group has benefited from the arrival of more than 10 judicial officers recently. For example, recent hires include Won Lee, a former presiding judge to bolster the corporate disputes team, and ex-judge of the Seoul High Court, Tai Heon Ha for the financial securities disputes team. The international litigation practice group is now helmed by Kyle Choi, who has been navigating the growth of instructions from domestic clients in foreign litigations. The white-collar crime department recently established a police investigation defence team, the serious accidents response centre, and expanded its digital forensics centre.
Commercial litigators Seongsoo Han and Young Ho Seo joined last year. Han is the former chief judge of the Seoul Central District Court, while Seo was a Supreme Court Justice research officer. Partner Jae-Hwan Kim left for ANSI Law Office. Four antitrust partners were added from government entities and rival firms Lee & Ko and Yoon & Yang. Insolvency and construction specialist Chul Min Choi joined the team as a former presiding judge from Suwon. IP partner In Bum Yeo was hired from Lee & Ko, and labour and employment experts Sery Lee, Yeong Woo Seo and Dong Kyu Won joined from Kim & Chang, the Ministry of Employment and Labor, and Yoon & Yang, respectively. The tax group was bolstered with the additions of partner Je-Heum Baik and senior CPA Young-Min Chung from Kim & Chang. The white-collar crime and enforcement team was significantly boosted by the hiring of eight partners, most from various prosecutor’s offices around the country.
The key figures in commercial disputes are Jong-Han Oh, Jin-Ho Jeong and Ho Keun Bae. The main antitrust leaders are Young Chul Yim, John Choi, Jooyoung Park, Chang-Young Cho and Daeyong Baek. Senior partner Sinseob Kang and Jin-Ho Jeong are the leads for banking and finance disputes and construction disputes are the domain of Jae-Yun Yun, Jae-Doo Shim, Yong Ho Kim, Seung Soo Lee and Chang-Hwa Kim. In the intellectual property space, Yong-Ho Moon, Bo Kyung Lim and Ghyo-Sun Park are the key figures. Other noteworthy disputes leaders are restructuring and insolvency partner Young-Ku Lee, white-collar crime specialist Dong-Shin Yeom, tax litigation specialists Hee-Chan Byun, Choon Cho and newly arrived Je-Heum Baik, and labour experts Young-Seok Ki, Dong-Wook Kim and Byung Han Lee.
In one highlight, the firm is acting for Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical in a case against the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS). The regulatory body conducted special monitoring of the manufacturing plants of the client and imposed a suspension of manufacture with respect to as many as 311 items and imposed a penalty surcharge on 44 items for allegedly violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act due to certain manufacturing processes that allegedly differed from item approvals. The Shin & Kim lawyers successfully obtained a stay against enforcement of the MFDS’s actions by asserting the illegality of the actions and the irreparable damage that would result from them. At present, the client is seeking full cancellation of the actions.
In the construction sphere, the team is acting for public housing construction contractor Daol in a dispute to replace the contractor Hanwha E&C after the termination of their subcontract agreement. The case is ongoing before the Supreme Court. Shin & Kim, representing the client on appeal, successfully obtained a decision revoking the injunction order that suspended the performance of the construction agreement executed between Daol and a third party. This case established a new legal principle that is applied to a new type of dispute over whether a person who is in a de facto reserved status in relation to a construction agreement may seek recourse of suspension of performance against the project owner who has validly and effectively executed the main construction agreement with a third party, without performing its duty to execute the main construction agreement. The legal sector is anticipating the final decision of the Supreme Court.
Golfzon, a leader in the virtual golf market, has enlisted the IP litigation team to assert its patents against competitors at the Supreme Court stage. As a previous Patent Court ruling cancelled district court judgments that were in the client’s favour, the Shin & Kim lawyers were able to reverse the unfavourable rulings after only four months. The Industrial Bank of Korea has instructed the firm as sole counsel in a cross-border international arbitration matter that is currently the largest international commercial dispute in Korea, with $1.4 billion at stake. The case is seated in Hong Kong at the HKIAC and governed by UK law. The complex arbitration involves multiple issues, such as moratorium proceedings in a Singapore court, Hong Kong arbitration and other issues arising out of the trade finance agreements and potential future insurance claims against several major insurance companies.
The team continues to represent SK Broadband at the appeals stage in a landmark litigation related to Netflix’s network fee in Korea. The judgment, which was handed down in the summer of 2021, marks the first time that a court in any country has ruled on the question of the obligation to pay network usage fees in the internet network usage market. As the first court ruling on the issue globally, the decision is highly significant in that it confirms internet service providers’ (ISPs) network services are not free and that content providers like Netflix that gain massive profits by streaming content through ISPs’ networks do bear the obligation to pay network usage fees regardless of, and separate from, the end users.
The firm is serving as the only domestic player involved in all Qualcomm investigations cases in Korea and in the ongoing US cases. The Qualcomm cases have tested several antitrust principles and remain landmark antitrust cases in Korea. The Supreme Court decision on the earlier Qualcomm case has set the standard for reviewing conditional rebates in Korea.
The firm’s stable of clients includes Amosense, Cho Kun Dang Pharmaceutical Corporation, CJ, Gilead Sciences, Helixmith, Industrial Bank of Korea, Pine Tree Partners, Regus Group, Samsung, Seoul Broadcasting System, STX Heavy Industries and Vidente Corporation.
The disputes team at Yoon & Yang offers expertise across a variety of practice areas, with its core litigation practice focused on complex corporate, construction, finance, employment and securities matters. The team’s sector expertise includes manufacturing, construction, finance and technology. It has strong and well-regarded competition, employment, white-collar crime and product liability teams. The corporate litigation team comprises 70 former judges, 20 former prosecutors, two former Supreme Court Justices and one former Prosecutor General. In addition to its litigation and arbitration services, Yoon & Yang also offers mediation and negotiation services to help clients resolve disputes. Its mediators are trained and certified by the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board and have experience across a wide range of disputes.
Key contacts of the firm’s commercial disputes team include Seung Ryong Yoo, Keon Joo Cho, Youbum Kim, Sang Pil Lee and Sue Yeon Woo. Hoil Yoon, Seong-Sig Kim, Jae Young Kim, Chul Ho Kim and Paul Rhee are prominent figures in the competition and antitrust space. The contentious construction experts are Seung Ryong Yoo, Don Eok Choi, Young Kang Eo, Kyung In Jung and Soo Hyeon Park.
For white-collar crime and enforcement, the key figures are partners and co-chairs of the criminal defence practice group, Hee Sik Yoon and Keon Joo Cho. Notable intellectual property partners include Wonil Kim and Dongju Kwon. Sang Hoon Park, Tae Hwan Oh, Seong Hong, Young Min Kim and Chan-Keun Park are the senior partners in the labour and employment practice. Partners Junsang Lee and Myung-Ahn Kim co-head the international arbitration group.
The commercial litigation team is acting for Kolon Life Science in a litigation at the Supreme Court to seek the cancellation of a disposition issued by the Minister of Science and ICT and the Minister of Health and Welfare to restrict participation in national research and development projects for three years. The client also aims to retrieve research funds. Another highlight during the research period is the team’s representation of Hahn[WC(1] & Co over a dispute related to its acquisition of management rights of Namyang Dairy Products.
In a seminal case, the team continues to represent multiple Taekwang Group affiliates at the Supreme Court stage in its fight against the KFTC in an administrative lawsuit seeking the annulment of administrative surcharges. This is the first case where the KFTC had regulated the undue benefit of a related party by dealing in greater volume than when dealing with outside suppliers, instead of dealing at a lowered price. The standard for determination of unlawfulness has not yet been established for regulation, so the pending court decision is expected to establish a blueprint on the standards for determining unlawfulness of assisting affiliated companies by dealing greater volume.
The competition team successfully defended Samsung Life Insurance over allegations of unfair support provision to Samsung SDS. Asiana Airlines has instructed the firm in an administrative litigation seeking cancellation of the KFTC’s disposition on the client’s alleged provision of undue benefit to a related party and alleged provision of unfair support to an affiliate.
The construction litigators are defending Posco E&C in the Seoul Central District Court against New Songdo International City Development’s allegation of excessively high construction costs for a residential complex. The team is also acting for plaintiff Daon Partners against the developer, Military Mutual Aid Association, to seek payment of the settlement amount in relation to an urban development project.
W-Scope has instructed the IP team on its patent infringement dispute with Asahi Kasei Korea concerning Asahi Kasei’s patent relating to rechargeable battery separators. The team is additionally representing SK Chemicals on its patent infringement battle with Novartis in relation to the latter’s patent for Rivastigmine. This is a leading case on the issues of whether damage for patent infringement should be awarded in the products exported abroad and if the patent term extension should be applied retrospectively.
In a precedent-setting labour case, the firm mounted a successful defence for Hyundai Motor Company at the Supreme Court level against a litigation filed by employees of a subcontractor regarding the illegal dispatch of workers. The legal counsels for Hyundai Motor were able to convince the highest court to reverse the judgment of the appellate court that approved the illegal dispatch of workers by arguing that the establishment of a worker dispatch relationship should not be recognised considering the occupational division of labour and collaboration structure among companies involved in the automobile industry.
The white-collar crime team is defending Doosung Industrial in a landmark case, being the very first one indicted since the Serious Accidents Punishment Act was enacted at the beginning of 2022. The case is related to an accident that occurred at one of the client’s plants, where 10 employees were exposed to a toxic chemical and afflicted with toxic hepatitis. The legal team raised an issue of the constitutionality of the law and claimed that the Act has unclear criminal composition requirements and heavy criminal punishment. The constitutionality controversy is the first raised since the enactment of the law and is significant because the ruling will affect the whole judicial process.
The antitrust team welcomed partner Yoon Hoo Kim and senior associate Nam Woung Heo from prosecutor’s offices, while bidding farewell to partners Seung Hyeon Sung and Mijung Kim, who went to Shin & Kim and TSMP in Singapore, respectively. Former presiding judge of the Seoul High Court, Seung Ku Hong joined the construction group as a partner. IP and insolvency specialist Changkwon Kim was also hired from his previous role as a judge. The white-collar crime team was bolstered by the addition of four partners and an of counsel from various courts and prosecutor’s offices around the country.
Key corporate clients of the firm include Audi Volkswagen Korea, British American Tobacco Korea, GE Healthcare, Keystone Foods and MAN Truck & Bus Korea. Core construction clients include Daehan Real Estate Investment Trust, GS Engineering & Construction, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Korea Real Estate Investment & Trust and Posco Engineering & Construction. Intellectual property clients include some of the world’s best-known brands such as Amazon, BMW, Intel, L’Oréal, Merck, Microsoft, Nike and SK Hynix.
“Yoon & Yang is very good at understanding the client's needs. Given the long period of time we have been a client, the firm knows our business well, knows how we handle disputes and what our management expects. On top of that, Yoon & Yang's disputes team is extremely talented so they deliver the best results.” – International arbitration
“Tremendous intellect and analytical abilities. Top-notch international arbitration team.” – International arbitration
“He's a top-tier attorney and while he's 100% dedicated to any case we give to him, he especially excels in highly complex cross-border disputes that require understanding of difficult factual and legal issues. I can always trust him to deliver the best result. More specifically, his advocacy skills are top-notch, perhaps one of the best in Korea I've seen.”
“He is a tremendous advocate with analytical skills. He is truly bilingual and a great orator.”
Leading Korean law firm Yulchon has a roster of approximately 300 professionals in its dispute resolution team alone, including more than 150 trial lawyers led by nearly 30 seasoned partners. These experienced litigators have a lengthy track record of success in representing clients in high-stakes litigation matters. In addition to legal practitioners, the group has other professionals such as accountants and industry experts to provide support to its litigators. The disputes offering covers the full spectrum of practice areas, with the market acknowledging its strengths in tax, finance, competition, construction, product liability, labour, intellectual property and white-collar crime. The firm is recognised as a pioneer in class action disputes and for its Supreme Court wins, overturning lower court decisions at a high rate. The firm has extensive experience in handling complex international disputes, and its lawyers are well versed in the rules and procedures of various international arbitration institutions.
The firm has launched a number of new initiatives mirroring client demands. Since Korea’s new Minister of Justice has reinstated the powerful Financial and Securities Crime Investigation Team within the prosecution service, cases on financial fraud, virtual currency and market price manipulation are expected to increase significantly. The launches include a new team dedicated to overseas litigation, a private wealth management centre, a tax crimes investigation response centre and a financial regulatory and investigation team. The latter two offerings dovetail nicely with the firm’s Center for Responding to Regulations and Investigation on Financial Assets. The overseas litigation team is notably strong in US-based disputes, with its lawyers offering more than 35 years of combined ‘Big Law’ and US Department of Justice litigation experience. The private wealth management centre comprises more than 20 experts in litigation and tax.
The group has expanded its scope of expertise to encompass new areas such as mobility, blockchain, education, healthcare, hospitality, sports and entertainment, personal data protection, and environment and energy. The firm has segmented intergroup practice teams to offer tailored specialisation for its clients, with members of both the transaction side and disputes side in each team. For example, the firm offers finance, healthcare, mobility, insurance and sports and entertainment teams, among others.
The firm also boasts special regional practices, with experts from diverse practice groups equipped with the appropriate language and cultural background to suit clients’ needs. Yulchon has offices in China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Russia and Vietnam; and it is part of the TechLaw Group, Ius Laboris, and Taxand networks and alliances.
As a testament to the quality of its legal professionals and the respect with which they are held in the market, several partners of the dispute resolution practice were called to join the new government administration that came into power last year. These former partners now serve as the minister of the interior and safety, the vice-minister of national defense and the secretary in the office of the president.
Partners Dong Ryul Choi, Seok Hoon Kang, Il Bong Moon and Yong Pyo Yeom are key contacts in the firm’s commercial disputes team. Other core leaders for disputes work include international litigation and arbitration specialists Yun Jae Baek and Jeonghye Ahn, intellectual property expert Jeong Yeol Choe, insolvency partner Chul Man Kim, tax partner Seok Hoon Kang, competition specialist Sang Hyean Gwack, construction and real estate expert Ju Bong Park, and labour litigator Jae Keun Lee.
The Yulchon team successfully represented Mirae Asset and its affiliates in a landmark $5.8 billion dispute in the Delaware Court of Chancery as well as in the Delaware Supreme Court. The litigation is related to a massive hotel deal and challenged a lawsuit filed by the US subsidiary of China-based Anbang Insurance. In another highlight for the firm, it is defending Shinhan Investment in an action raised by investors for damages regarding an investment in leveraged crude oil futures exchange-traded notes (ETN). The key issue of this case is whether the client, as the issuer of the leveraged crude oil futures ETN and the liquidity provider, should be liable to the investors for their losses. Yulchon helped its client prevail in the first instance and the case is now pending at the appellate stage.
Another feather in the cap victory saw the Yulchon lawyers successfully assist Genesis BBQ before the Korean courts in what was dubbed “the biggest chicken fight in Korean history”. The client was engaged in a long-running battle against its main chicken business competitor, BHC. The opponent, through its buyer, started the fight in 2013 by bringing post M&A disputes arbitration against Genesis BBQ, which resulted in a series of civil and criminal cases including trade secret infringements, contract disputes, corporate disputes and even defamation. The Yulchon team successfully defended its client on all battlefronts.
The top-rated tax litigation team was successful for 12 foreign financial institutions, including JP Morgan Chase, in their education tax assessment litigation. There are novel complexities relating to education tax matters, as there is no case law. Despite difficulties, the firm successfully obtained rulings from the Supreme Court in favour of their taxpayer clients. These outcomes will have a considerable impact on foreign banks operating in Korea. Through these cases, the court acknowledged for the first time that foreign currency spots, foreign currency derivatives, valuation gains and losses, and trading gains and loss are all related items, based on a detailed legal analysis of the Education Tax Act.
The competition team mounted a successful defence for Evergreen Marine Corporation in a KFTC container shipping cartel investigation. From the beginning, this was a highly controversial investigation because the Marine Transportation Act of Korea conditionally exempted the container shipping industry from antitrust laws and the relevant government agency for the industry, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, openly disagreed with the KFTC’s interpretation of the relevant laws and enforcement stance. Yulchon was able to reduce Evergreen’s administrative fine from $24 million to less than $3 million. The case is ongoing and will likely lead to legislative revisions to the Marine Transportation Act and its relationship with Korea’s antitrust laws. The team continues to act for Qualcomm in the high-profile, long-running battle against the competition authority’s abuse of dominance accusations and $920 million fine. The matter is now before the Supreme Court.
The group added five new white-collar crime partners from various prosecutor’s offices. General disputes partners Yu Kyung Lee and Hyung Suk Suh joined from Logos and LKB & Partners, respectively, while tax litigation specialist Won Gyo Han joined from the Seoul Administrative Court.
The firm counts domestic giants such as Hana Bank, Hanwha Group, Hyundai Motors and Samsung as loyal clients.
“Yulchon maximises clients’ interests by establishing strategic multi-phased frameworks of dispute prevention, litigation and follow-up, utilising highly competitive and capable lawyers who are experts in theory and practice.” – Commercial and transactions
“They always form good teams that are solid at identifying issues and communicating with the investigation authority.” – Construction
“The Yulchon real estate group has a great reputation in its area. It has a unique focus on newly arising services and industries.” – Government and regulatory
“Yulchon regularly recruits reliable professionals and advises many start-ups regarding challenging issues. The professionals there energetically have joined many forums, legal academic groups and chased new trends in our field.” – Government and regulatory
“The matter they advised us on was the largest accident that occurred after the enforcement of the Serious Accidents Punishment Act. It was reported in the media nationwide, and attracted great public attention. All the presidential election candidates visited the scene. At the time, the government announced that those responsible for this accident should be seriously punished. Then Yulchon stepped in for us and organised a team of experts from various fields to resolve the case and actively worked to bring about desirable results.” – Labour and employment
“Another law firm lost the first trial so we changed to Yulchon and won the second trial successfully.” – Tax
“Yulchon achieved a successful result for us in a very complex lawsuit case against the Korean tax authorities.” – Tax
“Yulchon has many merits. First, it always tries to understand what the clients want and need. Second, it presents its best lawyers, who have proven track records and specialties. Lastly, it charges at an appropriate level.” – Tax
“Yulchon has been able to provide a high quality of professional advice to every question and query on this case. The lawyers have come up with an appropriate strategic plan since the inception of the appointment. The team comprised all the skill sets necessary to defend the case from start to finish and they were also able to comprehend the stance of the accused thoroughly. They understood them well enough to reflect on the best position for the lawsuit. In particular, the lawyer who has field experience in criminal areas from the local police has been a key player in this matter, and with his judgement that has kept us one step ahead of the other side, he made it possible to draw the best outcome out of each case scenario.” – White-collar crime
“They respond quickly to customer inquiries and understand customer's needs well. They have many customers, so they always take care to ensure there are no legal conflicts.” – White-collar crime
“He was a judge and gives an accurate opinion based on his extensive experience. He is good at writing papers and persuading judges.”
“Ms. Choi is empathetic and deeply concerned with every aspect of the challenging matters in which her client is involved – big and small, visible and invisible, material and even emotional. It is obvious to the client that she puts herself in the shoes of the actual party or private banker suffering from the dispute. Then, she puts all her energy and efforts into bringing about the utmost and most satisfying result for the client in each case, based on her excellent legal expertise and experience amassed as a litigator for banks and securities companies since 2014. Her relentless commitment to each case pays off at all times by winning the entire case to the satisfaction of clients.”
“Woo Young Hur is an eminent legal expert in the criminal field. He listens, understands the client’s personal needs and tries to meet their requirements from A to Z with his instant feedback and appropriate advice. He thinks, considers and empathises with the client, and uses all his best abilities to come up with the best outcomes for each scenario.”
“She previously had a career as a prosecutor and is an expert in criminal law. She has a caring personality and has excellent communications with the client.”
“Attorney Dae Shik Lee has more than 10 years of experience working in the police department and, in particular, he is a lawyer who belongs in Yulchon’s Serious Accident Centre. He has experience in handling various industrial accident cases, so he is a lawyer with excellent expertise in this field.”
“He always properly reflects on the client's opinion and helps the client to achieve their desired results, even if there are issues that arise. When the client needs to make important decisions, he is very helpful in providing us with a clear and concise explanation. This has helped us a lot to make the right decisions and be confident.”
“She is energetic, provides creative solutions to her clients, and she is communicative.”