South Korea

Reviews

IFLR1000 Reviews

Jipyong

Jipyong (formerly know as Jipyong Jisung) is best known for its finance practice and within that acquisition finance. The firm has overseas offices in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and across the Mekong region, most recently opening in Myanmar.

In energy and infrastructure the firm’s work is split between its project finance and resources, energy and environment teams, with the latter acting on project development and regulatory work. One of reference points for energy work is Cheoul Jeong who focuses primarily on M&A.

Highlighting its ability on overseas transactions, specifically in Southeast Asia the firm acted in 2013 on a shareholders agreement related to a combined cycle gas power plant in Myanmar.

In M&A the team acted for a Korean coal miner on the sale by its Indonesian subsidiary of its share in an affiliate in Borneo to an Indian company.

Kim & Chang

Kim & Chang is one of Korea’s largest firms and has a strong reputation in a wide variety of practice areas. Within energy and infrastructure the firm’s strongest reputation is in the project finance area where it has acted on a variety of energy projects. 

The firm’s main contacts include project finance partner Young Kyun Cho; corporate finance partner Ick Ryol Huh and M&A lawyer Chang-hee Shin. All three have a focus on power with Huh and Shin also picking up work in the oil sector while Cho and Huh also act on transport matters.

A client who worked with the team says: “Kim & Chang has a well-structured network in the field of energy and infrastructure. It’s helpful when developing businesses and completing permission processes.”

In terms of transactional highlights, the firm has a clear focus on energy work. In the corporate space the firm has acted for Macquarie Korea Opportunities Management on two notable acquisitions, one of a 61.5MW wind farm and the other of a 19MW heat recovery steam generation facility.

Project finance highlights included work for Korea Development Bank on the provision of a two tranche financings, totaling W251.6 billion ($241 million), for the Gyeonggi Green Energy Pure Cell Power Project. On the borrower side the team acted for Hanam ES in regard to W616.4 billion funding for a combined heat and power project.

The firm has also picked up disputes mandates including advice to the Daelim Group in relation to arbitration relating to the establishment of a high-density polyethylene plant in India. The team also represented Westinghouse Electric as it sought compensation relating to delays surrounding the supply of a control system for a nuclear power plant.

In the infrastructure space the firm also secured a role advising Shinhan Bank as lender in the financing related to the Seoul Metro Line No. 9 project in the Korean capital.

Finally in terms of project development the team acted for Korea East-West Power in regard to its involvement in the Kalsei-1 power project in Indonesia, this included contract work, the establishment of the project company and the financing. The firm took on similar work for Hyundai Engineering & Construction in regard to its development of a hydroelectric power plant, also in Indonesia.

Shin & Kim

Shin & Kim is one of the market leaders for capital markets, M&A and competition work and within energy and infrastructure it tends to act on acquisitions, disposals and project finance. It also has a speciality in the related area of asset finance, acting for example on financings related to freighter and other industrial use shipping. Oil and gas is a sector focus.

M&A partner Michael Chang, projects focused Hyun Ju Helen Pak and regulatory lawyer Young-Ju Kim are the main reference points at Shin & Kim. Chang focuses his practice on mining, power and transport, while Kim and Pak deal mainly with power mandates.

“Helen Pak is an indispensable lawyer,” one client says. “In particular, her expertise in various industries, excellent negotiation skills, experience with private equity sponsors and sharp business acumen.”

The firm has been active in the past 12 months on a variety of overseas projects in the natural resources and power sectors. One of the firm’s largest mandates saw the team act for KOGAS, Lotte Petrochemical and STX as Korean sponsors on the $2.54 billion development of a petrochemical facility in Uzbekistan. The firm also provided Korean law advice to the project company Uz-Kor Gas Chemical. 

In another matter the team acted for US Exim on the restructuring of the financing provided to Minera & Metalurgica del Boleo for the construction of a copper, cobalt and zinc mine in Mexico. The restructuring saw the Korea Resources Corporation (KORES) assume the liabilities incurred by the project company and also enact a refinancing. 

In the power sector another foreign project saw the firm act for Samsung C&T as sponsor and contractor for the $2.3 billion Rabigh II IPP (independent power project) in Saudi Arabia. Similar work was undertaken for POSCO Energy as the borrower of $193.9 million in financing for a 200MW power plant in Cilegon, Indonesia in order to supply power to an integrated steel mill. 

Finally in the corporate space the firm acted for the ORIX Corporation on the $300 million acquisition of 43.1% of the shares in STX Energy in South Korea.

Yoon & Yang

Having only been established in 2003 (through a merger of two domestic firms) Yoon & Yang is one of the youngest firms in the market. The firm focuses on social and other infrastructure and real estate matters, but has also developed its natural resources practice in recent years.

The firm’s main contacts in the energy and infrastructure space are Wonil Kim, Soong Ki Yi and Kwang-Wook Lee. All three have quite broad practices including linked areas such as IP, TMT and trade law.

In the last 12 months the firm has acted on a variety of matters across a number of different practice areas, with most projects located in Korea itself. Though a lot of the firm’s work is confidential one public corporate matter saw the team act for STX Energy on its sale of shares (amounting to a 43.1% stake) in ORIX Corporation.

In the financing area highlights included work for the Export-Import Bank of Korea (EXIM) on amendments to a loan provided to Sherrit International for the development of the Ambatovy nickel-mining project in Madagascar. Crossing over into funds the firm also acted for Korea Investment & Securities on the establishment of the Devonian Natural Resources Private Equity Fund and work related to a co-investment agreement between the fund and Daewoo International.

A final highlight saw the team advise Busan New Port Co on whether it would meet the requirements to apply for financial support from the Korean government. 

Yulchon

Within energy and infrastructure Yulchon focuses on project development work in the oil and gas, mining and power sectors. The team has also picked up outbound acquisition and finance work in these sectors for its Korean client base. The firm has overseas offices in China, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The key partner contacts at Yulchon are Byong Wook Kim and Young Su Shin. Kim focuses on M&A and project finance in the mining sector while Shin deals in project finance matters often related to the power industry.

Yulchon’s work in the past year has mainly been in the energy space working on both project finance matters and development issues, notably feasibility studies.

In one example the team acted for Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Korea South East Power Co (KOSEP) and SKE&C Co in relation to a $190 million financing of a natural gas thermal power plant in Turkey.

Elsewhere the firm undertook feasibility studies for KOTRA in relation to a solar project in Brazil and a biomass plant in Russia; and for Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Korea Expressway Corporation in relation to a PPP (public-private partnership) expressway linking Lauan, Gombak and Bentong.

Bae Kim & Lee

Banking and finance

Bae Kim & Lee is known to act for the Korea Development Bank, Korea Finance Corporation and Kookmin Bank in onshore and offshore lending to borrowers. Deal highlights include its advice to OCI Company in the $120 million financing of Solar Energy Project for Mission Solar Energy – OCI Company’s US subsidiary; $7 billion project finance facilities for Ma’aden Wa’ad Al Shamal Phosphate Project; and $2.9 billion worth of project finance facilities in the Sohar Refinery Improvement Project and refinancing of ORPC facilities.

The capital markets team led by Keun Byung Lee has been active in the equity capital markets, especially in relation to IPOs and GDR offerings. It was involved in the Hyundai Rotem IPO and advised underwriters Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank in the $150 million issuance of global depositary receipts of Kolao Holdings, a holding company incorporated in the Cayman Islands and listed on the Korea Exchange.

Competition

In the research period the firm brought in Nam Woo Kim from LG Electronics to its competition and antitrust team, which also includes six counsel who previously worked at the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). The firm acted for leniency applicant Hyundai Oilbank in its appeal of the KFTC’s ruling in the Seoul High Court. The appellate court cancelled KFTC’s ruling in favour of the client.

M&A 

Bae Kim & Lee’s M&A practice is particularly strong in private equity, financial services and energy and resources. The firm advised Hana Financial Group’s acquisition of HSBC’s stake in Hana HSBC Life Insurance; it advised KB Financial Group in its $277 million acquisition of Woori Financial from Woori Financial Holdings; and advised Affinity Equity Partners in its $267 billion equity investment in Loen Entertainment. 

Restructuring and insolvency

In the past year Bae Kim & Lee continued to advise on some of the largest restructuring cases in Korea, including Tongyang’s rehabilitation – the largest company filing for rehabilitation in 2013; the largest shipping company filing for rehabilitation ever in Korea with Pan Ocean’s – formerly known as STX Pan Ocean – restructuring; and Woongjin Holdings bankruptcy.

Jipyong

Banking and finance

The firm strengthened its practice with the hire of Hee-Jung Shim, who was formerly at Kim & Chang and SC Chartered Bank Korea. The firm has been busy in project finance work in Southeast Asia and advised the Export- Import Bank of Korea in the $600 million financing by KEXIM, Mizuho Bank, HSBC, Citibank, Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ to a Vietnam oil and gas company to a build a coal-fired thermal power plant in the Thai Binh Province in Vietnam. 

Young-Kyu Yoon has joined the practice from Minju Law and the highlight deal for Jipyong’s capital markets practice was when it acted for Kolao Holdings, a Cayman company listed on the Korea Exchange with primary business in Laos. It was the first time a Korea Exchange listed foreign company issued global depositary receipts (GDRs) in an overseas stock exchange – the Singapore Exchange. The firm also advised on the very first IPO on the Cambodia Stock Exchange and are currently advising on two more IPO matters in Cambodia that are pending closing. 

Competition

The firm’s antitrust and competition practice is made up of former Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) officers, including former standing commissioner of the KFTC. The firm advised Trade Division, Hanwha in an investigation by the KFTC on possible collusion by sellers of bearings sold in the domestic market.

M&A 

In the research period, the firm’s M&A department was strengthened by the hire of Yung-Jung Jang from Sojong Partners, but was hit with the departure of Min Shin to Kim Chang & Lee. The firm advised Troika Resources Investment in the acquisition of a $118 million stake in an oil and gas production mine in Alberta, Canada. 

Restructuring and insolvency

Jipyong’s bankruptcy and restructuring group is made up of attorneys with knowledge of local bankruptcy laws and an understanding of advanced bankruptcy systems in key territories like the US, UK and Japan. The firm advised IM Investment & Securities on STX Construction rehabilitation proceedings and acted for the client in related litigation.

Kim & Chang

Banking and finance

“It’s excellent,” one client says. “Kim & Chang provides US-style service in a Korean context.” The firm brought in former deputy president of KB Financial Group, Min Ho Lee, in February 2014 to shore up its banking and finance practice. It was also involved in South Korea’s first coal-fired independent power project financing when it advised on the structure of the financing, prepared financing documents and reviewed legal issues for arranger Korea Development Bank. 

It’s been another strong year for the firm in capital markets under the leadership of Kye-Sung Chung. Jong-Hyun Park and Myoung-Jae Chung led the team that advised Morgan Stanley Private Equity in Hyundai Rotem’s $586 million IPO on the Korea Exchange. It was the market’s largest IPO since the 2010 listing of Samsung Life. 

Competition

The firm’s antitrust group was involved in nine out of ten of the largest foreign-to-foreign merger cases in 2013 and had a part to play in Korea Fair Trade Commission’s first ever investigation concluded through the new consent order system – Naver’s alleged abuse of market dominant position. It also acted in some important cartel matters and successfully advised MetLife Insurance in a criminal case where the prosecutor’s office investigated certain life insurers in the alleged fixing of commission rates on variable life insurance products in Korea. 

M&A 

“It’s flexible in structuring a team, has a client friendly attitude, an abundant database, and provides services in a timely manner,” one client says. Besides strengthening its M&A team with the hire of Edward Kang and John Park, the firm advised Anheuser-Busch InBev, KKR and Affinity Equity Partners in the $6 billion acquisition and sale of the holding company of Oriental Brewery. The transaction was the largest cross-border and private equity M&A transaction in Korean history and threw up challenging legal and tax structuring issues. 

Restructuring and insolvency

In restructuring and insolvency the firm hired Jang Hoon Kim – who was a judge in various courts handling bankruptcy for nine years – and advised clients in about strategies and effects related to rehabilitation proceedings by the Korean court in respect to construction projects where SsangYong E&C is the contractor.

Lee & Ko

Banking and finance

The firm’s finance group continued to advise the major Korean and foreign banks doing business in Korea and brought in Jai Hyung Lee in September 2013 from Shin & Kim. It advised the Export-Import Bank of Korea and the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation in a $1.5 billion loan for the Sabine Pass Liquefaction Project. It’s the first project where the US exports LNG (liquefied natural gas) and is a rare example where most of the commercial banks in Korea teamed up with the Korean export credit agencies in financing a large overseas project. 

Enjoying a strong reputation for securitisations, Lee & Ko was also continuously active in the bond market during the research period. The firm advised Merrill Lynch, Pierce Fenner & Smith and other underwriters in the Republic of Korea’s €750 million 2.125% notes due 2024 and $1 billion 4.125% notes due 2044 – the first instance of an issuance of 30-year-maturity foreign exchange equalisation bonds by the state. The firm hired Heejin Yi from Goodwin Procter and Ha Young Rhee from Hughes Hubbard & Reed.

Competition

In the wider context Lee & Ko has been representing Samsung as lead global counsel in its patent war with Apple and was able to obtain a complete dismissal for abuse of dominance charges brought by Apple at the Korean Fair Trade Commission. Apart from the electronics sector the firm has acted for clients in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, construction and automotive. 

M&A 

The firm strengthened its wider M&A practice with the hires of Yun Tae Hong from Hyundai Heavy Industries, Joseph Hong from Yulchon and Taek Rim Oh from Shin & Kim. Deal highlights include advising Cheil Industries and Samsung Electronics in the $350 million acquisition of 50% of shares in Novaled and the $41 million acquisition of Midas by Ansell. 

Restructuring and insolvency

Construction companies have many ongoing time-consuming projects in Korea and a rehabilitation plan usually becomes available only when the concerned parties settle. The firm acted for STX construction in the early resolution of its fast-tracked rehabilitation proceedings which started in April 2013 and was approved in October 2013.

Shin & Kim

Banking and finance

“Most of the major firms provide great service, but one thing about Shin & Kim is that they never give up even if the client gets sick and tired,” one client says. “We would not have closed the deal without them.”

The firm has a strong relationship with the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM), who are involved in most of the major project financings where Korean companies are contractors and sponsors. It advised the client in a $430 million credit facility for the construction and acquisition of 18 tankers by Scorpio Tankers. The facility provides flexibility to the sponsor to use a part of KEXIM’s commitment to issue bonds in the international market that will be guaranteed by the client. 

The firm’s banking and finance practice is integrated and is not only strong in traditional lending but also in the capital markets. The firm acted in the $19 million IPO of Legochem Biosciences’s shares on the Korea Exchange. The transaction was one of the biggest Korean IPO deals involving a bio chemical company in 2013.

Competition

At the start of 2014 the firm hired Buhm-Jo Kim – the former vice president of the Korea Consumer Agency – as an advisor to its firm. It acted for a confidential defendant in a truck cartel investigation. The case also involved issues related to the extent of a surviving entity’s liability for cartel following certain types of M&A transactions. 

M&A 

Shin & Kim is one of the top firms in the market when it comes to M&A deal volume and deal count. The firm advised ORIX – a Japanese financial services company – in its $630 million acquisition and sale of STX Energy; it advised Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation and Woori Finance Holdings in the $2 billion sale of Kyongnam Bank and Kwangju Bank after Woori Holdings’ spin-off and restructuring; and in the sale of shares to Samsung Corning Precision Materials from Chairman Seok Hyun Hong.

Restructuring and insolvency

Shin & Kim has an insolvency team of around 40 lawyers that advises debtors and creditors on major insolvency cases. It was extensively involved in drafting the new insolvency legislation of Korea. In restructuring matters it has been involved in some of the headline rehabilitations such as Tongyang and Pan Ocean.

Yoon & Yang

Banking and finance

Yoon & Yang’s banking & finance group has been active in the financial services sector in deals related to the privatisation of Woori Bank. It has been active in the sales of Woori Bank and Gyeungnam Bank and in the acquisition of Woori F&I. The firm also brought in Yoon Chang Kim from the National Intelligence Service to investigate unfair trade practices in financial sectors. 

Seung Soon Choi heads the firm in capital markets and the firm has a strong relationship with the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) in connection with offerings of Euro MTN under the US Shelf Registration and issuance of Samurai bonds. 

Competition

Jae Young Kim heads the firm’s antitrust department and Chang Ho Kum is a recent arrival from Yulchon. The firm advised Intel Corporation, Intel Semiconductor and Intel Korea in a lawsuit filed by Intel against the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) in order to annul penalties imposed by the KFTC on Intel for the alleged abuse of dominance.

M&A 

Yoon & Yang has strengthened its M&A team in the past year with the hires of Do Hyung Kim and Sung-Jin Kim from Yulchon. As South Korea looks to reshape the securities industry in order to compete globally, the firm has been involved in M&A transactions between financial institutions. It also acted for Qualcomm in acquiring newly issued shares of Pantech; Mitsui Chemicals in acquiring KOC Solution as well as a German dental company group; and STX Energy in the sale of its old shares and newly issued shares to ORIX Corporation.

Restructuring and insolvency

“Yoon & Yang demonstrated strong expertise both in the bankruptcy issues and the issues related to M&A of companies under rehabilitation,” one client says.

The firm acted for Ernst & Young Han Young in the sale of shares in BnB Sungwon, a company under reorganisation; it also advised Dong-Il Industrial in respect to its acquisition of new shares in GD Ecotech – a company under reorganisation – in the public sale approved by the Bankruptcy Court.

Yulchon

Banking and finance

In the research period Yulchon strengthened its banking and finance team with the hires of Ben Hur from Kim & Chang and David Yang from Shin & Kim. The firm enjoys a strong reputation in the international banking sector and has been recently active in ship finance. It acted as lead counsel for Sinokor Merchant Marine in a $40 million ship financing – made up of senior and junior tranches – for a VLCC, and also acted as Korean counsel for Hyundai Glovis on a $196 million ship financing for four car carriers being built at Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries.

The firm has been active in the equity and debt capital markets. It advised Hyundai Rotem as issuer counsel on its $58 million IPO of common shares on the Korea Exchange; it advised Midong E&T as issuer counsel on its $19 million IPO of shares on the Korea Exchange; and it advised NH Bank on the issuance of $300 million in Eurobonds.

Competition

Yulchon is strong in competition. Its antitrust practice group is a stand-alone practice that also contains former judges and Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) officials. Apart from being involved in a number of confidential cartel cases, the firm acted for Universal Music in a case where the KFTC found that the client colluded with 12 other content providers and imposed sanctions. On appeal, Yulchon managed to get the sanctions lifted. 

M&A 

Apart from handling M&A work such as mergers, corporate divisions and acquisitions of stock, the firm’s M&A team offers professional counsel in more specialised M&A areas, including advice on companies under rehabilitation proceedings and guidance in hostile M&A takeover attempts. The firm advised Samsung Everland in the $456 million sale of its engineering and asset management business to S-1.

Restructuring and insolvency

“Yulchon succeeded in obtaining recognition orders in 11 countries in a short period of time,” one client says. “Thus we could achieve our aim to obtain orders in more than ten countries. As orders were obtained very quickly, we could avoid our assets, in particular, our vessels in foreign countries, being seized by creditors.”

The firm’s restructuring and insolvency practice has been busy in some of the markets leading cases. For example, the firm helped Pan Ocean file for rehabilitation and being one of Korea’s biggest shipping companies, the rehabilitation process was huge.