South Korea

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: 대한변호사협회 - Korean Bar Association (KBA)

Competition authority: 공정거래위원회 Fair Trade Commission (KFTC)

Financial regulator: Financial Services Commission

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Energy and infrastructure (published June) - Energy and infrastructure

Financial and corporate (published October) - Banking and finance, Capital markets, Competition, M&A, Restructuring and insolvency 

Jurisdiction overview

South Korea’s legal market is independent, strong and stable, and it has a core of large self-confident domestic firms seated at the top. Not dissimilar to Japan, client relationships run deep and attributes such as loyalty play a far more important role within the business community then it may do so in other market contexts.

Historically, the market prohibited foreign lawyers and firms from working in the country, but it has liberalised in the past four years, which has prompted over 20 global firms to open up offices. 

The Korean legal market is undergoing a protracted period of liberalisation following bilateral agreements with the EU and US that established a regulatory framework divided into three phases. Phase one allowed international law firms to establish branch offices in Seoul practising foreign law; phase two allowed Seoul offices of foreign firms to enter fee-sharing relationships with Korean law firms to facilitate cross-border work; and phase three – yet to be realised – promises to allow foreign and Korean lawyers to work together in some sort of partnership arrangement. 

The first wave of market entrants was made up of three firms opening up in July 2012: Clifford Chance, Ropes & Gray and Sheppard Mullin. All three firms already had important Korea practices in place but did not have a physical presence. Late in 2012 there was a large influx of global firms into Seoul, with nine opening up in a two month period. This second wave saw the entry of some of the biggest foreign offices to date, including Cleary Gottlieb, Paul Hastings, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. By the middle of 2013, another seven firms had joined the market in Seoul, but the rate and number started to dwindle thereafter. In 2015 White & Case, Milbank Tweed Hadley and Allen & Overy set up shop. 

Interested parties still await the elusive phase three that represents an opportunity for international firms to rapidly expand business in Korea. Regulators will be preparing the necessary legal framework to accommodate UK firms in July 2016 and then US firms in March 2017 as envisaged by the bilateral agreements. If all goes to plan – and with the revision of the Foreign Legal Consultant Act - law firms will be able to enter into joint ventures with Korean law firms and employ both foreign and Korean qualified lawyers.

Drawing parallels to Japan once again, it’ll be a real challenge for global brands to find a place in such a developed market.  

Adam Majeed - Asia-Pacific Editor

Energy and infrastructure
Bae Kim & Lee

Bae Kim & Lee has a strong energy, social infrastructure and TMT practice. Its energy practice has expertise in project finance, construction and technology, while its social infrastructure practice is actively involved in city development, including overseas projects.

A key energy client of the firm is Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), which it acted for on the construction of nuclear and thermal power plants in Korea, China, India and the Philippines. It also has a strong relationship with Korea Gas Corporation.  

Of late the firm has been exploring and developing overseas IPP (independent power producers) in Vietnam, India, the Philippines and Mexico, mostly sponsored by Kepco and its power generating subsidiaries. 

In the research period the firm opened in Vietnam, with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, bringing in partners Eric Yang and Yong Geun Bae from Yulchon. It also brought in Youn Nam Lee but lost Jung Kwan Kim to the Korea International Trade Association.

Highlights include advising sponsors Korea South East Power, Daelim Industry and Lotte in the development of the Gulpur hydro-power project in Pakistan; advising New Songdo International City Development on the development of the Songdo International Business District, a $30 billion project to establish a smart city on 1500 acres of reclaimed land; and advising Hanwha Engineering & Construction Corporation as lead counsel for the negotiation and execution of a set of the agreements for the $8 billion Iraq Bismayah New City development project.

Baker & McKenzie

Despite only opening up in Seoul in May 2013, Baker & McKenzie has a long history serving Korean clients. The team in Seoul advises Korean companies on cross-border transactions, with a particular focus on energy, ports, mining, IT, communications and manufacturing. 

In addition to Seoul, Baker & McKenzie’s Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Brisbane, Chicago, Washington and London offices all have dedicated Korean practices representing foreign investors and Korean businesses in Korea and abroad.

In the past year the firm has been mostly involved in a number of outbound confidential mandates in the areas of LNG, coal-fired power plants, and renewable energy.  

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Berwin Leighton Paisner has expertise in construction and engineering and strong relationships with Korean companies involved in these sectors. The firm has experience in power, water and oil and gas in key regions for Korean investment - the Middle East and North Africa.

The firm’s top Korean clients include Samsung Engineering, Daewoo Engineering & Construction, SK Engineering & Construction, GS Engineering and Construction, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, Samsung Heavy Industries, Doosan Heavy Industries, and Halla Corporation.

The firm has a solid disputes practice and acts for Korean clients in energy and infrastructure projects, for example, acting for clients on (independent power producer) projects, offshore energy and rail disputes.

In the past year, the firm has been involved in a number of confidential mandates, advising EPC contractors and representing clients in disputes and ICC arbitrations.

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills is one of only a few international firms with an energy and natural resources team on the ground in South Korea, executing deals and resolving disputes from its Seoul office. Its expertise encompasses outbound oil, gas and power transactions and disputes work. It is also involved in inbound oil and gas projects.

The firm acts for Korean corporates and SOEs in energy, natural resources and infrastructure projects. Its clients include Kogas, Kepco, Korea Midland Power, Posco Energy, Samsung C&T, and Daelim Energy, and it was recently appointed to Knoc’s legal adviser panel.

The firm has been involved in a number of confidential outbound oil and gas, coal and other power projects in countries such as Australia, Mynamar, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In one disclosable highlight it advised Samsung C&T in relation to subcontractor arrangements for the construction of the Roy Hill iron ore mine, rail and port project in Western Australia. 

Kim & Chang

Kim & Chang is a mainstay in a stable legal market and has built itself credibility and expertise over time in energy and natural resources, including inbound and outbound project development work, regulatory advice, and dispute resolution.

Despite being noted as relatively expensive, the firm has received positive feedback from clients for its legal work, accessibility of lawyers, depth of team, handling of cross border elements, and responsiveness. 

Recently, the practice has had a firm hold on coal power project acquisitions, and climate change-related issues and transactions. It is also strong in natural resources projects involving oil, gas, coal, mineral and renewable and other energy resources, and is acting as lead counsel on Korean energy companies’ investments in overseas utility, nuclear, oil, gas and mining projects.  

Highlights include advising Korea East-West Power in its participation in the $400 million Kalsel-1 coal-fired power project in Indonesia; advising Korea Development Bank (KDB) in a W300 billion financing to WiRye Energy Services; and advising the same client in a W310 billion financing to DaeWoo Energy Services.

Lee & Ko

Lee & Ko is one the preeminent Korean firms in energy and natural resources. It advises domestic clients including Kepco, Kogas, Posco, Posco Energy, GS Donghae Energy, SK Energy and Korea Resources Corporation, and foreign clients including Boc Gas, Nippon Gas, Osaka City Gas and British Petroleum.  

One client who worked with the firm remarked positively on the accuracy of the team’s legal work, and the accessibility, depth and responsiveness of its team.

Recent work highlights include advising Kookmin Bank, Industrial Bank of Korea and KB Asset Management on the $3 billion refinancing of the Incheon International Airport railroad PPP (public-private partnership); Shinhan Bank and Shinhan BNP Paribas Asset Management on the financing of a solar project in Japan; and advising Hyundai Rotem Company of developing the $1.4 billion Abidjan Urban Rail Road project in Ivory Coast.

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy’s South Korea team is known for project finance work and is particularly active in the energy sector.  The firm has a notable client base, including K-Exim.

Milbank has a long history of leading on deals for South Korea based entities, and at the start of 2015 it opened a foreign legal consultant office in Seoul to advise clients in South Korea and Asia-Pacific. 

The firm has acted on a number of confidential mandates in the aviation, nuclear, chemical and telecommunications sectors. In one disclosable highlight, it acted for KEXIM, K-sure and commercial lenders in a limited recourse financing of the Jurong Aromatics project in Singapore.

 

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

Orrick has more than 15 years’ experience in South Korea, and a team of lawyers qualified in the US, UK and Japan. It is particularly strong in renewable energy and has acted on wind, solar, biomass and geothermal projects, including advising on some of the first wind and solar projects by Korean companies in the US. 

The firm is known for acting for Korean energy companies. Its clients include the Korea Development Bank, EXIM Bank of Korea, Korea Electric Power Company, SK Energy and POSCO Energy. 

In the past 12 months the firm has been engaged in some development work. One mandate , saw the team advise Hanwha on a $1 billion long-term photovoltaic module sales contract involving Next Era. 

 

Shin & Kim

Shin & Kim has a good energy and infrastructure practice, which advises Korean clients domestically and abroad. The team includes construction, dispute resolution and government relations specialists.   

A financial services client who worked with Sang-Hyun Lee says: “I am completely satisfied with the legal services provided by Shin & Kim, especially Sang-Hyun Lee.  I found his attentiveness to client needs to be second-to-none. He is quick to reply and very accessible.  I found the depth of his legal advice to be more than sufficient to cater our needs.”

In the past 12 months, the firm acted on a number of waste disposal transactions as the sector became increasingly popular among investors. It has also been involved in work in the Korean fuel cell industry, and in domestic and cross-border solar, wind, and hydroelectric projects. 

Highlights include advising sponsors GS Energy and Korea Western Power on the $1 billion construction and operation of a combined cycle power plant in Pyoung Taek; advising Kexim, K-Sure and US Exim Bank in the development, construction and operation of a petrochemical complex in Egypt; and advising Daelim Industrial in a $600 million drinking water supply PPP (public-private partnership) in Peru. 

 

Yoon & Yang

Yoon & Yang’s energy practice group is relatively new but is making headway by attracting some top industry clients.  

The firm’s expanding roster of clients includes Kepco, Korea South East Power, Korea Midland Power, SK Energy, GS Caltex, and E1. 

The firm has been involved in thermal and renewable energy projects but the work is confidential at present, elsewhere it has been active in disputes and acted for energy plant companies in a lawsuit seeking annulment of the corrective order and the order for payment of a surcharge imposed by the Korea Fair Trade Commission. It also represented Kepco in lawsuits against electronic wire and cable makers in relation to claims of bid-rigging. 

 

Yulchon

Yulchon’s energy and infrastructure practice is experience greenfield energy project development work. It also has a focus on corporate work, and advised on the privatisation of Korea Electric Power Corporation and various M&A transactions between private power project enterprises. 

The firm’s key clients include Korea National Oil Corporation, Korea Gas Corporation, Korea Western Power, Korea Southeast Power, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, and Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction. 

In the past 12 months the firm has been involved in a number of confidential mandates involving greenfield gas and coal power plants, and transport and mining disputes and regulatory work in jurisdictions including Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.   

Financial and corporate
Bae Kim & Lee

Bae Kim & Lee’s banking and finance practice is led by Keun Byung Lee. In the research period, the firm lost Young Mo Kim, who set up Economic Regulatory Administration Consulting (ERAC), a consulting firm advising on financial regulatory issues, but hired Eric Yang and Yonggeun Bae from Yulchon.

Highlights include advising Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-sure) in relation to the $7 billion project finance facilities for the development of the Ma’aden Wa'ad Al Shamal phosphate project in Saudi Arabia; advising Star Invest Holdings on the KRW285 billion refinancing of acquisition finance for Loen Entertainment; and advising the Export-Import Bank of Korea on the $400 million financing for the construction of seven of BW LPG’s gas carrier newbuilds.

Bae Kim & Lee has a solid capital markets practice that has been most active in the equity capital markets of late, especially with respect to IPOs and GDR offerings. The practice is also active in block trades and debt capital markets. Highlights include advising Cheil Industries in its KRW1.5 trillion IPO and listing on the Korean Exchange; advising Kookmin Bank on its issuance of $500 million notes, which are listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange; and advising Daewoo Securities as arranger on the successful issuance of Rmb180 million ($28 million) bonds in Korea by ICBC. 

Bae Kim & Lee’s competition practice is known to act for clients before the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) and the courts. During the research period, the firm hired Yun Soo Kim from KFTC. Highlights include challenging - on behalf of Hanwha Life Insurance - KFTC’s ruling in the Seoul High Court, arguing that it failed to prove an agreement to fix interest rates; advising Hyundai Oilbank in its appeal of KFTC’s ruling in the Seoul High Court; and arguing - on behalf of Lotte - that the amount of proposed surcharges was inflated because the relevant turnover was erroneously calculated in a KFTC decision on abuse of dominance.

Bae Kim & Lee’s M&A practice is strong in financial services and particularly strong in private equity. During the research period, the firm lost Hee Kyung Byun to Kim & Chang, but hired Eric Yang from Yulchon’s Vietnam practice, Yonggeun Bae from Yulchon and Fumimichi Ebina Samil from PricewaterhouseCoopers.  

Highlights include acting as Korean counsel to Visteon in its sale of Halla Visteon Climate Control - a Korean automotive supplier - to a consortium including Korean private equity firm Hahn & Co and Korean tire maker Hankook Tire; advising Kakao in its $3 billion merger with Daum Communications; and advising Samsung Group in its sale of a 62% stake in its chemical subsidiary Samsung General Chemicals, and its 32.35% stake in its defence subsidiary Samsung Techwin to the Hanwha Group for a total of over $1.6 billion.

Bae Kim & Lee has one of the strongest restructuring and insolvency practices in South Korea. Highlights include advising Ssangyong Engineering and Construction, which has entered rehabilitation; and advising Daehan Shipbuilding in its filed rehabilitation procedure in Seoul Central District Court.

Jipyong

In the finance area Jipyong has had a busy year acting in general corporate financing, real estate financing and structured financing deals. Highlights from the past year include advising Korea Exim Bank in the ship financing provided to Stena, a Swedish shipping operator, to purchase five container vessels to be built by Samsung Heavy Industries for $574 million; and advising Kyobo Securities and Daewoo on the KRW158 billion ($133 million) project financing for the Geoje Island Gohyeon Port Redevelopment Project. 

Led by Haeng-Gyu Lee, Jipyong’s capital markets practice has taken advantage of revitalisation of the IPO market. Highlights include advising issuer FnC Entertainment on its KRW39 billion IPO on the Korea Exchange led by Eugene Investment and Securities as lead manager; advising lead manager KDB Daewoo Securities on the KRW6.5 billion IPO of Hisem on the Korea Exchange; and advising Korea Investment & Securities on UGint’s KRW31 billion IPO on the Korea Exchange. The firm’s team has been strengthened in the past year with the hire of Seung-Ho Choi as senior foreign legal consultant from Lee & Ko.

Jipyong’s competition practice is made up of lawyers who act for the KFTC and corporate clients and former KFTC officers. The practice was, however, hit by the departure of partner Hyung-Sam Park during the research period. Led by Gee-Hong Kim, the practice advised Intel in KFTC’s investigation of Qualcomm’s alleged act of abusing dominant market position. It also advised Yuratech in KFTC’s investigation of collusive bidding for automobile parts and accessories following Denso Corporation’s filing for leniency; and advised Lotte Home Shopping in KFTC’s extensive investigation into the allegation against six TV home shopping companies for unfair practices.

In M&A Jipyong has been active in the past 12 months acting for private equity funds and in cross-border deals. Highlights include advising Woori Bank in its KRW5 billion acquisition of MFI Malis, a Cambodian financial Institution; advising KDB-Trinity DHIC Private Equity Fund on the KRW373 billion acquisition of Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction; and advising Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline in its $2 billion exchange of assets and launch of a joint venture. 

Earlier this year, Jipyong strengthened its restructuring and insolvency practice by recruiting Sung-Kook Kang, who served as a judicial researcher at the Supreme Court and a chief judge of international transactions at Seoul Central District Court, and Jeong-Soo Park, who served as a judicial researcher at the Supreme Court. Highlights in the past 12 months include advising Yuanta Securities in corporate rehabilitation proceedings against Woongjin; and advising Korea Asset Management Corporation (KAMCO) in litigation over the warrant related to the Workout of Daewoo.  

Kim & Chang

Led by Kye Sung Chung, Kim & Chang’s large banking and finance team is made up of Korean and foreign lawyers and former government officials. Last year the firm made two notable hires and brought in Min Ho Lee as partner from KB Financial Group and Kyung Suk Yang as partner from Shin & Kim.

Highlights include advising Korea Development Bank, Bank of America and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in relation to the $1.2 billion financing of six LNG carrier new-builds for Korea Gas Corporation for the import of shale gas by KOGAS; advising Korea EXIM in relation to the refinancing of four vessels owned by Panama SPCs established by a Korean ship investment company; and advising Korea Development Bank in Krw779 billion project financing for the Pochon Combined Cycle Power Plant.  

Kim & Chang’s 30-partner-strong capital markets group certainly has quality and volume and it boosted its team in the research period with the hires of Samuel Nam from JPMorgan and Song Il An from KDB Daewoo Securities. Highlights include advising Samsung SDS in its KRW1 trillion ($1.2 billion) IPO involving the sale of existing shares; advising Daewoo Securities, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Woori in the $1.6 billion IPO of Cheil Industries involving the sale of existing shares and the issuance of new shares; and advising Kookmin Bank in the establishment of its first covered bond issuance programme under the Korean Covered Bond Act.

Kim & Chang’s competition practice is dominant in the Korean legal landscape. Its antitrust team is composed of specialist lawyers, officials from the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), and antitrust economists. In the past 12 months, the firm has made a number of hires from the KFTC.

“Kim & Chang provided timely, effective advice regarding a number of merger control issues. It assisted me in analysing and shepherding a highly complex restructuring through the KFTC process,” one client says. “It also helped us receive timely merger control clearance of a complicated transaction despite numerous RFIs from the KFTC.”

Highlights include advising SAP in KFTC’s approval of its application for a consent order following an abuse of superior bargaining power initiative; and successfully representing S-Oil in the course of a KFTC investigation concerning price fixing of light oil.

With over 150 lawyers, Kim & Chang has the largest M&A practice in Korea. In the past year the firm lost partner Nelson Ahn to rival Lee & Ko, but brought in Sang Goo Lee from Bae Kim & Lee. Deal highlights include advising Hahn & Company in its $3.6 billion acquisition of Halla Visteon Climate Control; advising the same client in its acquisition of Hanjin Shipping’s shipping business; and advising JB Financial Group in its KRW500 billion acquisition of Kwangju Bank.

Kim & Chang’s insolvency and corporate restructuring practice has focused recently on out of court restructuring schemes. Highlights include advising the licensors of Pantech - Via Licensing Corporation, Vodafone Roaming Services, CORE Wireless Licensing, Dolby International and Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation - in the rehabilitation proceedings of Pantech; advising Plasco in the completion of the KRW28 billion rehabilitation proceedings of Pumyang; and advising Standard Chartered Bank Korea in the rehabilitation proceedings of TYN.

Lee & Ko

Lee & Ko has a highly experienced banking and finance practice that acts for most of the major Korean banks and foreign banks doing business in South Korea. 

Highlights in the past year include advising Korea Exchange Bank, NH Investment & Securities, Shinhan Bank, Woori Bank and other financial institutions in the financing for Hahn & Company’s acquisition of Halla Visteon Climate Control Corporation; advising KOGAS, SK Shipping, Korea Line Corporation and Hyundai LNG Shipping in the financing of six newbuilding vessels for Korea Gas Corporation; and advising Samsung Life Insurance in the KRW306 billion ($258 million) refinancing of K Twin Tower. 

Lee & Ko is a strong choice for companies looking to list in an increasingly buoyant IPO market. Strong in securitisation, the firm is also regularly active in the bond market.

Highlights include advising the underwriters Merrill Lynch in the Korean state’s €750 million and $1 billion bond issues; advising KTB Investment & Securities in Olympus Investment Holdings III’s issuance of $150 million’s worth of  Kimchi bonds; and advising Yuanta Securities in its issuance of $100 million subordinated convertible bonds. 

The firm’s already strong competition team became even stronger with the hires of Young Dong Park as partner from KFTC, Bryan Hopkins as special counsel from Samsung Electronics America, and Richard Shin and Dong-pyo Hong as economists alongside a string of associates.Partner Yong Joon Yoon was described by one client as “very kind and excellent, with deep knowledge and willingness”.

Highlights include obtaining a 70% reduction in fines for Hanwha, a domestic client implicated in the international bearings cartel following KFTC’s investigation.  

Lee & Ko is among a small group of firms that handle most of the M&A mandates available to the Korean market. The team has also been on a recruitment drive and hired Moon Sung Lee from Jeju District Court, Hark Hun Kim from Lee International, Nelson Ahn from Kim & Chang, and Chin Sup Chung from the National Assembly.

Highlights include advising the Carlyle Group in the $2 billion acquisition of Tyco Fire & Security Services from Tyco, the world’s largest fire protection and security company; advising Bristol-Myers Squibb Company in its $2.7 billion sale of its global diabetes business to AstraZeneca; and advising Cheil Industries in its KRW3 trillion merger with Samsung SDI.

In the restructuring and insolvency area, highlights include advising Nexolon – a manufacturer of wafers for solar cells in Korea – in its application for the commencement of rehabilitation proceedings; advising NH Bank, Woori Bank, Shindongah Engineering & Construction in matters involving Dream Reits bankruptcy declaration; and advising Hanil Development on its application for the commencement of rehabilitation proceedings. 

Shin & Kim

Shin & Kim integrates its banking and finance team with its capital markets practice. It regularly advises in project financings, acquisition financings and ship financings. “I believe Shin & Kim has provided me with the best legal service among the law firms which I have cooperated with,” one client says.

Of late, the firm’s banking practice in the area of energy and renewable resources continues to grow, and it acts for KOGAS, National Pension Service of Korea, Hanhwa Group, Samsung C&T Corporation and Lotte in energy related transactions. In the research period, the firm hired Kil Seung Lee as partner from the Meritz Fire & Marine Insurance Company.

Highlights include advising National Pension Service of Korea (NPS) in connection with its investment in the $15 billion liquefaction project sponsored by Cheniere Energy; and acting as outside counsel to KEXIM and K-sure and as Korean counsel to all lenders in the development, construction and operation of a $7.3 billion petrochemical complex to be located at Suez Industrial Area, Egypt.   

“In the past 12 months, it has worked with me as the lender-side legal counsel on numerous project finance transactions, I found its work to be superb, especially partner Sang-Hyun Lee,” one client says. “His legal expertise is superb, and his client-oriented work ethic is second-to-none. I have worked with other top tier legal firms in Korea, but I find Shin & Kim to be the most dependable.”

With the largest IPO specialist team in Korea, Shin & Kim is a market leader in the equity capital markets. In 2014, it advised on eight successful IPO transactions. Highlights include advising Samsung Securities and Daishin Securities in BGF Retail’s KRW252 billion ($212 billion) IPO and listing on the Korea Exchange; advising Samsung Securities and Mirae Asset Securities in CS Wind’s KRW256 billion IPO and listing on the Korea Exchange; and acting for Korea Investment & Securities, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Securities in Samsung SDS’s $1 billion IPO and listing on the Korea Exchange. 

Described by one client as “very responsive, creative and satisfactory”, Shin & Kim handles a good deal of cross-border M&A work. In the past 12 months, it has looked to increase its exposure and cross-border capabilities further and hired Tae Rim Lee as a senior foreign attorney, who was previously head of KPMG Russia’s Korean Desk and an advisor at PineStreet Group.

Highlights include advising Woori Financial Group on its KRW9 trillion between Woori Bank and Woori Finance Holdings; advising SK E&S in its $1 billion sale of three subsidiaries - Pyeongtaek Energy Service, Gimcheon Energy Service and Jeonbuk Energy Service - engaged in the collective energy business; and advising ORIX Private Equity Korea, an affiliate of ORIX Corporation, in its KRW942 billion acquisition of Hyundai Securities.

Shin & Kim has 40 lawyers advising debtors and creditors on insolvency matters, and has developed a strong reputation in acting for proposed purchasers and sellers in M&A transactions involving insolvent companies. In the research period, the practice lost Hyo Jong Choi but promoted Young-Geun Kim to partnership.

Highlights include advising PAN-Ocean - the largest bulk carrier in Korea - in its sale of shares to be issued by itself, a company under rehabilitation proceedings; advising three major companies - Tongyang, Tongyang Leisure and Tongyang International - of the Tongyang Group in the commencement of its rehabilitation proceedings; and advising KT ENS - a wholly-owned subsidiary of KT – in its rehabilitation due to poor project financing transactions overseas. 

Yoon & Yang

“It provides in-depth, strategic analysis on a timely basis and the cost is reasonable,” one client says of the finance team. Yoon & Yang’s banking, securities and insurance group is particularly known for its strength in regulatory matters and project and real estate finance. The practice has boosted its team in the research period, bringing in partners Keon Jong Lee from Hyundai Heavy Industries and Ho Yoon Kim from Yulchon.

Highlights include advising Hanjin International Corporation in a loan of $300 million from the Industrial Bank of Korea and United Overseas Bank to renovate the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles; advising the Export-Import Bank of Korea in connection with an amendment to a $1 billion ship finance facilities agreement; and advising Korea Trade Insurance Corporation in the provision of a $750 million by a US company and its affiliates.  

Soonghee Lee leads the firm’s capital markets practice that is focused on banking and securities regulations and securities litigations. Nevertheless, the firm has a vibrant IPO practice and key clients in the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM), who it has advised in EMTN offerings and issuance of Samurai bonds.

“We continue to trust in Yoon & Yang because the firm’s lawyers are highly capable professionals who always work diligently to satisfy us, and the services it provides are both thorough and polished,” one client says. “With many brilliant capital markets and corporate lawyers under its employ, Yoon & Yang provides one of the best legal services in that field as demonstrated by the high quality legal work it has produced on our behalf.”

In the past 12 months the firm has hired partners Do Hyung Kim and Sung Jin Kim from Yulchon. 

Highlights include advising issuer Doosan Heavy Industry and KEXIM as the guarantor in its issuance of $500 million Rule144A/Reg S notes; advising IBK in an annual update of its $8 billion GMTN programme as the issuer; and advising Chung-Ra REIT on the establishment of a real estate investment trust related to the development of townhouses on the LA1 and LA2 blocks of the Incheon Cheongna International City. 

 “Very diligent and comprehensive, and has an excellent reputation at the KFTC,” one client says of the firm’s competition practice. “Hoil Yoon in particular has impeccable credibility that is invaluable in communications with the KFTC.” Highlights include advising Man Truck & Bus Korea and Hyundai Motor Company in an investigation by the KFTC regarding alleged cartels involving large commercial vehicles; and advising MSD Korea in a damage lawsuit filed by some patients based on the KFTC’s findings for unreasonable inducement.

The M&A practice group of Yoon & Yang has recently focused on pharmaceutical companies and medical institutions as a consequence of its newly established healthcare practice group.

“Our company relies on Yoon & Yang because of its high standard in professionalism and business acumen. We recently hired Yoon & Yang to be our counsel for a cross-border M&A transaction for one of our portfolio companies in the technology sector,” one client says. “The deal was time sensitive and Heung Chul Shin provided deliverables quickly without sacrificing any work quality. We are very satisfied with how Mr Shin understood our perspective and acted in our best interest to ensure we maximized our profits.”

Highlights include advising Hyundai Group in Orix Corporation’s $600 million acquisition of an 88.8% stake in Hyundai Logistics; advising Fuel Cell Power in its $3 billion sale to buyer Doosan Corporation; and acting as Korean counsel to SKC in setting up a $92 million joint venture with Japan’s Mitsui Chemicals to expand its polyurethane business.  

“The best consultation we can expect provided from the perspective of customers' needs and problems,” one client says of the firm’s restructuring and insolvency practice. Highlights include advising on Dong-Il Industrial’s acquisition of Dong-Il CNE, which was part of a reorganisation plan; and advising Ernst & Young Han Young in its proposed sale of BnB Sungwon, a company also under reorganisation.  

Yulchon

Already strong in aviation finance, Yulchon has looked to expand its financial institution group (FIG) practice during the research period. The firm brought in partners Myung Jong Hong, Kyu Rim Lee and Beom Sang Lim from Kim & Chang alongside a string of associates and advisor hires. 

Highlights include advising Hi Investment & Securities in the $290 million finance lease transaction of an Airbus A380 aircraft; advising the same client in the $58 million refinancing of an Airbus A380 aircraft for Singapore Airlines; and advising the Korea Development Bank in the $68 million financing for a 7600 unit pure car and truck carrier and a 172 bulk carrier.

In the capital markets Yulchon is focused on cross-border transactions under Korean law. Highlights include advising GS Caltex on the issuance of $400 million in Eurobonds; advising Korea Investment & Securities on NS Shopping’s IPO on the Korea Exchange; and advising Hyundai Capital Services on the update of its $5 billion GMTN programme and the takedown of $400 million in unsecured notes.   

Under Sai Ree Yun, the firm’s managing partner and premier antitrust lawyer, Yulchon has a stand-alone competition practice made up of several former judges and former KFTC officials. “It’s excellent – it pursued a case to the Supreme Court and overturned an infringement decision by the domestic anti-trust authority,” one client says. Highlights include advising KIS Pricing, a Korean credit rating subsidiary of Moody’s, in the KFTC’s cartel investigation.

“Yulchon’s lawyers are excellent. They come from various and complementary backgrounds which give the team a unique standing,” one client says of the M&A team. “In addition, it has tremendous experience in handling complex and multi-jurisdictional matters that brings important added value. The team is very responsive with wide in-depth industry knowledge throughout all areas.”

There has been a lot of movement in the practice in the past year and despite a number of departures, the firm has hired partners Myung Jong Hong, Beom Sang Lim and Kyu Rim Lee from Kim & Chang, and Hyun Suk Jin from Yoon & Yang. 

Highlights include advising Korea Finance Corporation its $20 billion merger with KDB Finance Holdings into Korea Development Bank; advising KT Corporation on its $921 million sale of KT Rental, a rental car unit business, to Lotte Group; and advising Choeun Bank on the $163 million acquisition of Golden Bridge Mutual Savings Bank, an insolvent financial institution, through the acquisition transaction referred to as P&A method under the Financial Industry Structural Improvement Act of Korea. 

Yulchon’s corporate restructuring and insolvency team acts for Korean companies in corporate restructuring, rehabilitation, bankruptcy and workouts. Highlights include advising STX Pan Ocean on various issues under the shipping and transportation agreements arising out of its rehabilitation; advising Keangnam Enterprises and its four affiliates in filing a petition for the commencement of rehabilitation proceedings; and advising Dongwha Consortium - consisting of Dongwha Enterprise and Dongwha M Park - in its KRW66 billion ($55 million) acquisition of the new shares and bonds issued by Hankook Ilbo, which had been under rehabilitation proceedings.