South Korea

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:

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

IFLR1000 2019: South Korea market trends and developments

Financial and corporate
Bae Kim & Lee

Established in 1980, Bae Kim & Lee is a strong Korean independent law firm with over 500 professionals and offices in Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Yangon and Dubai.

The firm is best known for its M&A work where it has one of the largest corporate teams in the country, and is very active in restructuring and insolvency, capital markets, finance and project development.

Key clients of the firm include Macquarie, Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings, Delivery Hero Holding, Korea Development Bank, Lotte Corporation and Helios S&C. 

During the research period, the firm has been involved in a spate of IPOs and issuances of government bonds, convertible bonds, green bonds, formosa and kimchi bonds. The M&A team has been involved in private equity mandates, corporate restructuring, sales, joint ventures and acquisitions in the shipping, aviation, insurance, cosmetics, and food and beverage industries. The projects team kept busy with domestic and outbound mandates in oil, wind, water, solar, biomass, transport, coal, gas and social infrastructure.

In restructuring and insolvency, the team handled rehabilitation and debt for equity mandates in shipping, energy, leisure, cosmetics and manufacturing, while the finance team was active in acquisition finance, real estate, construction, shipping, aviation and project finance. 

The firm bolstered its capital markets team with the hires of Seok Jin Kim from Korea Investment Holdings, Moo Sung Jin from Financial Supervisory Service and Yong Sang Kim from Korea Exchange.

The M&A team brought in partners Hae Kyung Sung and Jae Gu Kim from Kim & Chang, and Ji Young Bae from Jipyong. Edward Kang departed for Kim & Chang and Gui Xiang Jin from Llinks Law Offices in Shanghai. 

Moreover, the finance team welcomed partners Hae Kyung Sung from Hyundai Card and Moo Sung Jin from the Financial Supervisory Service. 

Deal highlights

-Delivery Hero $4 billion acquisition of Woowa Brothers

-Gunsan 100MW biomass power plant project

-Hanwha Systems KRX Kospi IPO

-Macquarie $800 million acquisition of 35% stake in LG CNS

-Republic of Korea $1.5 billion foreign exchange equalisation bond issue

-SK Siltron $450 million acquisition financing 

-Woongjin Energy corporate restructuring

Client feedback

Capital markets: Debt

“Strong knowledge of Korean law.” 

Capital markets: Equity 

“BKL has its strengths in providing the best solutions based on its various work experiences. Their feedback is also always prompt.” 

M&A 

“Persistent effort for client legal expertise.” 

Project finance 

“Prompt feedback even with tight deadlines.” 

Real estate 

“Agile, accurate service and very good feedback.” 

“They are very informative and responsive. They also have an excellent tax team to assist with work.”

Restructuring and insolvency 

“The law firm is very professional. They responded us very quickly and well prepared for the service.” 

Ho Jin Kim 

“Good and excellent feedback.” 

“Mr Kim is very reliable to work with, making sure that the required advice is produced in time and with reason.” 

Hyunjung Kim 

“Detailed description and an attitude to be accurate.” 

Jeong-Hoon Lee 

“They provide us swift and the most suitable legal solutions.” 

Junyeun Cho 

“He is very devoted in his work and a hardworking lawyer.” 

Jonghyum Paik 

“Well prepared with good communication skills.” 

Taeki Lee 

“Meeting deadlines even with tight timeline.”

JIPYONG

Established in 2000, Jipyong is an independent Korean firm with over 200 professionals. Based in Seoul, the firm has further offices in Yeouido, Suncheon, Busan, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Yangon and Moscow.

The firm is known for its work in M&A, equity capital markets, projects, restructuring and insolvency. 

Key clients of the firm include BNK Asset Management, KB Securities, Yuanta Securities, SK Chemicals, Dongbu Steel, Hwaseung and SK Gas.

During the research period, the firm kept busy advising on acquisitions and sales in bioenergy, gaming, real estate and leisure. Its projects team was active with projects and financing in real estate, chemicals, gas, coal, wind and solar, while the capital markets team advised on a spate of IPOs. The restructuring team advised on the rehabilitation procedure of Hwaseung and actively employed the ARS procedure. 

The firm bolstered its corporate team with the hires of Hyoung Woo Kim from Dr & Aju, Genny Kim from Lee & Ko, Bernard Ham from Seegene, Song-il An from Kim & Chang and Hee Chan Jeong from Bae Kim & Lee. The firm lost partners Hee Suk Chai to SK Holdings and Seungmin Jasmine Jung to LAB Partners. Chong Choe and Young Sik Kim also departed. 

The restructuring and insolvency team was strengthened with the hires of Sang Sub Um from Suwon’s family court and Young Wook Lee from the Suwon’s district court. 

Deal highlights

-AKOPREIT 4 $77 million Janggyo 12 BL development financing

-ACLEDA Bank CSX IPO

-Hahn & Company W383 billion acquisition of SK Chemicals bioenergy business

-Hwaseung restructuring

-Jeong-seon Gasan 36MW onshore wind power project

-Settlebank KRX Kosdaq IPO

Kim & Chang

Established in 1973, Seoul-based Kim & Chang is the largest law firm in Korea with 1600 professionals. It has further offices in Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City. 

Kim & Chang is a household name in the Korean legal market and excels in all transactional matters across M&A, private equity, finance, capital markets, project development and restructuring and insolvency. 

Key clients of the firm include Korea Trade Insurance Corporation, KB Securities, Budweiser Brewing Company APAC, Hyundai Motor Company, MBK Partners, The Export-Import Bank of Korea and Korea Development Bank. 

The firm kept busy over the research period with acquisition and leveraged finance mandates, asset finance, project finance and outbound finance. Its capital markets teams has advised on IPOs in Korea and Hong Kong and assisted in the issuances of arirang bonds, covered bonds, kangaroo bonds, samurai bonds and convertible bonds. 

The M&A team has acted in joint ventures and acquisitions in shipping, industrials, cosmetics, technology financial services and food and beverage. In restructuring and insolvency, the firm kept busy with rehabilitation mandates in shipping, metals, construction and real estate. 

In projects, the firm has acted in PPPs and a range of domestic and overseas projects in the oil and gas, wind, solar, electricity, hydropower, coal, and mining sectors.

The firm has also bolstered its projects team with the hires of Don Suh from Shearman & Sterling and Eunbi Lee from Linklaters. 

Deal highlights

-Abu Dhabi National Oil Company $3 billion financing

-Budweiser Brewing Company APAC HKSE IPO

-Divine Korea Holdings $2.4 billion acquisition of Daesung Industrial Gases

-Eastern Air Overseas $423 million 2.4% arirang bond issue

-Hyundai Heavy Industries $1.8 billion acquisition of 55.7% stake in Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering

-Hwaseung restructuring

-Rovuma LNG trains Project

Client feedback

Banking

“Advising our bank to get legal comfort on a facility agreement and additional legal issues related to our policy. They were very professional and efficient.” 

Capital markets: Structured finance and securitisation 

“Deep knowledge on all matters related to Korean structured finance and the covered bond market, responsive, professional feedback when approaching the law firm, insightful, detailed responses and opinions when asked on different legal matters.” 

M&A 

“Very knowledgeable about Korean laws and global M&A practices.Very capable lawyers who are quite committed, very good in understanding clients’ needs, understanding the business situation and advising on various aspects of business in a holistic manner.”

“Kim & Chang has firm knowledge and experience for M&A transactions. I think they are the best M&A legal counsel in Korea, not only on the sale side, but also on the buy side. They are surprisingly creative, energetic and they always try to find solutions for the client.” 

Project finance 

“Very client friendly attitude, many lawyers with extensive work experience, flexible team structuring and strong local support in Korean.” 

“Kim & Chang's project finance team has a good reputation in the local market having carried out a number of achievements in the field. Kim & Chang is very competent in their legal service even when compared with other global firms. It has excellence of service much better than other local firms.” 

“It reviewed various aspects of the project to better support lenders and best mitigates risks.” 

Byoung Kwon Park 

“He provided full support for the deal and guided us with very practical advice.” 

Hoin Lee 

“With deep knowledge in the Korean market, he is a go-to person with different legal matters related to the Korean market, especially the more complicated ones. He always can provide insightful opinions on the legal problems asked, which greatly help the market to understand legal positions of different transactions and products.”

Kim Young Min 

“Very experienced on bank deals and knows how to deal with ECAs.” 

Sangmyoung Shin 

“Mr Shin has extensive work experience and can focus on both commercial and legal perspectives of a project. He has a client friendly attitude and can be connected any time.” 

“Sangmyoung Shin is a leader of the firm's project finance team. Although he is relatively young as other senior partners, he provides with excellent advice based on his ample field experience. He knows what he is doing, driving every deal into the right direction. He is also good at coordinating banks and other advisories. I always recommend Mr Shin when I am asked to introduce a competent lawyer by the people in my field.” 

“He is extremely knowledgeable and well-experienced. The best part of him is that he provides various aspects from different perspectives, which help lenders a lot.” 

“Mr Shin is very professional, insightful and provides a highly commercial outlook. He has no rival, he is the only Korean-qualified (I understand he is also qualified in NY) lawyer in the international PF market who has knowledge of all the relevant laws, including Korean law and practices. He has been our number one pick for recent years as now he seems to be leading the market.” 

LAB Partners

Established in 2018, LAB Partners is a South Korean boutique law firm comprising of 20 professionals based in Seoul. 

The firm is known for its work in structured finance and securitisation, private equity, venture capital, finance and fintech. 

Key clients of the firm include Evergreen Advisors PE, Yuanta Securities, KB Kookmin Card, Shinhan Card, IS Dongseo, Orchestra PE and Korea Development Bank.

During the research period, the firm kept busy with a spate of asset-backed securities issuances based on credit card receivables. It also handled a range of acquisition financing mandates and assisted its clients in various acquisitions, sales, spin offs and funding rounds. 

In May 2019, the firm brought in partner and senior foreign attorney Seungmin Jasmine Jung from Jipyong. 

Deal highlights

-Evergreen Advisors PE W114 billion acquisition of UMoment

-KB Kookmin Card $400 million ABS

-Majesty Golf Korea W32 billion acquisition financing

-Orchestra PE W123 billion acquisition of Hong International & HIC

-Shinhan Card 2019-2 $500 million ABS

Client feedback

Private equity

“They are very smart, accurate and have very quick responses.”

Kwangbok Kim

“Deep knowledge, quick responses and a positive mind.” 

Lee & Ko

Established in 1977, Lee & Ko is a full service Korean law firm 550 professionals practising in 40 practice areas. The firm has offices in Seoul, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

The firm is strong across all transactional practice areas including banking and finance, M&A, private equity, capital markets, project development and finance and restructuring and insolvency. 

Key clients of the firm include Kookmin Bank, Mirae Asset Daewoo, National Pension Service, MBK Partners, Korea Industrial Gas Holdings, Hana Financial Investment and Korea Export and Import Bank. 

The firm has kept busy over the research period with asset and real estate finance, inbound and outbound project finance and other development projects in solar, transport, oil, social infrastructure, hydropower and biomass. Its capital markets team has been preoccupied with Korean IPOs, securitisations and assisted in issuances of corporate bonds, convertible bonds and ESG bonds. 

The M&A team has been active in private equity acquisitions and other acquisitions in the financial services, technology, renewable energy and manufacturing sectors. The restructuring and insolvency team were engaged in rehabilitation mandates in shipping, transport, real estate, advertising, retail, healthcare and food and beverage sectors. 

The firm brought in M&A partner Frank Shyn from Kim & Chang but lost capital markets partner Geen Kim to Yulchon and Jae Bum Kim to the National Pension Service.

Deal highlights

-Hanwha Life Insurance W500 billion 3.690% hybrid bond issue

-IMM Private Equity $1.2 billion acquisition of Linde Korea

-Jetema KRX IPO

-MBK Partners W1.4 trillion acquisition of Lotte Card

-Seoul International Finance Center Project $2 billion refinancing

-Sungdong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering restructuring 

-Upper Trishuli-1 hydropower project

Client feedback

Asset finance

“They always have been very proactive to advise me based on their excellent expertise and years of experience.” 

Capital markets: Equity 

“Lee & Ko understands the client’s situation and kindly supports complex projects and investigations.” 

Financial services regulatory 

“Understands exactly what customers want.” 

Investment funds 

“Practical approach for the client while they keep focused on mitigation of legal risk.” 

M&A 

“The firm offers fast feedback and adequate advice.” 

“Provided thorough analysis on specific industrial risks (environmental risk, transaction and credit risk) and secured satisfactory reps and warranties.” 

“Depth of knowledge regarding the Korean market. It has a W&I specialism and not a lot of good M&A firms have experience advising W&I insurers on underwrites.” 

“Legal documentation and legal due diligence. Especially, negotiation for M&A contracts is perfect.” 

“Sound technical advice and good support in the negotiations to get the deal through. Efficient teams in a very short process despite the complexity of the transaction structure.” 

“All documentation review and negotiation of SPA with cross-border M&A advice.” 

“Being energetic and supportive to the client specialty in the sector.” 

Private equity 

“Quick and pragmatic opinion.” 

Project development 

“They have forefront integrity, put limitless effort, and execute with excellent quality.” 

Project finance 

“It is the most experienced and professional company in Korea. Lee & Ko provides excellent advice, contracts, negotiations and it solves all the problems.” 

Edward Kim 

“Very sound and pragmatic advice throughout the project. Strong negotiations skills.” 

Helen Sohn 

“Experienced, a client oriented mind, knowledgeable, negotiation skills, and never missed a deadline.” 

HyunJae Nam 

“Strong commitment to the deal.” 

“He has forefront integrity and puts in limitless effort.” 

“Closed all the contracts to coordinate the opinions of all the counters, and even led to the internal approval of the private equity fund I work for.”

Hyunjoo Oh 

“Active and has an attitude that strives to understand customers.” 

“The most valuable strength of Ms Oh is kindness, not to mention professionalism. She understands the requirements of clients and provides various factors clients even cannot imagine.” 

Je Won Lee

“Quick responses and great legal advice.” 

Jiyoung Lee 

“He has extensive and in-depth knowledge in capital markets regulation, and has experiences in various types of transactions. I want to give value to his practical approach in consideration of clients’ interests, but still they are conservative in terms of regulation, which I believe gives clients comfort.” 

Sang Gon Kim 

“Mr Kim is the most experienced corporate lawyer in Korea, and also knows how to handle clients and counterparties effectively.” 

“Negotiation skills, issue spotting, documentation and legal/industrial knowledge with innovative solutions which are super excellent.” 

Sungmin Kim 

“Professionalism, kindness and fast feedback.” 

Timothy Jun

“Commercial, responsive, super-friendly and values our business.” 

Yong Joon Yoon 

“Knowledge and experience, listening to the client's needs and negotiation skills."

Yoon & Yang

Yoon & Yang is an independent Korean firm with offices in Seoul, Ho Chi Minh City, Tashkent, Hanoi and Jakarta.

The firm is strongest in the equity and debt capital markets, M&A and restructuring and insolvency, and is active in finance and private equity. 

Key clients of the firm include The Export-Import Bank of Korea, Shinhan Investment Corporation, Avellino Lab, Hyundai Motor Company, Uni-President Enterprises, KTB Network and Daishin AMC.

Over the research period, the firm kept active with bond issuances and IPO mandates, real estate and project finance. The M&A team was preoccupied with joint ventures, investments and acquisitions in the insurance, pharmaceuticals, forestry, retail, real estate, medical and food and beverage sectors. In restructuring and insolvency, it acted on Hwaseung’s rehabilitation and mandates in the shipbuilding, education and real estate sectors alongside debt recovery work. 

The firm boosted its capital markets team with the hires of partners Hwan Jun Heo, Jong Youl Choi and Yong Ho Choi from Yulchon, and Seung Jae Yeon from Korea Financial Supervisory Service and Sung Tae Kim from the Korea Exchange. Debt capital markets expert Dong Seon Kim departed for Shin & Kim.

The finance team brought in Geun Sun Son from Woori Bank while Joon Man Shim left for Shin & Kim. Its M&A team welcomed Geunbae Park from Hanwha Defense but lost Myung Ok Lee to MSD Korea. 

Deal highlights

-CammSys VINA KRX Kosdaq IPO

-Eco Prime Environment PEF W13 billion acquisition of Yongsin Environment Development

-Export-Import Bank of Korea $1 billion bond issue

-Hwaseung restructuring

-Nepal Trishuli 216MW hydroelectric power plant  

-Uni-President Enterprises $231 million acquisition of Woongjin Foods 

Client feedback

Capital markets: Debt

“They are responsive and cost efficient.” 

Capital markets: Equity 

“Yoon & Yang has in-depth knowledge and experience in the capital markets field and has served as a reliable counsel for our company for many years. It is particularly skilled in regulatory advice concerning the capital markets. Yoon & Yang’s accurate and swift handling of issues helped us a great deal.” 

“Yoon & Yang's service performed by Sungwoon was very trustworthy, professional and timely. It is definitely priceworthy. He is very dedicated to the client and projects. The quality of Sungwoon' s service was much higher than the fee we spent.” 

Financial services regulatory 

“Yoon & Yang has always provided quick and accurate answers to our questions, and has been very helpful since they have provided practice advice as well as legal answers. During the negotiations at the aforementioned M&A deal, a dispute arose with a third party insisting on the violation of the preferred bidder's rights to halt the M&A transaction itself. Yoon & Yang's M&A team provided legal advice and practical advice on how to respond to the request of the third party and help us to successfully close the deal.” 

Investment funds 

“Speciality and timing.” 

“Provide quick answers, accurate legal information and examples.” 

M&A 

“I've been working with Yoon &Yang and Yoon &Yang's partner lawyer Sung-Jin and Kayoung for over ten years. Corporate and M&A issues usually require lawyers to give quick but precise legal opinions is what makes this practice so unique compared to other practice areas.  Therefore, time managing skills and ability to give one-stop service are the essential prerequisites for lawyers handling this practice area. When it comes to time management and ability of giving a one-stop service, Yoon & Yang's M&A team is second to none and is unrivalled by other firms.  Consisting of accountants, tax attorneys and both Korean and foreign attorneys, the team has conducted large amount of both local and inbound/outbound deals, and almost always closed the deals successfully. The team always comes up with proper answers to various corporate issues in a short period of time and can close complex deals based on their negotiating skills and high level of industry knowledge. Whenever I work with the team, I am always impressed by and satisfied with their work. The team makes me wonder what it is able to perform the next time I work with them, so I am planning to retain Yoon & Yang for quite a long time in the future as well.”  

“While handling M&A deals, it is significant to be advised by the experts with various backgrounds. Comprised of accountants, tax attorneys and foreign attorneys as well as Korean attorneys, we believe that their one stop advice is second to none in the Korean M&A market. In addition, the M&A team of Yoon & Yang are very good negotiators and have a high level of industry knowledge so that we could close the M&A deals successfully. They always come up with the fast and effective responses to the complicated legal issues. Therefore, we are extremely satisfied with their service and we will continue to retain Yoon & Yang in the future.” 

“In addition to its successful M&A representation on behalf of private equity, Yoon & Yang actively provides legal advice for the companies who are selling their shares to private equity or for the companies who are attracting the investment from private equity. Yoon & Yang also helps on the all aspects of operations by private equity. Based on these experiences, they are very helpful in closing the transactions successfully by understanding the needs of not only us but also the other parties. Yoon & Yang is a true facilitator who finds win-win strategies in M&A transactions and helps to successfully complete the M&A deals.” 

Private equity 

“Specialised in M&A PEF structure and its exit plan in many industry sectors. Provide total solutions throughout from the initial deal structure review to final deal closing.” 

“Rapid feedback and efforts to understand until our questions are resolved. As a fund manager, I'm not professional in the law, but they advised me from the point of view that was easy to miss.  They also provide clues to solving the problem through expert answers.” 

“The firm responded to our requests quickly and the quality of work was also excellent.” 

“They have always respected our opinions. In addition, I think that the team is well equipped with both the academic background and the on-the-scene practical know-how.” 

“Yoon & Yang's lawyers with abundant experience of our industry work as a team to provide reasonable solutions in regards to many legal risks that may arise in the process of dealing with cases. Therefore, it was not necessary to ask them further questions.” 

“Excellent human resources who have outstanding expertise for financial markets especially private equity.” 

“Yoon & Yang's lawyers with abundant experience of our industry work as a team to provide reasonable solutions in regards to many legal risks that may arise in the process of dealing with cases. Therefore, it was not necessary to ask them further questions. Also, the firm responded to our requests quickly and the quality of work was also appropriate. It's always pleasure to work with Yoon & Yang.”

 “The firm responded to our requests quickly and the quality of work was also appropriate.” 

Project development 

“Focusing on the client's needs.” 

Project finance 

“Excellent communication and clear, comprehensive advice on the matter.” 

Restructuring and insolvency 

“It has the enthusiastic manner in doing consulting for the distribution of dividend. We wanted to retrieve the investment from an investee company in Norway, which had been trying to dispose its major and only asset. The two shareholders as well as creditors of such investee company filed a petition for the purpose of the withdrawal of the investment, of which distribution had been denied. In such process of petition for bankruptcy and negotiation, Yoon & Yang has played a major role and its attribution has been very helpful to reach an agreement to share the sale price.” 

Jae Ryun Cho 

“Very responsive and attentive to details.” 

Jenny Jeong Hyun Kim 

“Excellent communication.” 

Sung-Jin Kim 

“Partner of Yoon & Yang, Sung-Jin Kim has abundant experience of capital markets transactions. Sung-Jin Kim has extensive knowledge of legal issues arising from capital markets transactions. He always provides us big picture advice on high-profile deals and suggests different and creative ways to solve the problem. He has great commercial sense and is also a very sophisticated defender of the client's interests. He has exceptional ability in negotiation.” 

“Whenever I work with Yoon & Yang’s M&A team, I am always impressed by the leader, Sung-Jin Kim. He is one of the eminent partners at Yoon & Yang, and he has advised us regarding M&A transactions for over ten years. Based on his ample knowledge in diverse industries and abundant experience in both local and inbound/outbound deals, he can give precise and somewhat creative answers to diverse legal issues arising along M&A transactions. Therefore, I can always count on him whenever I need to deal with highly sophisticated legal issues or M&A transactions with complex structures, and he is always the first lawyer to pop up in my head whenever I need to get legal advice regarding corporate and M&A related matters.” 

“As far as I know, Sung-Jin Kim is considered to be very competent in the Korean M&A industry as he has always been a great help in successfully closing M&A deals. At our M&A case, a third party tried to thwart the transaction by alleging a possible lawsuit, however, the deal was successfully closed as lawyer Sung-Jin Kim successfully proved the opponent's claims unrealistic and delivered it to the concerned parties.” 

“Partner of Yoon & Yang and leader of the Yoon & Yang's M&A team, Sung-Jin Kim has advised us regarding the M&A transactions since our establishment. As far as we know, Sung-Jin Kim has an abundant experience of M&A transactions. Sung-Jin Kim has extensive knowledge of legal issues arising from M&A transactions. In addition, his responses are very efficient and quick. His strengths lie on his creative approach to the matters. He not only provides legal solutions but also helps us to successfully close the deals by delivering hands-on advice and feasible alternatives.” 

“Partner of Yoon & Yang and leader of Yoon & Yang's M&A team, Sung-Jin Kim provided the most effective and successful legal and strategic framework and advice for the deal from the beginning to the end. He has accurately led the pathway to go and not to go, considering not only the legal aspects but also the various business considerations. He was quick-witted and full of ideas, so he offered the best solution to any problem in the course of the transactions.” 

Sang Goo Han 

“He is one of the best lawyers in Yoon & Yang. Due to his endeavours in distribution of dividends from the investee company in Norway, we were able to have the chance to restore the investment from the investee company.” 

Soong Gi Yi 

“He knows what the client wants and needs.” 

Sungwoon Kang  

“I've been working with Sungwoon Kang who is the best lawyer I've ever met. He has professional expertise and he always provides us with timely and valuable advice and services. I am very satisfied with his services.  If I have another chance for a capital markets project, I will definitely hope to work with Sungwoon Kang.” 

Young-Kyun Yun 

“Very specialised in the PEF industry in South Korea. The overall knowledge and experience extends across legal, financial and governmental supervisory perspectives. In addition, can provide various exit plans for PEF investors after its acquisition and fund injection.” 

“He understood the exact rules and core of investments through PEF and provided advice on legal issues that could be missed during the operation of the fund. In addition, through long experience, he delivers know-how to improve our profits and avoid damage.” 

“Mr. Yun effectively provides accurate legal services that our company needs based on his extensive experience and knowledge in the private equity area.” 

“I think that Mr. Yun is the best lawyer in the field of private equity in Korea with his over 10 years of experience in this field. In addition, one of the strengths of Mr. Yun is that he has an advantage of being able to communicate in English without any problem when we meet the cases that involve foreign clients.” 

“Mr. Yun effectively provides accurate legal services that our company needs based on his extensive experience and knowledge in the private equity area.  Mr Yun understands our needs and is always ready to provide the necessary legal services for us.” 

“Preeminent expertise based on plenty of experiences and prompt feedback with accurate information.” 

“I am more than satisfied with Youngkyun Yun's work quality on every aspect of legal services. It was comfortable to work with Youngkyun Yun because he has a deep understanding of our industry. Moreover, Youngkyun Yun is always friendly and positive to work with. I don't hesitate to call Youngkyun Yun for legal advice.” 

“Mr Yun effectively provides accurate legal services based on his extensive experiences and knowledge in the private equity field.” 

“Provides quick answers, accurate legal information and examples.” 

Yulchon

Established in 1997, Yulchon is an independent Korean firm with offices in Seoul, Moscow, Shanghai, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Jakarta. 

The firm is best known for its M&A work and concomitant expertise in financial distress, hostile M&A and shareholder activism. Its capital markets practice has been gaining traction of late as has its finance, private equity and projects teams. 

Key clients of the firm include Mirae Asset Global Investments Lotte Group KEB Hana Bank SK Discovery, Hillhouse Capital Management, KB Kookmin Bank and Prudential Financial.

The firm’s M&A team has been busy over the research period with corporate restructuring mandates, private equity acquisitions and other M&A deals in insurance, financial services, technology and healthcare. 

The finance team has been preoccupied with shipping, aviation, real estate and acquisition financing, while the capital markets team has acted on some big-ticket IPOs, bond issuances and securitisation mandates. 

The projects practice kept busy with real estate development projects and outbound projects and PPPs in Myanmar, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan Vietnam and Mozambique. In restructuring and insolvency the team emploted ARS procedures and acted in rehabilitation mandates in shipping, retail, construction, technology, education and leisure. 

In the research period, the firm brought in Joong Min Park from Korea Financial Investment Association, Sung Seog Kang from Korean Teachers’ Credit Union, Hae Jin Lim from KDB Life Insurance and Won Cheol Suh from Government Employees Pension Service. It also hired Hee Weon Lee from Bank of Korea, Joon Ho Kim from Korea Financial Investment Association and Jin Woo Im from Korean Federation of Community Credit Cooperatives. 

From its competitors it hired partners Geen Kim from Lee & Ko, Si Mok Kim from Kim & Chang and Jung Woo Lee and Choon Jae Wee from Bae Kim & Lee. Restructuring and insolvency partner Jun Ho Chung departed the firm. 

Deal highlights

-Blackstone $945 million acquisition of 46% stake in Geo Young Corporation 

-Cheil General Hospital & Women’s Healthcare Center ARS restructuring 

-Hanwha Systems KRX Kospi IPO

-Hyundai Card $330 million ABS

-KB Financial $1.7 billion acquisition of Prudential Life Korea 

-Thu Thiem Eco Smart City development

-TPG Capital $131 million acquisition financing 

Client feedback

Capital markets: Debt

“They were focused and knew what to do without much explanation.” 

Private equity 

“Expert knowledge in laws and regulations related to private equity.” 

Gun Kim 

“They helped us navigate intricate issues in a timely manner.” 

Young Su Shin 

“Experienced and good legal knowledge.” 

Ashurst

Ashurst is a London-based international law firm with 1600 lawyers across 27 offices in Australia, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America. The firm’s Korean legal practice is run from its office in Hong Kong. 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm’s Korean legal practice is best known for handling covered bonds to debt capital markets transactions, securitisation, derivatives and structured products in the financial services sector. Its corporate team advises on cross-border, outbound acquisitions and investments for its Korean clients. 

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include KB Securities, Hangang Asset Management, Korea Development Bank, Mizuho Bank, Hyundai Motor Company, Petrochemical Industries Company and Innocean Worldwide. 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period the firm kept busy advising on financing mandates, structured notes programmes and OTC derivatives matters. The corporate team handled joint ventures, investments and acquisitions in the automotive, petrochemical, technology and real estate industries. 

Ashurst had planned to open an office in Seoul in 2016 but put its plans on hold following the departures of a team of Ashurst partners in Tokyo to launch King & Spalding’s presence there.

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-Hyundai Motor Company / Aptiv  joint venture

-Innocean Worldwide A$265 million acquisition of 85% stake in Wellcom Group

-Ireland social housing PPP

-Milton Gate £120 million senior and mezzanine financing

-Petrochemical Industries Company K.S.C. (PIC) / SKC joint venture

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance is a London-based magic circle law firm with over 3300 lawyers and 34 offices across 23 countries. The firm was one of the first international law firms to establish an office in Seoul in 2012.  

Focusses / specialisms

The firm advises Korean clients in overseas concerns and international companies investing in Korea. It is best known for its UK and US law advice in the debt capital markets work and was historically strong in M&A, particularly in outbound real estate.   

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include Citigroup Global Markets Asia, Societe Generale Asia, JPMorgan Securities, UBS and Shinhan Alternative Investment Management.  

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period the firm kept busy advising on Korean green and formosa bonds alongside programme updates and acquisitions in the logistics sector.  

The firm was hit with the departure of its Korea managing partner Hyun Kim to YKVN’s Singapore office.  

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-Hanwha Group $300 million green bond issue

-K-Water $100 million formosa bond issue

-Pacific Asset Management  and Savills Investment Management €140 million acquisition of two Amazon logistic properties in Dortmund 

Latham & Watkins

Established in California in 1934, Latham & Watkins is an international firm with 2700 lawyers across 29 offices in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The firm’s three-partner-strong office in Seoul was established in 2016 and leverages off its Asia network of offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo. 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm’s Korea practice is best known for M&A and projects and infrastructure transactions, but can also handle venture capital, financing, restructuring, intellectual property, disputes and capital markets matters for its Korean clients. 

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include Hyundai Motor Company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Daelim Energy, Kexim and K-Sure.  

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period the firm handled acquisitions, joint ventures, refinancing and project development mandates in the automotive, power, energy and oil and gas industries.  

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-Hyundai €156 million acquisition of 41.9% stake in Sixt Leasing

-Hyundai Motor Company / Aptiv  joint venture

-Mong Duong 2 1240MW thermal power project

-Mozambique LNG project

Ropes & Gray

Established in 1865, Boston-based Ropes & Gray is an international law firm with over 1400 lawyers and 11 offices across the United States, Asia and Europe. The firm became the first foreign legal consultant office in Korean history when it opened in July 2012.

Focusses / specialisms

The Seoul team is best known for its intellectual property and disputes work, but on the transactional front, it launched its M&A practice in 2013 and is known to act for private equity firms.

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include Bain Capital, LG International, Deutsche Bank Securities and Korea Resources Corporation. 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period the firm kept busy advising on investments, sales, mergers and acquisitions in the mining, technology, biotech, real estate and food and beverage industries.  

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-Bain Capital Credit and CJ Cheiljedang $320 million co-investment in Schwan’s Company

-Hudbay Minerals $75 million acquisition of 7.95% stake in Rosemont Arizona copper mine

-Line Corporation / Z Holdings merger

Seum Law

Seum Law is a Seoul-based Korean technology focused boutique law firm that is a member of the law firm alliance, TAGLaw, and a Korean member of data privacy organisation, Privacy Rules, and Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is known for its commitment to the development of the startup ecosystem in Korea, and often works for start-up companies, technology companies and venture capital funds handling mid-sized M&A deals for the seller. 

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include Myungjin Holdings, Rucipello Korea, Bunjang Corp, Daangn Market, StradVision and CatchItPlay.

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

In 2019, the firm helped a number of startup companies make exits, including Rucipello Korea and Bunjang Corp alongside other private equity and share acquisitions and assisting clients in various funding rounds. 

Also in 2019, the firm was hit with the departures of partners Steve Ahn and Hyemi Kang. 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-Adriel W50 billion series A financing 

-LG Household & Healthcare W2.6 billion acquisition of 76% stake in Rucipello Korea

-Praxis Capital Partners W160 billion acquisition of 80% stake in Bunjang Corp

-Myungjin Holdings $1.7 million acquisition of 50% stake in Seafood Products  

-StradVision W32 billion series B financing  

Shearman & Sterling

Shearman & Sterling is a New York-based international law firm with 850 lawyers across 24 offices. The firm’s Seoul office was established in 2019 and leverages off its global and Asia network to carry out transactions in Greater China, South East Asia, Japan, India, Mongolia and South Korea.

Focusses / specialisms

The Seoul team is focused on advising Korean clients on project-related work across the power, LNG, oil and gas and petrochemical industries. It also coordinates with its network to handle Korea-related arbitration, competition and funds matters. 

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include Mong Duong Finance Holdings, Korea Development Bank, China Telecom Corporation, K-Sure, JPMorgan Securities and Asian Development Bank.  

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period the team kept busy advising on project financing and refinancing mandates, concession and development work in the LNG, power, transport and telecommunications sectors across Vietnam, US, Philippines, Bahrain and Nepal.  

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-Bahrain LNG terminal 

-Chicago Parking Meters project

-Mong Duong 2 project

-Upper Trishuli hydropower project 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Project development

“The firm has a full understanding of requirements and offers prompt feedback with information.”

Project finance

“They are informative and professional.”

“Shearman & Sterling’s Seoul office provides us with clear and reasonable solutions to the disputes between borrower and lender groups.” 

Shin & Kim

Established in 1981, Shin & Kim is a Seoul-based independent Korean law firm with 600 professionals and further offices in Pangyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Jakarta. 

Focusses / specialisms

Shin & Kim has a strong finance and M&A practice but excels in the capital markets, especially in securitisation and bond matters and in handling IPOs where it is a market leader. 

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include Woori Bank, Hyundai Card, ESR Cayman, Asiana Airlines, Alberta Investment Management Corporation, Korea Overseas Infrastructure & Urban Development Corporation and Industrial Bank of Korea.  

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

The firm’s M&A team had a strong year advising on some large deals including outbound mandates, mergers, spin offs, joint ventures, divestments and acquisitions in the aviation, private equity, financial services, chemicals, technology and food and beverage industries.  

The capital markets team was highly active advising in a spate of IPOs in Korea and Hong Kong alongside covered bonds and securitisation transactions.  

The finance team kept busy with acquisition financing, refinancing and private equity mandates, while projects handled PPPs and a host of outbound LNG, transport, gas, coal, offshore wind, solar and power projects in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, US and Vietnam.  

During the research period the firm boosted its capital markets practice with the hires of Yong Kook Lee from the Korea Exchange and Jong-Ho Song from Taekwang Industrial. The corporate team brought in Hyoung Soo Kim from Lee & Ko and Jinwon Park from O’ Melveny & Myers. Partner Joon Hyug Chung departed for Seoul University.  

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-HDC Hyundai Development Company and Mirae Asset Daewoo $2.2 billion acquisition of Asiana Airlines 

-Hyundai Card KRX IPO

-Lotte Card $592 million acquisition financing 

-Shinan 150MW (450MWh ESS) photovoltaic power plant project

-YBL insolvency 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019/2020)

Capital markets: Debt

“The firm's positive attributes are its vast knowledge about debt products and its quick execution capability in providing opinions.”

Investment funds 

“The experienced team helped us to solve various issues with our counter parties and handled communications with government authorities in the States and in South Korea.”

M&A

“They are client-oriented, smart, seasoned professionals and have a good network with government.”

“Experienced in the M&A market in Korea.”

“Very responsive, quick turnarounds and technically very sound.”

“I very much enjoyed working with Shin & Kim. Not only do they provide advice coming from decades of experience in corporate M&A and restructuring, they do their best to be always available for time-sensitive matters throughout the process of an entire deal. Their advice is always timely and reliable.”

“Shin & Kim’s team always performed beyond our expectations. They are highly experienced in the Corporate/M&A field and knowledgeable of it, too. Over the past year, I have worked with Shin & Kim's lawyers on many M&A matters. Shin & Kim’s team prioritised our requests, therefore no matter how urgent it was they made me satisfied with timely services which were never overdue of the deadline. Also, frequent discussions with the lawyers helped me to prepare for a more strategic deal structure and elaborate contract. So I felt we had good support and guidance from them in every M&A matter. These days, I usually count on Shin & Kim for legal assistance on our important corporate matters. I often ask for their advice on short notice and call the lawyers late at night or weekends. However, I always get the same and high quality client service from them. I was very impressed with their dedication and expertise. I think they are one of the best firms we have worked with in the field of corporate advisory. I can always turn to Shin & Kim's Corporate/M&A team for legal assistance on our most important and urgent matters.”

Project development 

“Commercial, excellent presentation of advice and solid drafting.”

Real estate 

“They provide legal services for investment in foreign markets. They have lawyers who are not only capable as lawyers but also communicate efficiently for business.”

“Provides efficient capital structure and loan arrangements for the complicated and rare transaction structures.” 

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

Formed in 1948, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom is a New York-based international law firm with 1700 lawyers across 22 offices. The firm established its office in Seoul in 2014. 

Focusses / specialisms

The Seoul office is focussed on advising Korean and international companies on M&A, private equity and capital markets transactions, as well as energy and infrastructure deals and international disputes matters.

Key clients

Key clients of the firm include Hanwha Aerospace, Simone Investment Managers, Hanwha Systems, SK Biopharmaceuticals and Hanwha Group. 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019/2020)

During the research period the firm kept busy advising on mergers, joint ventures, acquisitions and development work in the aviation, real estate, automotive and pharmaceuticals industries. 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019/2020)

-Hanwha Aerospace $300 million acquisition of EDAC Technologies

-Hanwha Systems / Overair joint venture

-Nikola / VectoIQ Acquisition merger