White & Case has launched a new office in Seoul to strengthen and expand its Korea practice.

The new Seoul office, which is the firm’s seventh in Asia and 39th globally, will be headed by litigator James Lee, who leads the Korea practice group and will relocate to Seoul from Los Angeles. Lee will be joined initially by Mark Goodrich, a construction practice group partner in London who will be transferring to Seoul, and Kyungseok Kim, who recently joined the firm as a partner in its global M&A practice.

"Asia is a strategically important region for the firm," Hugh Verrier, White & Case’s chairman says. "We’ve had an active Korea practice for many years, and now the office in Seoul will allow us to provide on-the-ground support for our clients in their complex, cross-border work."

White & Case established its Korea practice over 20 years ago, and a physical presence is aimed to support its long-term project finance clients, as well as broadening its role advising on mergers and acquisitions, private equity, commercial litigation and international arbitration matters.

The Korean legal market is undergoing a protracted period of liberalisation following bilateral agreements 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.