Aug 18, 2015

Navigating the Korean Bureaucracy one Beer at a Time

Slate has an interesting article on the Craft Beer scene in Korea.  I was interested in the article, since I get many calls from breweries with interest in understanding the laws related to brewing beers in Korea.  I, also, enjoy seeing these entrepreneurs succeed in a industry that is still dominated by major local and international players.

I wish, however, these individuals would consider that, often, sound advice is an investment that is as important as their brewing equipment.  Many of the problems I see are, directly, caused by a lack of willingness to obtain competent legal and business advisers.

I agree with the basic understandings of the article - law in Korea is, often, applied unequally and is, often, not even known by those regulating the industry.  Additionally, often, laws have little or no relation to the law's purpose.

The article notes, in part, that:
"None of the brewery heads believe that this legislation was designed to protect Hite and OB. 
Bryan Do wrote me: “[Hite and OB] are way too big to care about us little boys now. ... Word around town it is being spearheaded by the other smaller general license holders who feel that there are too many microbreweries popping up and reduce competition.” 
Erik Moynihan, CEO of Magpie Brewing Company, agreed, adding in an email that the newer general breweries that opened up with huge investments “haven’t had much luck penetrating the market and are in a vulnerable spot when the tiny guys making low investments (comparatively) can reap all of the same benefits—and are growing quickly. 
... In my opinion it [is an] attempt to unbalance the playing field: People with the money to ‘go big’ expect added benefits, protection, or access to specific sales channels.” 
The article is an interesting and amusing look at an industry and Korean regulations.  The article may be found at: Suds Korea.
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Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the first non-Korean attorney to have worked for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty. Sean is ranked, for Korea, as one of only two non-Korean lawyers as a Top Attorney by AsiaLaw. Sean's profile may be found at: Sean C. Hayes