What can Korea Learn From Ireland? by Senior Advisor Tom Coyner

My recent essay, “Denuclearization – Korea’s Red Herring,” stirred much discussion. Most reaction was favorable, but there was also some heated controversy. I had a chance to engage at depth with two ambassadors to Korea. Both diplomats were quite familiar, of course, with North and South Korea. This article is a reposting of an article from 2012, but seems pertinent for, also, today. I will try to fairly represent both ambassadors’ perspectives since one man was skeptical and the other was encouraging of my ideas. Readers may draw their own conclusions. The first ambassador is from Eastern Europe. He began his career under a socialist government and is therefore in a privileged position of viewing North Korea both from the perspective of a once sympathetic ally and from what may now be assumed to be a more balanced vantage point. This ambassador’s argument was that my recommended shift in diplomacy

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Antitrust/Competition Consent Orders in Korea

in 2011, the Korean National Assembly passed, along with the Korea-U.S. FTA and related bills, a law that  allows the Fair Trade Commission of Korea (KFTC) to accept consent orders.  A consent order is similar, in many respects, to a nolo contendere plea. The consent order process has allowed the KFTC to punish without the admission of guilt to the company. This has lead to a decrease, in recent years, of a burden on the KFTC, more efficient enforcement proceedings, and has sped up many M & A deals – while allowing companies doing business in Korea to more adequately gauge the risk of a certain actions by the company. The disposition is similar, in a criminal matter, to a nolo contendere (no contest).  In short, the accused accepts the proposed punishment, however, doesn’t admit guilt. Thus, the company may save a little face and time, while the government is

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Korean Merger Control and the Korean FTC

The Monopoly Regulation & Fair Trade Act of Korea (Fair Trade Act of Korea) is the main regulation governing mergers and acquisitions in Korea.  In the majority of cases, reporting and approval is not required for a target company with a yearly turnover of less than KRW 20 billion. The specific jurisdictional thresholds shall be addressed in a followup article.  This article is intended to, simply, provide a list of the main Merger Control issues .  A more substantive article shall follow. The following types of transactions are required to be reported and approved, in most cases, by the Fair Trade Commission of Korea (“KFTC”). Purchase of 15% of the shares of a listed domestic company; Purchase of 20% of the shares of a non-listed company; Establishment of a joint venture or increasing shareholdings to meet the thresholds in 1 or 2 above; Merger with a company; or Purchase of

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English-Speaking Criminal Defense Team Lead by Retired Korean Presiding Judge

IPG’s Criminal Defense Team is lead by a leading Korean criminal defense attorney – retired Judge SJ Kook.  Hiring a proactive, connected and respected lawyer in Korea is essential in all criminal matters in Korea. Judge Kook, to date, has earned, for clients, over 60 not guilty verdicts.  He works on may Korean criminal matters with Sean Hayes, a retired prosecutor and internationally-experienced Korean attorneys. Judge Kook is a graduate of Seoul National University and Columbia Law School.  He retired as a presiding judge.  For more info on IPG please see: www.ipglegal.com IPG’s Representative Criminal Defense Cases: Not guilty verdicts for two employees of a major American defense company in a criminal prosecution concerning Korean defense contracts. Not guilty verdict for an American military officer charged with a violent crime. Not guilty verdict for an employee of an American defense contractor charged with a violent crime. Obtained a suspended jail sentence

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Korea’s Improper Solicitation & Graft Act?: Scope of Application

The Scope of Application of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act of Korea (“Graft Act”) was a hotly contested issue that led to Korean court challenges.  The Constitutional Court of Korea has upheld the Graft Act of Korea.  More details, including a list of articles on the Graft Law of Korea, may be found at: Improper Solicitation & Graft Act of Korea. The Scope of Application is defined in Article 2 & Article 11 of the Bribery Act.  The Act applies to both Korean and foreign nationals.  The Act applies to foreign nationals, only, for prohibited acts within Korea and to Koreans for prohibited acts universe wide. Summary of the Scope of Application of the Graft Act of Korea Article 1(a) Institutions Highest Government Organs (National Assembly, Ordinary Courts, Constitutional Court) Other Government Organs (election commissions, Board of Audit and Inspection, Human Rights Commission) Central Government Administrative Agencies Local Governments

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Challenging a Korean Immigration Deportation/Exit Order in Korea

Being convicted of a crime in Korea, may lead to deportation.  If you are issued a deportation/exit order from the Korean Immigration Service, you do have avenues to reverse this deportation order within the courts. The Courts of Korea have jurisdiction to review all exit/deportation orders issued by Korean Immigration.  Korean courts will look to whether: A.  The order complies with the law; and B.  Whether Immigration has abused its discretion. Under law, Immigration Services of Korea has broad power in the issuing of deportation and exit orders. Korean law imposes restrictions on actions by Immigration under certain visa categories.  If Immigration complied with law, an Immigration’s order may be challenged under Korea’s “abuse of discretion” jurisprudence. The Korean Courts have noted that any government action must not do more harm to the life of an individual than it does good to the Korean public.  Many Immigration cases at the

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The Signs of a Great Criminal Lawyer in Korea | English-Speaking Criminal Defense Attorney in Seoul

There are few great English-fluent criminal defense lawyers working in Korea, because of the nature of the Korean criminal justice system and other Korean realities.  It is even more difficult to find competent English-speaking criminal defense attorneys outside of Seoul. In Korea, in all cases, where you are accused of a crime and you fear that you may be sentenced to time in a Korean jail, may be deported from Korea or the Korean conviction may harm your future – hire, quickly, an experienced and proactive defense attorney in Korea with experience in Korean criminal law prior to any interrogations by the Korean police or prosecution. As I mentioned in a post entitled English-Speaking Criminal Defense Lawyers in Korea: Who to Hire – Who Not to Hire. “Sadly, few lawyers, in Korea, are useful for criminal matters, since few lawyers are proactive when it comes to matters concerning the Korean

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Fiduciary Duties of Korean Directors/Representative & Controlling Shareholders of Korean Companies

Directors of companies, registered in Korea, many be held criminally and civilly liable for acts as a director (in limited cases even controlling shareholder can be held criminally liable).  Many acts (or inactions) that would not be deemed criminal in the West are, often, deemed criminal in Korea.  Additionally, matters that are considered in the West as mere “civil” matters, often, begin and end at the Korean prosecutor’s office. A little due diligence, complying with corporate formalities, nuanced corporate governance practices and a little street smarts coupled with good liability insurance is a good start in succeeding in business in Korea. We have been on both sides of matters were directors (and even controlling shareholders) have been prohibited from departing Korea, jailed and fined.  In most cases, liability is unlimited and it is presumed that a director has complied with the decision of the Board of Directors if no dissent

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Korean Compliance Checklist for your Business in Korea

The following Korean Compliance Checklist is intended to provide, only, a basic overview of the necessaries for keeping the law and shareholders off your back.  We, highly, recommend having a compliance audit preformed – if you have not completed a compliance audit of your Korean business in the past or recently.   1.  Do you Have a Registered Company/Business? Operating in Korea is not as simple as just leasing an office.  All businesses whether in the form of a corporation or sole proprietorship in Korea are required to register as business with the tax office and local government offices.  For some businesses the approval of a government agency shall be required.  Other articles on Korean corporate forms may be found at: Establishing a Company in Korea: Under Revised Corporate Code Limited Liability Companies Under the Revised Korean Commercial Code 2.  Do you Have Employment Agreements, Employment Rules, License Agreements, Joint

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Korean Medical Malpractice Law and the Medical Malpractice Arbitration System

IPG has handled numerous medical malpractice matters for plaintiffs and defendants of medical malpractice cases in Korea in Seoul courts and we were, prior, to having knowledge of the composition of the new Korean Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency very pessimistic about its usefulness for plaintiffs. When we first heard about the enactment of the new Korean medical malpractice law we were skeptical if the system would be useful for plaintiffs, since, often, the court and prosecutors are able to assert more pressure on doctors than this Commission and worried that this agency would be dominated by doctors. However, after a discussion with one of the standing commissioners of the Korean Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency, who we know well and who we worked with in the past, we have come to realize that the composition of the panel lends itself to providing a fair forum for both

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Success in Life & Business in Korea by Senior Adviser to IPG

The most important lesson I learned from the Peace Corps was an inner sense of humility.  By my naturally contrarian nature, I have mixed feelings about having once been a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea. For example, I try to focus on being an international business development consultant, but every so often when a newspaper or magazine discovers I served in Korea during the 1970s as a Peace Corps volunteer, too often the reporter wishes to focus on my past rather than what I’m doing 30 or more years later. Frankly speaking, I want to use the reporter as much as the reporter wishes to use me. The reporter often wants a human interest story, and I want some free publicity for my business. Usually, what is printed does nothing for my business. But free publicity is still free publicity, so I play along. But all of this ends up

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Is your Korean Employee a Dispatched Worker and Thus a De Facto “Employee” under the Korean Labor Standards Act?

In 2015, the Korean Supreme Court detailed standards in determining if a Subcontracted Worker in Korea is actually a Dispatched Worker and, thus, a de facto employee of your Korean Company.  The designation has implications for retirement benefits, employment security and the payment of benefits. Dispatched Workers vs. Subcontracted Workers Companies employ, in Korea, often workers via manpower supply companies and via subcontracting agreements.  These employees are not retained directly by the Company, but are retained via a manpower company (“Dispatched Worker”) or a subcontracting agreement (“Subcontracted Worker”). The difference in these two type of relationships lies in the control over the workers – not in the mere nature of the retention according to the Korean Courts.  If the Company has a sufficient degree of control over the worker, in the eyes of the specific Korean court, the worker is deemed a Dispatched Worker and, thus, an employee of the

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Consequences of a Business Transfer in Korea: Employee Transfer?

In Korea, there is no statutory provision for the protection of employees in the event of a business transfer. Therefore, it has been left to the Korean courts to decide whether, and in what circumstances, employee transfer may occur as part of a business transfer.  The following is a basic explanation of the law of business transfer in Korea as it relates to the relationship between an employer and an employee. The Korean courts have generally held that, in the event of a business transfer, unless the employee objects, the employment relationship between the employee and employer (transferor) will automatically transfer to the transferee (without any need for the specific consent of the employee) – inclusive of the terms and conditions of the employment relationship existing at the time of closing of the business transfer, unless otherwise agreed to.  However, while it is a fairly well-established principle, this right to

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Sean Hayes Presentation to Korea Business Forum: The Korean Labour Law v. the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Sean Hayes commented on legal issues related to Korean Labour Law and Korean startups for the Korea Business Forum on October 18, 2018 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul, Korea.  The Korean Business Forum is a group of professionals that share insight and their experience on issues related to doing business in Korea. The group is one of the most renowned business groups in Korea. “KBF meets twelve times a year and provides an opportunity for  senior executives to discuss among themselves and with experts specific issues likely to impact their operations and strategies in Korea and North East Asia. The form portrays a local and regional peerspective on today’s business environment in Korea and by combinijng the knowledge of EABC, KABC, outside speakers and AXP analysis’ ideas are presentaed to challenge participants. A stimulating and dynamic environment is provided with authoritative presentations which allow executivees to look beyond

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Liquidated Damages v. Penalties in Korean contracts

As an American attorney, it’s a bit strange for me to read a Korean contract and see how the word “penalty” is used.  In the United States (as well as other common law jurisdictions), when a contract contains a “penalty,” the clause is invalidated. Korea, however, allows some “penalties” in contracts. Cutting to the chase, this is merely an issue of confusing and overlapping terminology.  But since its confusing, its worth explaining. To start with, a bit of background on liquidated damages.  Liquidated damages refer to damages, the amount of which, the parties designate during formation of a contract as compensation for non-breaching parties in the event of breach.   In the US and other common law jurisdictions, liquidated damages clauses are invalidated if the purpose is to punish the breaching party, rather than to compensate the injured party.  These clauses are referred to by the court as “penalties.” Now, contrary

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Choice of Law Issues in Employment Disputes in Korea

Choice of law/jurisdiction issue often arise in Korea when an agreement chooses a law/jurisdiction for resolution of a dispute other than Korea, internal conflicts in the agreement exist (yes this happens) or no choice of law/jurisdiction clause was chosen and the agreement seems to be better handled by a foreign court, or by the law of the foreign jurisdiction, because of, inter alia, the locale of witnesses and the subject matter of the agreement. Choice of law/jurisdiction issues are governed in Korea mainly by Korea’s Private International Act (KPIA).  However, other acts often trump the KPIA, or else the courts use built-in “public policy” arguments to allow Korean law to trump the non-Korean chosen law. For example, in the majority of employment law disputes, Korea courts have invalidated choice of the law and jurisdiction clauses that note a law or jurisdiction other than Korea. For example, if a employer hiring someone for

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Enforcing Punitive & Liquidated Damages Awards against Korean Companies via Contracts with Foreign Subsidiaries of Korean Companies

A recent amendment of the Korean Civil Procedure Act added Article 217-2.  The Amendment has codified a holding by the Seoul Central District Court and other Korean courts noting, in part, that Korean Courts may refuse to “recognize foreign damage awards that clearly exceed amounts considered reasonable in Korea in violation of good morals and the social order of Korea” (99 KaHap 14496, S. Cent. Distr. Court, 10/20/2000). The Amendment allows Korean Courts, in Korea, the power to not recognize a damage award that the Korean Court’s perceives as “excessive.”  This standard-less “standard” leaves much wiggle room for Korean Courts. A typical situation is a case where an American importer sues a Korean conglomerate in a U.S. Court and damages are awarded to the U.S. company.  The damages may include liquidated, punitive and non-“actual” damages.  The American importer, then, attempts to enforce the judgment in Korea. There is a simple

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Exit Ban of Foreigners in Korea for Not Paying Taxes, Custom Duties or Violation of Law: Immigration Law Basics

The Korean Immigration Control Act and related acts allows the potential to permanently impose an exit ban on foreigners for nearly all acts that are determined by the Ministry of Justice as “harming the interest, public safety or order in the economy of the Republic of Korea” until the reason for the exit ban ceases to exist. (Immigration Control Act of Korea Article 4(1)5.) The Immigration Control Act of Korea, also, always Korean government agencies to request the imposition of an exit ban on foreigners.  Determination of the Ministry of Justice may be appealed within the Ministry and if turned down – may be appealed to the Administrative Court of Korea. Yes, this post is related to a matter we are presently handling.  The relevant provisions of Korean law includes: Immigration Control Act, Article 4 (Prohibition of Departure) Immigration Control Act, Article 4-2 (Extension of Period of Prohibition of Departure)

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Employment Background Checks in Korea: Not so Different from China

My friends over at the China Law Blog posted an article quoting the Chinese Business Leadership blog that noting that: “We were placing a GM for a Western family owned factory. They are small and troubled.  We found 15 thoroughly qualified candidates for the position. We had candidates tell us they worked at a company 5 years when they only worked. We had candidates tell us they were super valuable,  and the company does not want to let them go. We were able to find out that they were fired a year before while still in probation. As the last of the group of 15 refused to come clean and give us an accurate resume, we shook our heads in dismay. We are excellent at interviews and interview 90 minutes as our goal is to know. Despite that, we were unable to uncover these issues before the background check. We

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Distribution Agreements in Korea: Crawl before you Walk

Prior to going into any relationship with a distributor/agent in Korea, please read my post entitled: Finding a Korean Distributor: The Top 10 Things to Know Before Going to Bed with a Distributor in Korea. Please read that post in combination with this post, prior to engaging a distributor in Korea. We see too many Korean distribution agreements that are mere spun U.S. or European agreements.  Please have your Korean distribution agreement and all agreements you have in Korea drafted by an experienced and proactive attorney that has on-the-ground experience in Korea.  We see too many issues that could have been easily resolved by a carefully drafted agreement and a little due diligence. Issues to consider for your Korean Distribution Agreement: Will your distributor in Korea be your agent?  If the Korean distributor is an agent, generally, you will, only, be paying your agent In Korea a commission and you will be

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