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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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 and agency 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

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Distribution Agreement in Korea: Factors to Always Keep in Mind

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. We see too many distribution agreements that are mere spun U.S. distribution or agent agreements. Please have your 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 distributor is an agent, generally, you will, only, be paying your agent a commission and you will be directly invoicing the client.

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Korean Tax Incentives for 2020: Korean Tax Law Updates

Because of increased tax liabilities of many companies in Korea and because of perceived deteriorating market conditions, the Korean government implemented programs that may assist some SMEs, and larger companies doing business in Korea. Numerous conditions apply for each of these incentive/abatement tax programs below. The following is, only, intended as a basic explanation of the programs that may be available to businesses operating in Korea. Tax Support for Investments in Korea Investments in facilities that “improve productivity” shall receive an increased tax credit for a period over two years. For large businesses, there shall be an increase from 1% to 2%; medium-sized businesses, from 3% to 5%; and small businesses, from 7% to 10%. Relaxed standards for family business inheritance tax deductions. After-care periods shall be reduced from ten years to seven years. For seven years, the business is required to maintain its present headcount or aggregate payroll. Expansion

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Mergers & Acquisition Arbitration Matters under Korean Law at the KCAB

Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) lead to disputes around the world, many of which are complex and involve money that may change substantially the future of a company, shareholders, employees and other stakeholders. Korea is no different in this respect. Korea witnessed the number of its cross-border transaction disputes explode during the 1997 IMF crisis and continue to steadily increase ever since. Many of these issues ended in arbitration and many others lead to criminal charges and into the Korean courts. While there are no readily available published statistics on the number of M&A transactions relating to Korea that led to arbitration , market trends show that the number of disputes have grown in relation to the overall growth of the M&A market. This article shall discuss the frequency of M&A disputes in Korea, the most common M&A issues arbitrated in Korea, as well as the procedural norms for damages and

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Korean Workplace Discrimination Laws

There are numerous Korean labor and employment laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees in a Korean workplace. These Korean workplace discrimination laws are found in a myriad of Korean statutes and regulations. This article on Korea’s discrimination laws shall provide a quick guide as to where employers and employees can locate the basic requirements under law. The major pieces of legislation are the following: the Korean Labor Standards Act; the Korean Equal Employment Opportunity Act; the Korean Fixed-term Workers Act; and the Act on Prohibition of Age Discrimination in Employment and Elderly Employment Promotion of Korea. The Labor Standards Act of Korea The Labor Standards Act (“LSA”) is one of the primary sources of labor law in Korea and provides minimum standards for conditions of all employment. As far as discrimination is concerned, Article 6 of the LSA prohibits employers in Korea from discriminating based on gender.

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How to Invest in Korean Free Economic Zones (KFEZs): Korean Market Entry

Korean Free Economic Zones (KFEZs) are specially designated areas designed to improve the business and living environments for foreign firms looking to invest in Korea. In 2003, Korea’s very first KFEZ was launched in Incheon following the passing of the adoption of the “Act on Designation and Management of the Free Economic Zones.” Since then an additional seven have begun operation, bringing the grand total of KFEZs in Korea to eight. Companies with business in KFEZs are eligible for tax credits and other incentives under the Foreign Investment Promotion Act (FIPA). FIPA’s recent amendments passed in 2019 to provide better analysis on FDI impact on the Korean economy. For an article on this issue please: Revision to Korea’s Foreign Investment Promotion Act. As shown above, there are KFEZs operating in Incheon, Busan-Jinhae, Gwangyang Bay Area, Daegu-Gyeongbuk, Saemangeum-Gunsan, the Yellow Sea Coastal Area, and in Chungbuk. Each FEZ focuses on attracting

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Korean Arbitration: An Introduction

Korean Arbitration has come a long way since the ratification of the New York Convention in 1973. The Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB) went from a small organization handling a handful of cases to, now, and organization handling hundred of arbitration cases each year. The number of international arbitrations is, also, on the rise. This article shall give readers the backstory of how Korean arbitration as a dispute mechanism tool has developed over the years in Korea; review the key industries involved in arbitration; and provide a quick overview of the mainstay arbitration institution in Korea: the KCAB. 1973 – 2020: Arbitration in Korea Over the Years The Korea Arbitration Act was enacted into law in 1966. The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, aka the “New York Arbitration Convention” or “New York Convention,” is the Magna Carta of international arbitration. The New Arbitration Convention was

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Suspending Korean Workers without Pay due to Economic Fallout from the Coronavirus: Korean Employment Law Basics

IPG has numerous client-employers in Korea that are facing serious economic conditions because of the spread of the coronavirus across Korea. In my nearly two decades, in Korea, we have never seen such a dire situation. This situation seems, on its face, even more dire for those in F & B and certain manufacturing sectors than the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis (IMF Crisis). Yes, I was even in Korea during the Asian Financial Crisis. Korea, as of the writing of this post, is approaching 6,000 confirmed cases (35 confirmed deaths) of the novel coronavirus. While arguments exist that this virus is less serious, in the aggregate, than the seasonal flu, the reality is that business in Korea, and throughout much of the world, has been drastically affected by COVID-19. Some of these companies doing business in Korea have no logical choice but to, among other things, temporarily layoff workers, reduce

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Challenging an Arbitrator at the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board

In our last post we discussed, at length, the benefits of arbitration in Korea over litigation in a Korean court. We shall be updating the reader of numerous issues related to arbitration over the next couple of weeks. The following posts concerns challenging of an arbitrator at the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board. Thus, what happens in a situation when you, as a party in a Korean arbitration, feel that the arbitrator is acting in a manner inconsistent with his or her duties as an arbitrator? At a minimum, all arbitrator should be “independent and impartial” and “capable” – the vast majority of arbitrators are independent, impartial and capable. However, issues can sometimes arise that require the challenging of the arbitrator – we suggest proceeding with caution and care – an unsuccessful challenge can, of course, prejudice your case. Impartiality/Independence of an Arbitrator in Korea Korean Law lays out the duties

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Korea Due Diligence for Joint Ventures, Licensing, OEMs and Buying a Korean Company

Intending to execute a joint venture agreement with a Korean company? Buying a Korean company? Licensing technology to a Korean company? OEM with a Korean supplier? Selling to a Korean company?Before going to bed with a Korean company (or individual) do a little due diligence.  The motivation for this article is an article by my friends over at the China Law Blog. Due diligence in Korea is not much different than due diligence in China.  However, don’t forget what is said below: “get someone who truly knows what he or she is doing” to assist with the due diligence.  We see too many Korean lawyers and Korean business professionals with a lot of ego, but little on-the-ground high-level Korean experience or an inability to think strategically and proactively.  The few great due diligence professionals in Korea are, typically, not found easily at the ubiquitous Korean Law Firms, because of issues

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The Case for Arbitration over Litigation in Korea

Many of you are prospectively weighing the options of executing contracts with and without arbitration clauses in Korean contracts (aka setting yourself up for prospective litigation battles in Korean courts or resolving a dispute in Korea with the help of an arbitration panel). Thus, this article is intended to consider the option of arbitration over litigation in Korea. In most cases, IPG recommends arbitration over litigation for expat companies doing business in Korea and/or with Korean companies. While of course every case is unique, we at IPG have found great success over the years fighting for our clients amidst the backdrop of arbitration. Our Korean International Arbitration Team was, recently, ranked the top Dispute Resolution Firm in Korea. Benefits of Korean Arbitration over Litigation in Korean Courts Language: If you are not a native to Korea, there is a high chance that you do not speak the Korean language fluently

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Leading Commercial Arbitration Law Firm in Korea

IPG is one of the leading Korean law firms retained for international arbitration matters by multinational companies in need of efficient, proactive and non-conflicted advocacy in Korea, North America and East Asia. IPG was recently ranked as a top Dispute Resolution Law Firm. We work on complex international commercial arbitration disputes, investor-State arbitration disputes, construction arbitration disputes, and a myriad of other commercial disputes for international companies doing business in Korea and/or with Korean companies. Locally Connected – Globally Experienced: International Arbitration Team IPG is, often, chosen over the ubiquitous Korean-based law firms when non-conflicted, aggressive and efficient advocacy is necessary for success. We are, intentionally, different from the crowd. All international arbitration matters are personally handled by attorneys with significant international and local experience. Our attorneys have judicial, large law firm, in house and/or government experience and most have studied and practiced law in Korea & abroad. IPG shall

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IPG Korea Dispute Resolution Law Firm of the Year

IPG’s Korean Office was awarded the distinction as the Korea Dispute Resolution Law Firm of the year by a well-known international business journal in the United Kingdom. The journal is known for producing tailored news and guides for multinational companies doing business in Asia, North America and Europe. IPG is thrilled that, based on feedback from a survey, our frankness, street-smart advice, non-conflicted advocacy and efficiencies created by a cutting-edge case management system was highly appreciated by our clients. For a consultation with an attorney in Korea please: Contact IPG.

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Korean Smart City Opportunities for Foreign and Domestic Companies Doing Business in Korea

The Korean government’s “2020 Smart Challenge” is officially rolling out with the Act on the Promotion of Smart City Development and Industry of Korea. The Act is coming into effect on Feb. 27, 2020. The Korean government is, specifically, launching three separate projects called: Korean City Challenge Open to large, SMEs and startup companies. Intended to encourage creative and technological solutions to problems in cities. Smart-mobility may be a large focus of the governments initiative. Korean Town Challenge Open to large, SMEs and startup companies. Intended to encourage businesses to create localized solutions to issues facing towns. Korean Solution Challenge Open to large, SMEs and startup companies. Intended to encourage the creation of smart solutions to issues facing towns and cities. such as smart crosswalks, smart playgrounds and other one-off solutions to issues. This 2020 Smart Challenge initiative shall be under a regulatory sandbox (an enclosed environment, supported by a

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Korea prepares itself for Big Data-driven 4th Industrial Revolution: Korean Data Protection Laws Revised

On January 9, 2020, the National Assembly of Korea passed the “Three Data Act” of Korea. Implementation of the Act shall begin in June of 2020. The Korean Three Data Act iterates protections for, in general: personal information; information and communication; and business & individual credit information. IPG shall be writing more on this data protection issue over the next couple of months, please check back for more details. Three Data Act of Korea According to an article entitled the “Major Revisions and Significance of The Three Data Act” from the Legal Times, there are four major changes. “1. The personal information system shall be clearly divided into three sub-categories: personal information, pseudonym information, and anonymous information. Specifically, for pseudonym information, detailed regulations shall be established. 2. The Personal Information Protection Commission’s role shall be changed to a unified supervisory organization over all personal information. 3. All provisions related to

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52-Hour Workweek Delayed in Korea for SMEs: Korean Labor Law Update

The Korean government delayed the implementation of the 52-hour workplace system for certain small and medium size companies. This System is intended to apply to all companies in Korea and mandates that no employee may work for an employer for more than 52-hours in any one week. The Ministry of Employment and Labor of Korea announced, on December 11, 2019, that the 52-hour workplace system is suspended for SMEs (Employers with less than 300 workers) until the end of 2020. The Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor made the announcement, because of fears that the measure may harm these businesses. We are of the opinion that because of recent changes in the enforcement of Korean labor laws, it is advisable to revise company employment rules, agreements and have a compliance audit for your company in Korea. If you would like a call with an attorney at IPG, please schedule a

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Definition of “Ordinary Wage” in Korea: Korean Employment & Labor Law Basics

The courts of the Republic of Korea, for years, has struggled to find a consistent interpretation of an “Ordinary Wage.”  The definition of Ordinary Wage, under Korean Law, was clarified by the Korean Supreme Court in two decisions handed down on December 18, 2013.  The calculation of Ordinary Wages is important, since it is utilized to calculate statutory entitlements, and thus has an impact on the aggregate amount of contributions necessary to be paid to employees. For example, according to Article 56 of the Korean Labor Standards Act, an employer must pay 50% of the Ordinary Wage plus the Ordinary Wage for overtime, night and weekend work performed by the employee. Because of the potential for a large unknown future liability, this issue became the most significant issue, in the last few years, among domestic and foreign employers in labor and employment law in Korea. The basic Korean test is

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The Korean Corporate Restructuring Promotion Act of 2018: Korean Insolvency Law Updates

The recently enacted Korean Corporate Restructuring Promotion Act (hereinafter as “CRPA”) focuses on facilitating “…constant corporate restructuring and promotes the stabilization of financial markets and the development of the national economy, by providing for matters necessary to promptly and efficiently implement corporate improvement of enterprises with signs of insolvency.” (Art 1 (Purpose) CRPA). The CRPA is intended to facilitate out-of-Korean-court restructuring procedures. Often, debtors prefer out-of-court proceedings over in-court proceeding, because the belief that out-of-court proceedings shall lead to more flexibility and less costs. In October 2018 a revised version of CRPA 2016 entered into force. The revised CRPA, provides eased legal conditions for creditor banks. The key amendments to Korean CRPA 2018 are noted below. Liability-Exemption for Creditors Acts and Omissions Creditor financial institutions, their officers and employees have liability while restructuring a debtor company. But they shall not be responsible for the results, if they properly fulfilled their

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Minimum Wage Raised in Korea for 2020: Employment Law Updates

South Korea has chosen to raise the minimum wage by 2.9% for 2020 to KRW 8,590 (c. USD 7.11).  The Minimum Wage Commission of Korea set the wage at a lower than expected increase because of deteriorating economic conditions in Korea. President Moon’s plan to raise the minimum wage to KRW 10,000 per hour shall fall short, because of, among other things, a slower than expected growth rate and regional geopolitical issues facing Korea.  We shall keep the reader updated when more is known.

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