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. (c) Sean Hayes – SJ IPG. All Rights reserved.  Do not duplicate any content on this blog without the express written permission of the author. [email protected]

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The New Korean In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Act 2020

As proposed in April 2019 by the Korean Chair of the Health and Welfare Committee, the Korean In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices Act (hereinafter as “Korean In Vitro Act”) intends to, among other things,: “…ensure the safety and quality of in vitro diagnostic medical devices, to strengthen global competitiveness thereof, and furthermore, to contribute to the improvement of public health and the development of vitro diagnostic medical devices, by specifying matters concerning the manufacture, import, management, and support of such devices” (Korean In vitro Act, Purpose). Major Regulations of the Korean In Vitro Act 2020 The Minister of Food and Drug Safety “…shall classify and designate the class of each in vitro diagnostic medical device in conformity with the intended use of each device and differences in their potential risks to individual and/or public health.” If someone intend to manufacture or import in vitro diagnostic medical devices, he or she

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Exclusion of Japan from Export/Import White List

South Korea is on track toward barring Japan from its export control white list this month, in a blow for blow reaction to Tokyo’s prior choice to expel Seoul from its favored nation trading regime. On July 1, 2019 the Japanese government restricted the export to Korea of three classes of materials: fluorinated polyimide, photoresist and hydrogen fluoride.  These chemicals are utilized in important export-driven manufacturing operations in Korea.  Seemingly, the restriction is in reaction to a Korean Supreme Court case concerning liability of Japanese companies to the Korean victims of WWII sex slavery. Starting in July, the total volume of imports of these three materials remained at $800 billion and represented around 1.8 percent of all imports from Japan. The restrictions have not prompted any imminent problems for Korean manufacturer according to the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy. It was announced by the Korean Ministry of Trade,

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Korea’s Amendment to the Act on the Arrival, Departure, etc. of Ships: Korean Shipping Law

Dangerous substances, illegal substances and other controlled substances are believed, in Korea, to be more often transported by ships into Korean waters. Thus, the Korean government has amended a giving act concerning Korean Shipping Law. To, among other things, increase transparency of what is being shipped, the Korean Act on the Arrival, Departure, etc. of Ships (hereinafter as “Act on Ships” or “Korean Shipping Act”) was amended. The Korean Act on Ships, in general, establishes regulations concerning the arrival and departure of ships, as well as sets up safety measures in Korea. The Amendment was propoed in December of 2018. The Amendment was proposed by the Chair of the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee. Korean Shipping Act stipulates that shipping companies, which share the same shipping route and transport dangerous products, shall share accurate information. The Amended Korean Shipping Act shall become effective from July 2019. Overview

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Amendment to Korea’s Intellectual Property Registration System: Korea IP Law Updates

South Korean organizations, companies and startups will, likely, in the near future experience a quicker and increasingly more efficient Patent and Intellectual Property Registration System in Korea and internationally based on developments within the IP5. Top IP officials in Korea are gearing up, in order to help South Korean organizations, companies and startups register their Intellectual Property more efficiently.  It seems like the effort is a serious attempt to expedite approvals and lesson application burdens for those doing business in Korea. IP officials from Korea, the United States, China, Japan and the European Union (a.k.a IP5) recently gathered in Incheon and asserted that they shall utilize A.I. technology and other future advances to improve the worldwide Patent Application System. To accomplish this objective, IP5 consented to organize a research team, containing Patent and IT specialists from these four countries and the EU. This team will start working on an A.I.

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Korea Establishes Legal Grounds for the Commercialization of Autonomous Vehicles – A New Act for 2020

Proposed by the Chair of the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee on April 4, 2019, the Act on Promotion and Support of the Commercialization of Autonomous Vehicles (hereinafter as “Korean Act on Autonomous Vehicles”) aims to set forward legal grounds and a legal framework for projects of domestic and foreign companies, who focus on the development of autonomous or self-driving vehicles with the goal of the successful commercialization in Korea and abroad. The aforementioned Act shall become effective one year after promulgation. We shall update the reader when more is known. The Role of the Koran Motor Vehicle Management Act The Korean Motor Vehicle Management Act provides only general regulations about autonomous vehicles, thus, the Korean government believed a more robust regulatory framework was necessary. According to Art 2 (1-3) of the Korean Motor Vehicle Management Act an “autonomous driving motor vehicle” is “…a motor vehicle which can self operate

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Terminate/Layoff an Employee in Korea: Terminating an Employee in Korea

The Korean Labor Standards Act mandates that employees under “contract” or “regular employees” may only be terminated for “justifiable reason attributable” to the employee or “urgent managerial necessity” after the completion of the employee’s probationary period. Both Korean employment law standards are, often, difficult for an employer to meet without the professional structuring of HR policies and procedures and a nuanced approach to termination of employees in Korea. We strongly recommend, prior to even considering firing or laying off Korean workers, to put a system of internal controls/systems in place that provides evidence to substantiate Korean employment terminations decisions.  We see too many companies in Korea that lack the systems necessary to substantiate termination.  Modest changes can, often, be refreshing for managers. FYI – Company executives/directors are, normally, not considered company “employees” and thus are not benefited by most of the protections afforded by the Korean Labor Standards Act.  However,

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Jurisdiction and Choice of Law Issues in Agency Agreements

In drafting and negotiating a Korean commercial agency agreement between a principal located in one country and an agent located in another country, proper consideration needs to be given to the choice of law regarding the governing law and jurisdiction of such an agreement. Jurisdiction determines which country’s courts will hear any proceedings that may be brought in relation to the agreement, whilst governing law is the law that shall be applied by the courts hearing any such proceedings that may arise under the agreement. Ideally, the parties to the agreement should expressly agree as to choice of jurisdiction and governing law. A governing law clause will set out the parties’ choice of the law that will apply to the parties’ agreement, and a jurisdiction clause will set out the parties’ choice as to jurisdiction. These aforementioned clauses are – in general – considered by any courts (for the exemptions

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Amendment to the Korean Foreign Investment Promotion Act 2019 – Investment Incentives in Korea

The Korean Foreign Investment Promotion Act (hereinafter as “FIPA”) is intended to support foreign investment in Korea by providing investment incentives to investors in the Korea market. The Korean National Assembly amended the FIPA this year. Key-facts about the Korean FIPA The Korean FIPA shall “…promote foreign investment in Korea by providing necessary support and benefit and to contribute to the sound development of the nation’s economy.” (FIPA Art. 1). FIPA may benefit foreign investors, including, individual investors, companies established in foreign jurisdictions, local companies owned by foreign companies and, also, international economic cooperative organizations. “Foreign investments” under FIPA Art. 2 “Where a foreigner holds stocks or shares […] of a Korean corporation (including a Korean corporation in the process of establishment; […]) or a company run by a national of the Republic of Korea, […], by any of the following methods in order to establish a continuous economic relationship

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Korea Fully Legalizes the Usage of LPG as a Fuel for Vehicular Transportation

The Amendment to the Korean Safety Control and Business of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act (“Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act” or “Act”) was proposed by the Korean Chair of the Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs and Startups Committee on March 13, 2019 and shall become effective upon promulgation. The aforementioned Amendment enables the use of liquefied petroleum gas (“LPG”) as a fuel for vehicular transportation in the Republic of Korea via elimination of the restrictions on the use of LPG in vehicles. The existing Safety Control and Business of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act The existing Act’s purpose, as noted in the Act, is to “…ensure public safety by prescribing matters concerning the export and import, filling, storage, sale, and use of liquefied petroleum gas, and the safety control of gas appliances and to ensure proper supply and use of liquefied petroleum gas by rationally regulating liquefied petroleum gas business.” The Act was promulgated

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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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“Fine Dust” as Socially-Generated Natural Disaster – Amendment to the Framework Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety 2019

As a further reaction to the fine dust-issue in Korea, the Chair of Korea’s Public Administration and Security Committee proposed an Amendment to the Framework Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety (hereinafter a “Act on Management of Disasters”) on March 13, 2019. The regulation shall become effective upon promulgation. The major legal change is the “damages caused by fine dust” as a being defined as a “socially-generated natural disaster.” Framework Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety Due to rising problems fine dust causes in Korea, the Korean Government has implemented numerous regulations and safety measures to allegedly reduce the damaging influence of fine dust to the Korean society. Not long ago the Korean Special Act on Fine Dust Abatement and Management was amended, which legally defined the different types of dust and enabled officials to set certain fine dust reduction measures, such as suspension of certain

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Tax Breaks for Korean Landlords: Real Estate Taxation Basics

Proposed by the Chairman of the Strategy and Finance Committee of the Republic of Korea on September 20, 2018, the Amendment to the Korean Restriction of Special Taxation Act came into force on January 1, 2019. The amendment has decreased the taxation burden of some landlords. The Act was amended in favor of Korean landlords who renew long-term rentals with tenants by charging a lower increase of rent by a percentage lower than a percentage set by Presidential Decree. This Act shall reduce, in general, the tax burden of these Korean landlords. Art 96-2 Restriction of Special Taxation Act of the Republic of Korea states that “…when a national of the Republic of Korea who runs a housing rental business has earned a sum from that business a total income not exceeding 75 million won in a single taxable year, and has rented a commercial building to the same tenant

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Release of an Arrested Vessel in Korea: Maritime Liens in Korea

We wrote an article about the Arrest of Vessels in Korean waters in a post last week.  The article is a useful guide for those considering arresting a ship in Korean waters.  The post may be found at: Arrest/Attachment of Vessels in Korean Waters: Maritime Liens for Creditors in Korea. This post describes how you may obtain the release of a vessel arrested in Korea waters.  The Korean Courts have put in place an efficient post-arrest procedure that, often, quickly allows the release of an arrested ship. Post-Arrest Procedures in Korea for Ships Arrested in Korean Waters In the post-arrest procedures in Korea, the burden is on the arresting party to establish that the order of arrest, initially granted, should not be vacated.   These hearings are often a tool to persuade a judge that the arresting party should post a security or the security should be increased.  In all but

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Korean Patent Law’s Trade Secret Protection: Amendment to Trade Secret Law in Korea

The amended Patent Act of Korea (“Korean Patent Act”) and the amended Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act (“Korean Trade Secret Protection Act”) of Korea shall enter into force on July 9, 2019. The most important key developments are great criminal penalties for trade secret misappropriations; damage awards up to three times of the actual damage regarding infringements of patent rights or trade secret rights; eased litigation requirements for the claimants; and revised basis for calculating royalty damages. These amendments are expected to lead to a heightened protection for intellectual property rights in Korea. The 2019 Major Key Changes in the Korean Patent Act and the Korean Trade Secret Protection Act: Increased Criminal Penalties under the Korean Trade Secret Protection Act Under the current regulations, a criminal penalty for a trade secret misappropriation is narrowly defined and considered by many legal practitioners and academics as not protective enough

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Amendment to Korea’s Occupational Safety and Health Act in 2019

The amended Occupational Safety and Health Act of Korea (hereinafter as “OSHA”) entered into force on January 15, 2019. One major aspect of the revision is that it has raised the risk of liability of representatives of institutions and companies and companies for workplace industries in Korea. The amended Korean OSHA law is expected to increase the risk to company management, increase liability of companies and increase options for employees that are perceived to have been harmed because of the actions or inaction of employers. Korean OSHA Basics Importer or Manufacturer of harmful and/or dangerous chemicals should draft a Material Safety Data Sheet and send it to the Ministry of Employment & Labor for approval. The Material Safety Sheet is publicly published – in most cases. Hazardous work shall not be contracted out by companies to third parties. However the amendment provides some notable exceptions (beyond the scope of this

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Succeeding in Business in Korea

Since 1977, I have observed the rise and fall of many foreign companies in South Korea. I have witnessed the trials and tribulations as a bank employee, a high-tech salesman, a country manager and as a business consultant of foreign and Korean companies doing business in Korea . Bluntly speaking, while some foreign ventures have had some unlucky breaks, those companies that have succeeded in the Korean market have done so for good reasons.  And those who have failed have done so, largely, because of their own inadequacies and often the lack of understanding of the needs of businesses in the Korean market. Those companies who for a period “succeed” do so by largely having some kind of a monopoly in technology, a lock on a particular resource, or an overwhelming marketing advantage that makes Korean copycats look decidedly second class.  But many initially successful companies ultimately fail by not getting adequately

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Licensee has Standing to Challenge the Validity of a Patent in Korea. Korean Licensing & Royalty Law Updates

Prior to a recent holding by the Supreme Court of Korea, the Korean Supreme Court had conflicting holdings on the definition of an “interested party” under Korean Patent Law. In order for a party to challenge the validity of a patent, in Korea, a party challenging the patent must be an “interested party.” Until this year, it was not clear whether a licensee of the patent in question is an “interested party” with standing to challenge the patent in Korea. A recent holding by the Supreme Court shall, likely, lead to substantially increased risk of non-payment of royalty payments and litigation in Korean courts. We, thus, suggest all that are receiving, or are expected to receive, royalty payments from Korean companies to have a comprehensive review of your patents and licensing agreements. A good deal of the risk can be mitigated by a nuanced license agreement and a Korean-tailored patent.

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