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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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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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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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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Korean Act on Special Cases Concerning the Establishment and Operation of Internet Banks

In September 2018 the Korean National Assembly passed the Korean Act on Special Cases Concerning the Establishment and Operation of Internet Banks (hereinafter as “Act on Internet-Only Banks”), which is in force since January 2019. The major facial intent of the Act on Internet-Only Banks is to “…encourage innovative enterprises to enter the financial market while laying the legal framework for the convergence of information and communications technologies (ICT) with financial services, and the creation of new economic growth drivers.” One of the main impetus for the Moon Administration related to this Act was to allow individuals and companies that may have a more difficult opportunity to obtain credit to obtain credit. The foregoing is, only, intended as a brief teaser and not anything more than to provide a basic understanding of this Act. Korean Act on Special Cases Concerning the Establishment and Operation of Internet Banks 2018 “Internet Banks”

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Sean Hayes attended the Korea Business Forum

The Korean Business Forum is one of the leading private groups of senior executives in leading companies doing business in Korea. The group meets, at least, monthly to discuss major issues affecting businesses in Korea. I, highly, recommend applying for membership in the Korean Business Forum. This month’s meeting addressed issues facing the Korean economy, the new labor policy of the Moon Administration, and major reasons why Korea is still important for international businesses. Some interesting takeaways: Korea is the 11th largest economy by nominal GDP in the world. Korea is the 4th largest economy in Asia. Korea is the leading chip manufacturer and shipbuilder in the world. Korea is the 4th largest oil producer and 6th largest car maker in the world. Korea is the 6th largest exporter in the world. Korea’s household debt is one of the highest in the world. Korea ranks low in the World Competitive

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Corruption in Korea: What is the Crux of the Problem? by Tom Coyner

Whenever I read a news item regarding Korean corruption, I have mixed feelings. Usually the article is based on the latest finding by a well-meaning NGO that focuses on corrupting influence of big business on government without adequately addressing the root causes or even the breadth of corruption. Korean corruption doesn’t limit itself to envelopes and car trunks of cash being paid by business people to government officers. *The following article is a re-posting of an article by Tom Coyner.  The article first appeared on this law blog in 2012.  The issues remain the same and we thought this was an excellent time to repost this excellent article on an important issue for those doing business in Korea.  So one may ask oneself, “Can Korea end its many forms of corruption?” That is the essential question, and the obvious answer is “no.” I don’t mean that as a cynical observation.

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Using Korea as a Test Bed for Asian Expansion: Look to Facebook

I have advised, on many occasions, clients to look to Korea for their Asian expansion prior to entering more expensive and difficult Asian markets.  Hey Facebook seems to agree in an article entitled: Facebook uses Korea as Test Bed. This is a repost of article from nearly five years ago.  China is becoming even more difficult and much of SE Asia is not becoming anymore transparent – Korea is an excellent place to test the Asian waters. The Korea Herald has an interesting article that quotes the president of Facebook Korea as noting that:  “Facebook sees Korea as an important country due to its high mobile usage and the presence of global companies like Samsung and Hyundai,” he said. “This makes Korea an important test bed to Facebook (insofar as it is) wishing to be a mobile-first company.” We, strongly, recommend that all companies consider Korea as a useful “test

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“Probationary Periods” in Korean Employment Contracts for Newly-Hired Workers

Korean companies should consider negotiating stipulations to create “probationary periods” at the start of employment to train and assess newly-hired Korean workers. Often companies wish to evaluate workers over a set period of time after concluding a labor contract to assess the worker’s abilities and intelligence, and to allow the worker time to gain familiarity with the work.  This period of employment is called a “probationary period.” The practice is relatively unregulated by the government. The Labor Standards Act of Korea provides, among other things, minimum standards for conditions of employment, prohibits discrimination and the use of force or violence against workers.  But, it provides little guidance on regulating “probationary periods.”  The only guidance the Labor Standards Act provides can be found within Article 35, which states that employers do not need to provide 30 day notice of dismissal to workers under a “probationary period” and within Article 77, which

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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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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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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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