Expiration Versus Termination of a Distribution Agreement in Korea: Korean Distributor Basics

While Korean Law does not specifically detail the differences in treatment in law between the non-renewal (expiration) of a distribution agreement versus the termination, in reality, Korean courts are less likely to rule in favor of distributors in cases where a distribution agreement is not renewed.  Thus, typically, it is advisable to have a distribution agreement based on a specified term of years.  However, even with the expiration of the Korean Distribution Agreement, termination risks exist. In some cases, Korean courts have noted that termination and even non-renewal is a violation of Korean Law since the non-renewal or termination of

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Non-Compete Restrictive Covenant in Employment Contracts in Korea

Korean courts have invalidated numerous, non-compete agreements, reduced the amount of time of the non-compete period and/or have reduced liquidated damage amounts for violation of non-compete agreements.  Courts typically balance the freedom to work (an ability to work outside the specific field) with the significance of the interest in the employer to enforce the covenant not to compete.  The primary factors courts utilize in determining whether to enforce a non-compete agreement are: if compensation was paid in exchange for the covenant not to compete; if the interest being sought protection over includes valuable trade secrets and other valuable intellectual property;

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

The Korean courts, for years, have struggled to find a consistent interpretation of an “Ordinary Wage.”  The definition of Ordinary Wage 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 an employee.  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

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A “Tasty” Exclusive Agent Agreement for Artists & Entertainers in Korea: Entertainment Law Basics in Korea

The Fair Trade Commission of Korea (FTC) created a sample standard-form Exclusive Agent Agreement for Entertainment Agreements, in Korea, that was, recently, challenged by the Chinese Band Twin Duo “Tasty.” The Chinese band filed a lawsuit against the Korean entertainment company – SM C&C – in order to invalidate a 7-year exclusive agent agreement – claiming that because of major differences with the Korean entertainment company, the relationship between the parties was frustrated.  SM utilized a standard-form agency agreement that was developed by the FTC. In 2015GaHab19327, the Seoul Central District Court ruled, among other things, that: The FTCs standard-form

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Liquidated (Penalty) Damages Necessary in Most Korean NDA and Non-Compete Agreements

For any company engaged in negotiations, agreements, pre-M & A due diligence, OEM outsourcing or other activities with a Korean business or individuals that may lead to you disclosing your companies intellectual property, know-how or other proprietary information, always include in your no-competition, non-use, non-circumvention and non-compete agreements a liquidated damages (Penalty Damages) clause.  Without a Penalty Damages Clause – good luck in proving damages when a breach occurs. If the other party refuses to sign the clause, this is good sign that the party will breach. The clause is of course, only triggered when a breach occurs. I, recently, had

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Starting a Company in Korea: Establishing a Foreign Capital-Invested Korean Company, Branch or Liaison Office

Korea, for many business, is an excellent market to enter.  We assist numerous franchisers, tech companies, chemical companies, oil & gas companies, automotive suppliers, defense companies and basic manufacturing companies on compliance and contentious issues related to their business in Korea.  We, also, assist entrepreneurial individuals in establishing and doing business in Korea. To establish a company in Korea, there are, in short, three legal manners for a foreign company or individual to do business in the Korean Market.  A business may enter as a Foreign Capital-Invested Company (Foreign Direct Investment Company)a Branch or Liaison Office.  In most situations, the

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Sean Hayes Invited to Chair Panel for Horasis Foundation

Sean Hayes shall chair a panel for the Horasis Foundantion’s Conference in Seoul, Korea.  The Horasis Foundation shall hold the conference on September 22 to the 24th. The Conference is entitled: Entrepreneurship: Balancing Disruption and Consent.  Participants at the conference shall include the Chairman of Hansol, the UN Special Envoy for Disaster Risk Reduction, Chairmen of two leading Indian pharmaceuticals, the Chief Investment Officer for IFC, a Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, a former Prime Minister of Japan, a Former Prime Minister of Korea, the Vice Chairman & CEO of the Federation of Korean Industries, and other dignitaries from industry,

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Korean Distributor Sales Territory or Customer Restrictions in Korea: Korean Distributor law Agreements in Korea

Korea’s Distribution Law is governed, primarily, by the Commercial Code of Korea, Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Law of Korea (FTL) and the, newly enacted, Fairness in Distributor Transactions Act of Korea.  These laws comprise a substantial body of law that is consistently evolving. The main regulatory body enforcing the FTL of Korea is the Fair Trade Commission of Korea (“FTC”).  The Fair Trade Laws of Korea, in most cases, creates the most significant risk for suppliers and manufacturers doing business with distributors in Korea.  A nuanced understand coupled with a proactive approach to your distributors is necessary in succeeding in

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Liquidated Damages vs. Penalty Damages: Korean Contract Law Basics

Liquidated Damages v. Penalty Damages in Korea In Korea, liquidated damage clauses in South Korean contracts may be invalidated if the liquidated damage amount is deemed, by a Korean court of law, as “unduly excessive.” (Civil Act Art. 398(2)). Article 398 of the Civil Act may be found below.  Korean Liquidated damages law is governed by the Civil Act of Korea and related Korean Law. However, if an agreement, in Korea, notes a “penalty,” the amount of the “penalty is presumed to be determined in advance of the damages” (Civil Act Art. 398(4)) and is presumed valid.  Of course, the

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Termination of Commercial Agent/Distribution Agreements in Korea: Korea’s Agent Compensation Rule

In many cases of termination of a distribution/agent agreement in Korea compensation must be paid to the commission agent.  In many cases, the same rules are applied to distributors.  The law on the termination of Commission Agent-type agreement is governed, mainly, by the Commercial Act of Korea and its enforcement decrees.  Korea law does not facially differentiate between termination and expiration of agent/distribution agreements. The following explanation is, only, a brief overview of Korea’s Distribution/ Agency Law relating to termination of a distributor/commercial agent.  Please note a much more nuanced explanation is necessary and essential for any manufacturer or supplier doing

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Entering into a Joint Venture/Partnership in South Korea?

One of the major parts of my law practice for international clients, in Korea, is the structuring of joint ventures and the resolution of joint venture disputes in court and through arbitration.  I find, in most of these cases, the non-Korean party is not in need of a joint venture with a a Korean party to succeed in Korea and the Korean party does not realize or has no intent in satisfying obligations under the joint venture agreements.  The parties are commencing a relationship, thus, with an immediate potential for failure. Thus, many disputes are caused by the realization by

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Enforcement of Sales Promotions by Franchisors under Korean Franchise Law

Can an international franchisor force a local Korean franchise to cut the prices of a product via a sales event? This issue was addressed by the Korean Supreme Court in 2003Du7484.  In this Supreme Court of Korea case, a franchisor, among other things, mandated via the franchise agreement for a franchisee to hold sales events.  The franchise agreement did not specify the specific details of the sales events. The franchisor elected to utilize the clause in the franchise agreement to force the franchisee to initiate a sales event – the franchisee refused and, thus, the commencement of the dispute. The

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Enforceability of Korean Executed Holographic/Handwritten Wills in Korea

Holographic wills are enforceable in Korea under Article 1066 of the Civil Act of Korea.  Our law firm is, presently, handling a matter concerning the estate of a decadent where the decadent executed a handwritten (holographic) will and the inheritors are Korean and foreign nationals. Holographic Wills This is a common issue for lawyers at our firm to handle – with the exception of the handwritten will issue. We, rarely, see cases, these days, of a testator that has executed a handwritten will.  This, however, was not so rare in the not so distant past. We, highly, recommend not utilizing

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Enforcement of Covenants Not to Compete in Employment Agreements in Korea: Restrictive Covenants in Korea

It is getting easier for an employer to enforce non-compete restrictive covenants in employment agreements in Korea, because of recent judgments by lower Korean courts noting, among other things, the value of trade secrets in competitive industries in Korea. Korean Non-Compete Agreements Recently, a interesting case, in a Seoul, Korean court, concerning the wedding planning business was handed down by the Seoul Central District Court (2104NA63529).  The Court upheld a three non-compete clause against an employee, but reduced a liquidated damage clause from KRW 1,000,000 per day to KRW 100,000 per day. The relevant restrictive covenant noted that: “the Employee

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Voluntary Resignation of an Employee in Korea: Employment Law Updates

A Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of the employer in a case of an employee claiming damages for, inter alia, the not accepting of the voluntary resignation of an employee.  The dispute was between the Industrial Bank of Korea and an employee under a criminal investigation for alleged work-related malfeasance. The Korean bank has an internal rule that an employee may not receive “special” severance payments if the employee, in question, is under investigation for work-related malfeasance.  The employer provides increased severance payments for employees that retire before a certain age and for other reasons.  The employee was

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Fiscal Transparency in International Business: International Business Structures

The September 2015 edition of International Bar Associations “Business Law International” has an interesting article entitled: “Fiscal Transparency – International Business Structures and Issues” The article is useful for, also, those doing business in Korea.  The articles does not, specifically, address in any detail issues in Korea, the article does a great job in explaining issues relevant to those forming partnerships/joint ventures with UK, U.S. and developed European economies. The article notes, in part,  that: “The continued globalization of business generally and the increased burdens imposed by such measures as common reporting have brought into focus the issues arising with

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Five Businesses to Avoid in Korea

We get a number of hare-brained foreigners that have requested advice on the opening of some peculiar businesses.  Here are a few businesses that we do not advise opening in Korea.  Farming. Prohibited for foreigners and foreign companies.  For example, the growing of rice and barley is prohibited for foreigners.  The farmers don’t even want to be in this business.  Stay away. Publishing & Broadcasting.  Prohibited for foreigners to own 50% or more of a publishing company and totally prohibited in the case of radio & TV.  The industry is, also, saturated and the few foreigners operating as a minority

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Korea’s Real Name Transaction Act Strengthened: Korea’s Banking Law Basics

The National Assembly of Korea, in May of 2014, passed an amendment to the Act Concerning Financial Transactions by Real Name and Confidentiality Protection (“Real Name Transactions Act”). The Real Name Transactions Act, prior to this amendment, only, imposed fines on employees of financial institutions that violated the law, but did not impose these fines on those that lend or borrow a name/identification details in order to engage in a transaction. The new Real Name Transactions Act shall be enforced from the end of November of 2014. Potential penalties for violation of this Act include imprisonment up to 5 years

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Koreans Doing Business in and with New Zealand

New Zealand is very welcoming and open to foreign investment as reflected in a few recent deals between New Zealand business/government and Korean conglomerates. Leading Korean firms such as Hansol Forem, Daesung Group, KNC Construction (formerly Daeju Group) and Ottogi Corporation have already made substantial investments in New Zealand. Other Korean investment in New Zealand includes property, hides and skins, tourism, timber, food processing, fisheries and small businesses. New Zealand wireless charging start-up PowerbyProxi secured $4 million in funding from the venture capital arm of Samsung and is now on the fast track to success. An article on this matter

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Korea inks FTA with China

Korea on June 1, 2015 inked a free trade agreement with China.  China is the largest economy in Asia and Korea is the 4th or 5th largest economy in Asia.   The agreement requires the approval of the Korean National Assembly to come into effect.  The Korea-China FTA is claimed by the Korean government to allow greater access to Korean exporters of appliances, cosmetics, fashion goods and specialty food products.  The agreement may by an, immediate, boon for large Korean exporters. China is Korea’s largest export destination, however, many of the products heading to China have a final destination outside of

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