Calculation of Korean Hourly Wage Rate under the Minimum Wage Act of Korea

Korea’s minimum wage as per the Korean Minimum Wage Act in 2019 is determined by the Minister of Employment & Labor as KRW 8,350 per hour. The latest decisions of the Supreme Court developed a calculation standard/method for determining an hourly wage rate that is not in line with the opinion of the Ministry of Employment & Labor. In many such cases, a Ministry, simply, pushes to amend the law. This matter is important, since the standard hourly wage rate is a necessary mathematical component to calculate the monthly salary of employees. Korean Minimum Wage Act The Korean Minimum Wage Act’s main purpose is to provide a minimum sum per hour to employees that employers must, at least, pay to employees. The fear, in short, is that without a minimum wage, employers may be able to exploit vulnerable workers. The appropriate hourly minimum wage under the Korean Minimum Wage Act

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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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Starting a Manufacturing Business in South Korea: Top 14 Things to Know Before you Start a Business in Korea

Korea, in most cases, is a much better choice for the manufacturing of chemical, petroleum, construction equipment, complex crafted metals, specialty steel, automotive parts, semi-conductor, medical and pharmaceutical equipment and goods than China and most nations in Asia, because of Korea’s skilled work force, government incentives and increasingly transparent business practices. In many cases, manufacturing in Korea will not, in the end, be more costly than manufacturing in China, because of the increased efficiency of Korean workers and the, often, lower cost of doing business.  China is no longer cheap and China will never be easy. However, before going into any manufacturing arrangement in Korea here are the Top 14 things you need to know before investing money in Korea in a manufacturing venture or like Korean venture. The list assumes that you will have a local company as your JV partner in this manufacturing venture in Korea (you don’t

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How Foreign Importers Entering Korea May Prosper from the Korean Middle Class in Korea being Screwed by Inflation: Screwflation

This is an older article we posted nearly eight years ago.  However, we fear the same is occurring today. Inflation may be a serious issue for Korea in the next couple of years.  The Korea Times has reported that stagnant wages and food inflation is leading to “Screwflation” in Korea.  This phenomenon is a potential opportunity for importers with an eagerness to directly access the market.  The term Screwflation was coined by Wall Street guru Doug Kass.  Kass explains the notion in his, typical, straight forward manner: Screwflation, like its first cousin stagflation, is an expression of a period of slow and uneven economic growth, but, its potential inflationary consequences have an outsized impact on a specific group. The emergence of screwflation hurts just the group that you want to protect — namely, the middle class, a segment of the population that has already spent a decade experiencing an erosion

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Liquidated Damages v. Penalties in Korean contracts

As a NY 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, often, 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, it is 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.”

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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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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 business with a commercial agent in Korea. We suggest taking a look at an article we wrote on the selection of a Korean Distributor.  The article may be found at: Finding a Distributor or Agent in Korea.  Additionally, it is advisable to read an article we wrote on distribution agreements.

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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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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 a client that was very worried about losing “goodwill.” Easy solution, blame the “lawyer.” For companies that are not engaged in active, continuous and substantial business in Korea, the chance of finding evidence of damage, after a breach, is remote – best. The reason stems from proof of market potential in

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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 the non-Korean party that he/she doesn’t need the Korean party and the realization by the non-Korean party that the Korean party had no intent, at signing, in following the joint venture agreement. Do You Need a Korean Joint Venture to Succeed in Korea? We find that a joint venture is,

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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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U.S. Franchise Law: Covenants Against Competition in Franchise Agreements

I just got my hands on the ABA’s book entitled Covenants Against Competition in Franchise Agreements edited by Michael R. Gray and Natalma M. McKnew. We work with a number of Korean and Chinese franchisors and I found the book an excellent tool for the tailoring of our franchise agreements to the specific States.  The book, also, has decent chapters for Mexico and Canada. The book aforementioned along with the Franchise Law Compliance Manual and the FTC Franchise Rule are must for all Franchise Law professionals. These books can be bought via the American Bar Association website at: www.ShopABA.org.  Highly recommended Books.  The three books will set you back around USD 400 if you are a member of the ABA Forum on Franchise Law.  Take a look.

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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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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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Korea Amends the Act on the Employment, etc. of Foreign Workers in 2019: Employment Law Updates

Amendment to the Act of the Employment, etc. of Foreign Workers in Korea (hereinafter as “Amendment to the Act of the Employment of Foreign Workers” of Korea) was proposed by the Korean Environment and Labor Committee in December 2018. The focus of the Amendment of the Employment of Foreign Workers is on the improvement of the living conditions of foreign workers at dormitories provided by their companies. Major Changes Due to the Amendment and the Struggles on the Way Addition of Criteria for the Dormitories to the Requirements to Obtain Permission for Hiring Foreign Workers in Korea? The original bill contained the regulation in Art 8 (3) Act of the Employment of Foreign Workers that the criteria for dormitories shall be added to the requirements that employers in Korea must meet in order to receive permission to hire foreign workers, if they – in general – provide dormitories to foreign

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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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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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Material Breach of Korean Contracts Under Korean Law: Primary Obligations vs. Secondary Obligations in Korea Courts

In most Western nations a “material” breach of a contract leads to the non-breaching party not having to perform its obligations under the contract, while allowing the non-breaching party to immediately sue for all damages (or performance).The Restatement (Second) of Contracts 241 notes that the following criteria can be used to determine whether a specific action/inaction constitutes a material breach: “In determining whether a failure to render or to offer performance is material, the following circumstances are significant: (a) the extent to which the injured party will be deprived of the benefit which he reasonably expected; (b) the extent to which the injured party can be adequately compensated for the part of that benefit of which he will be deprived; (c) the extent to which the party failing to perform or to offer to perform will suffer forfeiture; (d) the likelihood that the party failing to perform or to offer

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Building Systems Before JVs in Korea to Build Trust between Partners

A blog referred to me by the China Law Blog has a wonderful post on Developing Trust in China by Building Trustworthy Systems/Processes.  The same advice given in this blog post is relevant to work done in Korea, Southeast Asia, China and even the West.  We believe that the verification of the developing and implementation of these system is, often, necessary before building a joint venture relationship with a Korean company. The value of building systems is not to be underestimated in Korea.  Koreans, in most respects, are wonderful at performing tasks that are well dictated and explained. While in the West, we often appreciate more autonomy and, often, don’t strive when systems are too rigid. In the East, many strive on ordered guidance. My law firm often works with business consultants to assist client in implementing systems that reward following these systems/processes. These “systems” are, often, incorporated by reference

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Contract Drafting in South Korea

The following post considers some of the basics of contract drafting in South Korea. The following post is meant to be, only, a basic explanation of the basics of a good Korean contract based on a few observations. This post is not meant to be an exhaustive explanation of this issue, books have been written on contract drafting and we will not be drafting a book with this post. The main purpose of drafting a contract is to avoid a dispute. This article and a great Korean-experienced lawyer with an understanding of business in Korea and your industry should assist you in avoiding a legal dispute in Korea. Basics Considerations Before Signing a Contract in Korea Contract Clarity.  We see all too often, Korean contracts that lend themselves to unnecessary ambiguity. In some cases, ambiguity may be a benefit to our clients doing business in Korea, but in other cases, ambiguity

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