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 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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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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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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Korean Waste Control Act Amendments of 2019

As a reaction to several accidents in waste storage facilities, the Korean National Assembly passed an an Amendment to the Korean Waste Control Act on March 28, 2019. The amendment puts in place, a more transparent measures and rules for waste-storage facilities. Major Amendments to the Korean Wastes Control Act Set of safety measures for waste-collecting vehicles. More specific safety rules for waste-storage facilities. Implementation by the Korean Ministry of Environment to conduct an annual safety inspection and survey on waste treatment business facilities. Violation of Safety Measures as per the Amended Waste Control Act A violation of these safety regulations can result in a partial or total suspension of the waste business operations of the concerning company. Additionally, shareholders and directors may be criminally punished for up to two years or a fine of up to KRW 20,000,000. For the current Waste Control Act of Korean please see: Korean

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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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Korean Data Privacy Act: Need for Compliance Audit for your Korean Company

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (EU GDPR) focuses on the data security of personal data of users of the internet. As the EU offers a potentially lucrative market for online businesses for many Korean companies, South Korea was eager to amend its existing Act on the Promotion of IT Network Use and Information Protection of Korea (“Korean Network Act”) based, at least, partially on bench-marking of the EU GDPR. We suggest all companies, doing business in Korea, conduct via a professional in data privacy – a compliance audit. We suggest the professional has an understanding of not, only, Korean Law, but the law of the European Union as it relates to data privacy. Fines and criminal penalties for violation of data privacy laws have increased in Korea. Korean Network ActThe Korean Network Act was amended in December of 2018. Korea, the EU and other nations are in ongoing

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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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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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Korea Focuses on Greater Control over Imported Food – Amendment to the Special Act on Imported Food Safety Control 2019

The Special Act on Imported Food Safety Control was recently amended and shall strengthen the on-site inspections of foreign establishments, which already export food to Korea, as well as those, which apply for registration of the importation of overseas food. The Amendment was proposed in early April 2019 and shall become effective upon promulgation. We expect substantially heightened risk for importers and an increase in the price of many imported goods. Major Provisions of the Korean Amendment to the Special Act on Imported Food Safety Control Food from facilities overseas, which is produced, manufactured, processed, treated, packaged and/or stored, before being imported to Korea, shall be subject to inspections initiated by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. In addition, overseas facilities, which intend to import livestock which are slaughtered, manufactured, processed, stored and/or milk is collected, shall also be required to be inspected upon request of the Ministry of

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The Amendment to the Korean Pharmaceutical Affairs Act 2019

The Korean Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (hereinafter as “Pharma-Act”) was proposed by the Chair of the Health and Welfare Committee of Korea on December 27, 2018. The Pharma Act shall adds more cumbersome regulations on the foreign qualifications of pharmacists, increases the limits of penalty surcharges and shall change the system to transfer a Korean pharmacy businesses. This Amendment shall become effective in July 2019. The major amendments are detailed below. Key Highlights of the Korean Amendment to the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act Criteria for the Qualification for the Korean Pharmacist Exam regarding Pharmacists Who Graduated from Foreign Colleges The current Art 3 Pharma-Act, as part of Section 1 – Qualifications and Licenses of Pharmacists states that a person, which wants to become a pharmacist “…shall obtain a license from the Minister of Health and Welfare.” A license shall be granted if an individual has a bachelor’s degree from a national institution

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Korea Increases the List of Serious Crimes in the Act on Regulation and Punishment of Criminal Proceeds Concealment

The Chair of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in Korea proposed an Amendment to the Korean Act on Regulation and Punishment of Criminal Proceeds Concealment (hereinafter as “Act on Punishment of Criminal Proceeds Concealment”) on April 4, 2019. Some crimes shall be added to the list of “serious crimes” stated in the aforementioned Act. Amendment to the Act on Punishment of Criminal Proceeds Concealment The list of “serious crimes” (also “specific crimes”) as defined in Art. 2 (1) Korean Act on Punishment of Criminal Proceeds Concealment shall be extended with the proposed Amendment. These newly added “serious crimes” shall be subject to a proper punishment under this Act, especially for concealing, disguising and/or exchanging criminal proceeds. In addition, the collection and/or confiscation of such illegally earned proceeds shall be able. The newly added ‘serious crimes’ under this Act shall be for instance: Confinement, human trafficking, kidnapping, abduction, etc., as well

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New Provisions regarding the Korean Act on Reporting and Using Specified Financial Transaction Information

The Amendment to the Act on Reporting and Using Specified Financial Transaction Information of Korea (hereinafter as “Amended Financial Transaction Information Act of Korea”) focuses on strengthening Korean legal provisions related to money laundering as well as implementing a “global standard” proposed by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering. The Amended Financial Transaction Information Act of Korea shall enter into force on July 1, 2019. Major provisions of the Korean Act on Financial Transaction Information The purpose of the Act on Reporting and Using Specified Financial Transaction Information is to “…provide for matters concerning reporting on and use of specified financial transaction information necessary to regulate money laundering and financing of terrorism through financial transactions, such as foreign exchange transactions, thereby contributing to preventing crimes and further establishing a sound and transparent financial system.” (Art 1). The major provisions of the prior Act are: Transactions of expected illegal

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