Antitrust/Competition Consent Orders in Korea

in 2011, the Korean National Assembly passed, along with the Korea-U.S. FTA and related bills, a law that  allows the Fair Trade Commission of Korea (KFTC) to accept consent orders.  A consent order is similar, in many respects, to a nolo contendere plea. The consent order process has allowed the KFTC to punish without the admission of guilt to the company. This has lead to a decrease, in recent years, of a burden on the KFTC, more efficient enforcement proceedings, and has sped up many M & A deals – while allowing companies doing business in Korea to more adequately gauge the risk of a certain actions by the company. The disposition is similar, in a criminal matter, to a nolo contendere (no contest).  In short, the accused accepts the proposed punishment, however, doesn’t admit guilt. Thus, the company may save a little face and time, while the government is

Continue reading

Fiduciary Duties of Korean Directors/Representative & Controlling Shareholders of Korean Companies

Directors of companies, registered in Korea, many be held criminally and civilly liable for acts as a director (in limited cases even controlling shareholder can be held criminally liable).  Many acts (or inactions) that would not be deemed criminal in the West are, often, deemed criminal in Korea.  Additionally, matters that are considered in the West as mere “civil” matters, often, begin and end at the Korean prosecutor’s office. A little due diligence, complying with corporate formalities, nuanced corporate governance practices and a little street smarts coupled with good liability insurance is a good start in succeeding in business in Korea. We have been on both sides of matters were directors (and even controlling shareholders) have been prohibited from departing Korea, jailed and fined.  In most cases, liability is unlimited and it is presumed that a director has complied with the decision of the Board of Directors if no dissent

Continue reading

Korean Medical Malpractice Law and the Medical Malpractice Arbitration System

IPG has handled numerous medical malpractice matters for plaintiffs and defendants of medical malpractice cases in Korea in Seoul courts and we were, prior, to having knowledge of the composition of the new Korean Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency very pessimistic about its usefulness for plaintiffs. When we first heard about the enactment of the new Korean medical malpractice law we were skeptical if the system would be useful for plaintiffs, since, often, the court and prosecutors are able to assert more pressure on doctors than this Commission and worried that this agency would be dominated by doctors. However, after a discussion with one of the standing commissioners of the Korean Medical Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Agency, who we know well and who we worked with in the past, we have come to realize that the composition of the panel lends itself to providing a fair forum for both

Continue reading

Is your Korean Employee a Dispatched Worker and Thus a De Facto “Employee” under the Korean Labor Standards Act?

In 2015, the Korean Supreme Court detailed standards in determining if a Subcontracted Worker in Korea is actually a Dispatched Worker and, thus, a de facto employee of your Korean Company.  The designation has implications for retirement benefits, employment security and the payment of benefits. Dispatched Workers vs. Subcontracted Workers Companies employ, in Korea, often workers via manpower supply companies and via subcontracting agreements.  These employees are not retained directly by the Company, but are retained via a manpower company (“Dispatched Worker”) or a subcontracting agreement (“Subcontracted Worker”). The difference in these two type of relationships lies in the control over the workers – not in the mere nature of the retention according to the Korean Courts.  If the Company has a sufficient degree of control over the worker, in the eyes of the specific Korean court, the worker is deemed a Dispatched Worker and, thus, an employee of the

Continue reading

Liquidated Damages v. Penalties in Korean contracts

As an American 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 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, its 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.” Now, contrary

Continue reading

Enforcing Punitive & Liquidated Damages Awards against Korean Companies via Contracts with Foreign Subsidiaries of Korean Companies

A recent amendment of the Korean Civil Procedure Act added Article 217-2.  The Amendment has codified a holding by the Seoul Central District Court and other Korean courts noting, in part, that Korean Courts may refuse to “recognize foreign damage awards that clearly exceed amounts considered reasonable in Korea in violation of good morals and the social order of Korea” (99 KaHap 14496, S. Cent. Distr. Court, 10/20/2000). The Amendment allows Korean Courts, in Korea, the power to not recognize a damage award that the Korean Court’s perceives as “excessive.”  This standard-less “standard” leaves much wiggle room for Korean Courts. A typical situation is a case where an American importer sues a Korean conglomerate in a U.S. Court and damages are awarded to the U.S. company.  The damages may include liquidated, punitive and non-“actual” damages.  The American importer, then, attempts to enforce the judgment in Korea. There is a simple

Continue reading

Injunctions Against your Former Franchisee for Competing Against your New Franchisee: Korean Franchise Law/Injunction Basics

Under the Fair Franchise Transactions Act of Korea (“Franchise Act”), a franchisee has the right, under Korean Law, to request the renewal of a Korean franchise agreement after ten years of successful operation of a franchise.  The Korean Franchise Act Article 13 (2) stipulates that: “A franchisee’s right to request the renewal of the franchise agreement may be exercised only when the total period of the franchise agreement, including its initial period, does not exceed ten years.” We wrote about termination of a franchise in other articles including: Termination of a Franchise in Korea. Courts in Korea are becoming increasingly apprehensive to enforce injunctions against operating of competing businesses filed by franchisors against franchisees.  The situation, often, occurs where a franchise is terminated and the franchisee operates a like business in the same location as the prior franchise.   Of course, all professionally drafted franchise agreements in Korea will have

Continue reading

Involuntary Dissolution of a Company in Korea: Shareholder Disputes in Korean Companies

Under Article 520 of the Korean Commercial Act, a minority shareholder, holding at least 10 percent of the total and outstanding shares of a Korean company, may request to the Korean court of competent jurisdiction the dissolution of a company in Korea.  Korean court judges consider this procedure an extraordinary procedure and, only, rule in the affirmative, usually, after all other avenues to resolve the shareholder dispute have failed. However, this procedure is useful, in many disputes, in resolution of the shareholder dispute via litigation or pushing the defaulting shareholder into a settlement. Article 520 of the Commercial Act of Korea (Judgments for Dissolution) “(1) If, in any of the following cases, there exists unavoidable reasons, any shareholder who holds shares representing no less than 10 percent of the total issued and outstanding shares may request a court to dissolve the company; When the company’s business operation continues to be

Continue reading

Korean Independent Contractor Risks: Korean Labor Standards Act Basics

The Korean Court System has been less reluctant, in recent years, to deem a Korean independent contractor an “employee” under the Labor Standards Act (LSA).  This fact remains true even when an employer establishes that the independent contractor is aware that he/she was contracted as an independent contractor, thus, not a regular employee of the Korean company. Upon the establishment of the status as “employee” in Korea, the individual is entitled to all of the benefits of an employee including, inter alia, severance and employment security, thus, increasing the compliance, tax, payroll and other risks to the foreign-capital invested Korean company. Obligations to Employees under the LSA The obligations to employees under the LSA are extensive and beyond the scope of this short article.  The more significant and obvious are the Korean legal requirement to provide severance benefits and employment security. With regard to severance benefits, a company must pay,

Continue reading

Can you Succeed in Korea without Resorting to Bribery?

Perhaps in a few warped ways, I have a bit of affection for the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American companies from bribing officials overseas. From a nostalgic perspective, I recall when this act was made into law while I was at my first “real job” at The Chase Manhattan Bank in Seoul. The immediate reactions around me in the US business community were those of dread. We were certain that we would be put to disadvantage when competing with the locals as well as with other foreign nationalities. It turned out not to be the case. In fact, by and large we discovered the act gave us legitimate cover not to “go local” in conducting unethical and potentially sordid business practices. In time, other Western nations passed similar laws. While this clean business movement has hardly eradicated corruption, it has contributed to reducing unethical business behavior – most

Continue reading

Why are Legal Fees at Korean Law Firms Higher than New York and London: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I had a client note that their former Korean law firm was charging them double what they would have been charged in NY for a similar project.  This is not rare and the situation is, often, worse when litigation is involved.  A list of the best Korean law firms in Korea may be found at: 10 Best Law Firms in Korea. The Good: The Hourly Rates in Korea, normally, are Lower than Hong Kong, London, New York, Tokyo and Paris. Increased competition has brought down rates to levels equal to a decade ago. Korea is increasing the number of students that pass the bar exam. More international attorneys (American, British, German and Chinese) have entered the market, thus, increasing competition. More firms with international attorneys in Korean are capable of handling matters for foreigners. Competition is quickly bringing down the cost, however, foreign clients without knowledge of the market are

Continue reading

Korea Blockchain Law Society Founded: Korean Crptocurrency Law Updates

The inaugural meeting of the Blockchain Law Society of Korea was held last week.  We wrote on the Korean Law Blog articles on Korean Blockchain/Alt Currency Law and shall be participating in the Blockchain Law Society and updating the reader on issues addressed by the Blockchain Law Society.  You shall find more articles on Blockchain, Alt currenices, Korean Crypto-currency Law and like topics on this blog over the next couple of months. We are looking forward to more lively discussions and hope that the Korean Blockchain Law society shall lead to a comprehensive Korean CryptoCurrency -Blockchain Law that does not lead to destruction of a unique and potentially profitable business opportunity for entrepreneurs in Korea and entrepreneurs that wish to invest in Korea.  We hope that foreign investors are, also, considered in these meetings and in the drafting of these laws.  Foreign investors play a key part in Korean business and locking

Continue reading

Confession Prior to Arrest in Korea: Korean Sentencing Law Basics

Some crimes in Korea require the victim’s consent for the prosecutor to indict a victim, the most literal translation of these types of crimes are “Crimes Not Punished Against the Will of the Victim.” Additionally, a “Self Denunciation” (Confession to Korean Investigative Agency Prior to Arrest ) may mitigate punishment (Korean Criminal Act Article 52).  The difference between these types of crimes and the formality in confessing may forego the opportunity to avoid a jail sentence. All good Korean criminal defense lawyers, at a minimum, should be aware of this specific issue, confession formalities and, also, be aware of the need, in many cases, to proactively engage alleged victims. Korean Confessions/Self-Denunciation in Sentencing Law in Korea  Criminal Act of Korea, Article 52 (1) When self-denunciation is made to competent authorities who have the responsibility to investigate the crimes, the punishment may be mitigated or remitted. (2) The preceding paragraph shall apply

Continue reading

Korean Entrapment Law: Korean Criminal Procedure Law Basics

The use of the Entrapment Defense in Korea depends on if the actions of the police/investigators have “induced” the suspect to commit a crime or merely provided an “opportunity” for the suspect to commit a crime.  The “crime inducing” act by the Korean government is a criminal defense to the alleged consummated crime.  The main job of the court in determining if the crime was induced is to determine the intent of the suspect at the time of the alleged inducing action by the Korean police/investigator. The Korean Supreme Court clarified this entrapment criminal defense rule in a case disposed of in the Fall of 2005. The Supreme Court of Korea acknowledged that entrapment likely occurred in a case that concerned a paid informant and the smuggling of drugs from China to Korea. The informant, according to the defendants, asserted that the importation of the drugs was to assist the government efforts to fight drug

Continue reading

Korean Medical Malpractice Arbitration Law

Korean Medical Malpractice lawsuits are often compared to “Beating one’s head against the wall,” since Korean medical malpractice lawsuit are, typically, difficult for patients to prevail in.  In medical malpractice cases, in Korea, and in most developed jurisdictions, the plaintiff has the duty to establish, among other things, a nexus between the alleged injury and the actions or in actions of the doctor.  Proving this nexus is, often, difficult because of the apprehension of expert witnesses (doctors) to step on the toes of other doctors, cost of obtaining neutral experts and lack of adequate legal resources for injured patients. One valid means of obtaining a remedy, in a cost effective manner, is via Korea’s Medical Dispute Medication & Arbitration Agency (“KMDMA”). However, under the prior Act on Remedies for Injuries from Medical Malpractice and Mediation of Medical Disputes (abbreviated as “Medical Dispute Mediation Act”) the a plaintiff was, only, able to

Continue reading

Civil Court Proceedings in Korean Courts: Korean Civil Litigation Basics

The following is a timetable-based outline of Korean Civil Court Proceedings at Korean Courts.  Please note, this is the typical civil court proceedings and exceptions do and, often, exist at Korean civil courts.  Korean civil courts are less procedure focused than U.S., British, German and other Western nations’ courts, thus, allowing more flexibility for judges and the parties. The proceedings at Korean courts of first instance is, typically, completed within one year from the filing the complaint to a district court and appeals to the High Court in Korea (court of second instance), typically, is completed with ten months of filing the appeal to the Korean High Court.  Appeals to the Korean Supreme Court may, sometimes, take multiple years to complete. We have excluded from this list proceedings within the Constitutional Court of Korea, Korean Family Courts, the Korean Administrative Courts, Patent Courts, Small Claims courts and other special courts. 

Continue reading

South Korean Act on International Judicial Mutual Assistance in Civil Matters: Obtaining Evidence via Korean Courts and the Korean Government for use in Proceedings Abroad

In some cases in Korean courts, it is advisable to obtain evidence held in a foreign jurisdiction for use in a Korean civil proceeding in a Korean court.  The need often assists in establishing damages, course of dealings or the basis of liability.  Additionally, in cases in non-Korean courts, evidence held in Korea may be useful in these foreign court proceedings for similar reasons.  The Korean Act on International Judicial Mutual Assistance in Civil Matters sets out specific requirements that need to be met before the Korean government may order the production of this requested evidence. We have assisted foreign law firms in obtaining evidence in Korea and, also, we have requested evidence from foreign jurisdictions in pending cases in Korea.  Korea has, thankful, improved, in recent years, its protocols for handling requests from foreign courts. Please note, in a Korean lawsuit a Korean judge may request from a foreign

Continue reading

Enforcement of Arbitral Awards in Korean Courts: Arbitration Law Basics

After an arbitration panel outside of Korea renders an arbitral award against a Korean company or individual, typically, if the non-prevailing party lacks assets outside of Korea or the prevailing party needs to enjoin acts in Korea, the prevailing party chooses to enforce the arbitration award in Korea.  Enforcement is not as easy as just giving arbitral awards to non-prevailing Korean parties.  For enforcement of foreign judgments in Korean courts please see: Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Korean Courts.  When enforcing foreign arbitral awards in Korea, Article 37(1) & (2) of the Arbitration Act of Korea comes into play, thus, leading to the need to apply Korean Law to the enforcement of the arbitral awards and utilize a Korean court for enforcement. The good news is that in 2016, the Arbitration Act of Korea was amended to, among other things, allow for a quicker and less cumbersome manner of enforcing

Continue reading

Basics to Successfully Outsourcing Production of your Product to Korea: Korea OEM Basics

So you have decided to outsource the manufacturing of your products to Korea. Good choice in choosing quality-focused Korea over quantity-focused China, but don’t make the bad choice of not considering basic basic legal due diligence necessary to protect your good name, technology, brand and the future of your business. If you plan on just dealing through a purchase order (PO) in Korea, you are heading down a path that may lead to a kick in the behind. The recession hit small/medium-sized manufacturers even harder than large manufacturers. Many of these SMEs have decided that the only way to survive is OEM (original equipment manufacturing) outsourcing to China, India, and other parts of Asia. I, also, do a good deal of enjoyable work in China. I am, however, always happy to see clients choose Korea over China, since many of the headaches you will experience in China and India will never

Continue reading

Dismissal of Employees in Korea: Supreme Court of Korea Precedent

The Korean Supreme Court ruled, in March of 2018, that a company may terminate employees for one incident of employee gambling.  The case stems from the termination of drivers that were caught on one occasion gambling prior to driving buses. The lower courts ruled, in short, that gambling was not a serious enough offense to justify termination since: The act of gambling, only, occurred on one occasion and thus trust between the employee and employer has not broken down; The employees performed their job functions adequately; and The non-termination of employment of the employees would not significantly interfere with the ability of the employer to successful continue its business- if the employees do not engage in these acts in the future. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower court and noted that: Gambling could effect the rest period of the drivers and the job of the drivers requires

Continue reading