Doing Business in Korea: The Korea labor market under the Moon administration

The election of progressive President Jae-in Moon, after the impeachment and imprisonment of the conservative former President, led to, among other progressive proposals, pledges from the President Moon Administration of sweeping changes to Korea’s Labor & Employment Law.  The following appears in a publication supported by the Korean Government.  The complete publication may be found at: Discovering Business in Korea.  The following changes are the major changes proposed by the Moon Administration. The changes may have a significant affect on companies doing business in Korea and may lead to an increase in taxes as a percentage of GDP. 810,000 new jobs via expanding Korea’s public sector President Moon vowed to create over 340,000 new government social service jobs and over 140,000 new government jobs in public safety and security, while converting 300,000 non-regular workers to permanent workers.  A non-regular worker, in Korea, is a worker without employment security. Thus, the conversion of

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Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from IPG

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years from IPG. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year. In this time of giving, IPG’s Korean Team has chosen, this year, to assist one orphanage and a foreign migrant woman’s group along with our regular Pro Bono and Bar Association initiatives.   Our attorneys regularly give, also, to a variety of charities of their individual choice. In this time of need for so many, we encourage researching charities via Charity Navigator and choosing an appropriate charity. Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays. IPG Legal

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Korean Tax Risk of Foreign Corporation Deemed “Actual Business Management Locale” within Korea: Korea Tax Law Basics

Foreign corporations, doing business in Korea, may be deemed local corporations subject to taxation on worldwide income if the foreign-incorporated company is deemed a Korean “domestic corporation” for Korean tax purposes.  This liaison-office Korean Tax Risk can, thus, lead to taxes on worldwide income, a tax audit and even criminal sanctions against those operating in Korea.  We have dealt with matters were employees, even, received exit bans. Thus, in most cases the establishment of a local Korean corporation is essential in assisting in shielding your foreign corporation from tax and other liabilities unless substantial reasons exist to not establish a local Korean corporate entity. One of the most significant risks of foreign companies doing business in Korea without a local entity is being deemed a local corporation subject to tax on worldwide income.  A domestic corporation under the Corporate Tax Act of Korea is a company with its “actual business

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Trade Dress Law in Korea. The Copycat May Catch the Mouse

A blog I just, recently, ran into posted an interesting post on Hermes trouble with copycats in Korea. The blog may be found at: Fashion Law Blog. Hermes lost, recently, a High Court case in Korea.  Hermes argued, in part, that: ” [Defendant’s] bags – which bear a striking resemblance to its famed Birkin and Kelly styles – run afoul of the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act, which prohibits, ‘causing confusion with another person’s goods by using signs identical or similar to another person’s name, trade name, trademark, container or package of goods or any other sign widely known in the Republic of Korea as an indication of goods, or by selling, distributing, importing or exporting goods with such signs.’” Hermes, in short, specifically argued that: “. . . that in recreating the trade dress in its most famous bags – namely, the distinctive three lobed flap

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Fleeing Korea while under Police/Prosecutor Investigation: International Hold in Korea

From changes a couple of years ago in the computer system and policy of the Korean Immigration Services, even if the Korean prosecution/police have not requested that an accused be placed on an International Hold, some records of police investigations, indictments and proposed fines and sentences by the prosecution/police are being reported to the Korean Immigration Service at airports and ports of departure. An International Hold, in Korea, is an official procedure that flags passports and fingerprints & prevents one, under this International Hold, from departing Korea prior to the lifting of the International Hold. Even if you are not under an official International Hold, Korea Immigration may refuse your departure or entry into Korea based on information from data being shared between the Police, Prosecution, National Tax Service and other Korean government agencies.  Please note that the Korea Immigration is a branch of the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry

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Korean Defense Policy under Korean President Moon Jae-in’s Administration

Because of the recent tensions on the Korean peninsula, caused by the actions of the Kim Regime in the North of the Korean Peninsular, the Korean government under the President Jae-in Moon Administration has vowed to, among other things, increase the defense budget and enhance the 3-Axis System.  Opportunities, thus, abound for proactive companies in the defense industry. Korea’s Major Defense Priorities Increase the Korean defense budget from 2.4% to around 3.0% of GDP; Maintain the strong relationship with the United States; Procure advance weapon systems domestically and from abroad; Enhance and further develop the 3-Axis System; Expedite the takeover of wartime control of the Korean military (and all troops in Korea) to the Korean military; and Expedite the procurement and build out of purchased and in development defense systems. 3-Axis System The understanding of the 3-Axis System and the major specific priorities of the Korean Administration demonstrates the opportunities

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Abuse of Market Dominance in Korea: Competition Law in Korea

The Seoul Central District Court ruled earlier this year that Namyang Dairy Products Co. (“Namyang”) was in violation of the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act of Korea by abusing its market dominance and “unfairly taking advantage” of retailers. For more Antitrust/Competition Law articles please click on the labels noted Antitrust Law on the right. Namyang, a major Korean dairy company, was accused by retailers of, among other things, forcing retailers to purchase expired or soon to expire products and purchase unpopular products.  The Seoul Central District Court in 2014GaHab592238 ruled the company was in violation of Article 23 of the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act of Korea and awarded damages to the plaintiffs. Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act of Korea Article 23(1), no. 4 prohibits a company or individual from: “Trading with a certain transacting partner by unfairly taking advantage of his/her position in trade.” The Court

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Korean Franchisors’ Obligations in Korea to File Annual Report to Korean FTC

Korea’s Franchise Law imposes an obligation to report to the Fair Trade Commission of Korea, yearly, specific information relating to your franchise business worldwide.  A franchisor’s disclosure document may be de-registered or a fine may be imposed if this Yearly Franchise Report is not accepted by the Korean Fair Trade Commission within 120 days of the closing of the year. The Yearly Franchise Report, in Korea, is intended to notify franchisees and prospective franchisees of changes in the operations of the franchisor.   Don’t forget – file the update yearly. Other articles on Franchise Law that may be of interest: Enforcement of Sales Promotions by Franchisors in Korea Distribution Agreements in Korea: Crawl before you Walk Dispute Resolution Clauses in Franchise, Joint Venture, Partnership Agreements in Korea Korean Franchising Law Basics: Korea’s Act on Fairness in Franchise Transactions Covenants Against Competition in Franchise Agreement

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Guidelines on Rules of Employment & Guidelines on Fair Personnel Management Withdrawn by Korean Ministry of Employment

Inline with the labor union and employee-focused promises of the President Moon Administration, the Ministry of Employment & Labor has withdrawn the impeached President Park’s Guidelines on Rules of Employment & Guidelines on Fair Personnel Management to the regret of most of industry.  The withdraw of the Guidelines does not change the present state of Korean Labor & Employment Law. Ex-President Park’s Guidelines on Rules of Employment, inter alia, noted procedures to amend the rules of employment of a company even without the mandated consent of the employees and the Guidelines on Personnel Management noted a procedure and reasons to terminate poor performing employees.  The Guidelines, together, were a means, in part, to express an opinion and clarify issues, seemingly, with the purpose to to add more labor flexibility to a system that is perceived to be overly protective of employees.  Korea, in international surveys, is rated as have one

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Renouncing an Estate/Inheritance under Korean Law

A typical matter of a party renouncing an estate in Korea commences when a family member in Korea requests the waiver/disclaimer of the right to a Korean inheritance.  Sometimes the waiver is for a valid reason and sometimes the Korean-based family does not have a legitimate reason for the waiver other than self-interest. A, typical, situation involves an estate of a Korean national decadent with non-Korean family abroad.  The estate, often, includes assets in Korea and sometimes abroad. The Korean-based family, often, requests the non-Korean based family to sign a power of attorney or a document waiving the estate, thus, granting the Korean-based family total control over the estate without any guarantees of payment of the proceeds of the estate for the foreign-based family members. For a basic understanding of Korean Interstate Succession Law and Korean Inheritance Law see: Korean Inheritance Law.  The post provides a basic explanation of what

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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 agency agreement is presumptively valid in the entertainment business in Korea. The Seoul Central District Court, further, noted that the intent of this exclusive agreement was not to bind the entertainers to long terms, thus, the FTC made the standard-form exclusive agency agreement term at seven years in order to

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Publicity Rights/Portrait Rights in Korea: Entertainment Law Basics in Korea

The Seoul Central District Court delivered, in mid 2016, a decision ruling that an individual’s publicity rights (portrait rights) were violated by a person sharing an image on a public social media site.  The violators were sharing the images for commercial purposes and shared the images without the publisher’s consent (Seoul Central District Court 2015GaDan5324874). FACTS Mr. A posted photos of himself on his Instagram Page.  Mr. B utilzed those photos on Naver’s Band without Mr. A’s consent. Band is a Korean social media site. C company, also, posted the photos on Facebook without Mr. A’s consent.  Thus, Mr. A’s photos were re-posted from Mr. A’s Instagram Page and posted on Naver’s Band by an individual and posted on Facebook by a company.  Seemingly, the purpose of the re-posting was to promote the pages and products of Mr. B and Company C.  The attorneys for Mr. B and Company C

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Damages for Material Omissions in Franchise Disclosure Documents in South Korea

In April of 2015, the Supreme Court of Korea ruled that under Article 4; Article (9)(1); and Article 41(1) of the prior version of the Fair Transactions in Franchise Business Act (“Franchise Act”) damages may be obtained, from a franchisor, for all material omissions (Supreme Court 2014 DA 84824,84831, April 9, 2015) within Korean Franchise Disclosure Documents. Monetary damages may be obtained under Article 37(2) of the Franchise Act of Korea and Article 56(1) of the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act of Korea for “material omissions” within Franchise Disclosure Documents and other document presented to prospective franchisees. The damages may include the cost of build-out, rental, franchise fees and even, in some cases, lost opportunity costs.  Additional, in some cases fines may be imposed, franchises can be de-registered and criminal charges may be brought against employees and management. The Fair Trade Commission may, additionally, impose a fine, even if

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Is a Bankruptcy in the U.S. “Effective” on Assets in Korea?: Korean Bankruptcy Law Basics

The following article on the interplay between Korean Bankruptcy Law and foreign bankruptcy laws was motivated by a question from a reader from the Korea Times.  The following is from a column I used to write for the Korea Times.  Please note the present Bankruptcy Law in Korea was amended and the present topic, while interesting, shall not apply to present bankruptcy proceedings.  However, take a read – very interesting matter.  I shall be posting some of my old articles from a prior weekly column over the next couple of weeks, since these articles no longer appear online. Legal Ease Column by Sean Hayes from Sept. of 2003 (Korea Times) Dear Sean, I just received notice that a former customer filed bankruptcy in New York. The bankruptcy court attached his assets in the United States, but the assets didn’t cover the entire debt owed to me. He also has assets

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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

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Korean Civil Litigation Pre-Judgment & Post-Judgment Interest Awarded by Korean Courts

So you are suing a defendant in a Korean Court or you won a judgment in a Korea court? How much interest shall you earn on this judgment?  Korea awards different interest rates based in if the judgment is rendered or the judgment is not rendered. Additionally, it is, usually, advisable to include Penalty Damages Clauses to most type of Korean Contractual Agreements. Pre-Judgment Interest in Korea Pre-Judgment interest accrues from the date the payment is due.   Unless otherwise agree upon by the parties, the applicable statutory interest rate is 6% per annum for commercial claims and 5% per annum for most non-commercial civil claims.  Upon judgment, the judgment must be executed.  Get yourself a good English-speaking Korean commercial lawyer with experience executing commercial judgments. Post-Judgment Interest in Korea After a judgment is rendered by a Korean court, the applicable statutory interest rate is 15% per annum and commences

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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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Top 10 Law Firms in Seoul, Korea for English-Speaking Foreigners According to 10 Magazine

We are proud to note that 10 Magazine listed us in an article titled 10 Lawyers in Seoul for English-Speaking Expats .  We are listed under the title Large/International Law Firms.  Thanks for the mention 10 Magazine.  We love your work.  We have, also, been rated by other rating services. The article notes: The lawyers of IPG focus on business law, civil litigation, franchise law, and criminal defense. With affiliated offices around the world, they’re a good choice for cross-border issues. One of the partners there, Sean Hayes, runs one of the best English blogs on the Korean legal landscape, The Korean Law Blog. If the constantly-changing legal environment of this country interests you, it will make an excellent resource. The complete list of the 10 Law Firms (the article deleted/omitted one law firm) for English-Speaking Foreigners in Korea is: Large/International Law Firms in Korea IPG Legal Yulchon Lee & Ko Kim

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Preparation for Korean Police & Prosecutor Interrogations & Witness/Defendant Questioning at Korean Courts

All good Korean attorneys prepare all clients for witness questioning & suspect interrogations in Korea.  Clients may be subpoenaed to appear in a Korean police office, Korean prosecutors office or to appear as a witness or a criminal defendant in a Korean Court and should be thoroughly prepared by their attorneys. We at IPG, hear of too many issues of lawyers, only, telling clients to “tell the truth and don’t worry.”  This is, obviously, not adequate witness or suspect preparation.  We see this from Korean law firms large and small.  Thus, the following list was prepared as a basic guide to necessaries prior to coming before a Korean Court, prosecutor or police investigator.  Please retain an attorney that has experience preparing clients for witness questionings and suspect interrogations – it is sad to note that few Korean attorneys have experience preparing even criminal defendants for court.   The reality is, however, that all

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Korean Trademark Act Revised: Korean Trademark Act of 2017

The Korean Trademark Act is, often, criticized by scholars and Korean legal practitioners for not being an effective means of enforcing copyrights and for being overly cumbersome.  The new changes are a step in the right direction.  Korea promulgated on September 1, 2017 the revised Korean Trademark Act. The following are the major changes. Any party may file an action to cancel a a trademark for non-use under revised Korean Trademark Law This change shall, likely, increase the number of litigants.  Prior to this change, courts would require litigants to establish that the litigant is an “interested” litigant.  The change may cause an increase in litigation. Effect of Cancellation on the filing date of the non-use action no longer the cancellation decision under revised Korean Trademark Law. Prior to this change, the effect of cancellation was the date of cancellation decision, thus, limiting potential monetary damages for infringement during the

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