Lee & Ko

South Korea

Analysis

Overview

An undisputed premier firm, Lee & Ko holds steady in the rankings as a foolproof choice for its impressive roster of offshore and onshore clients. Its renowned finance practice wins plaudits from peers and clients that acknowledge its frequent role representing lenders. The capital markets practice continued its march of dominance in the debt space, evidenced by its outflow of record-breaking and market-leading bond issuances over the last 12 months. Managing partner Yong Seok Ahn is recognised for his corporate and competition expertise. Notable movements include the hiring of former standing commissioner of the KFTC, senior counsel Seok Ho Kim, former head commissioner of the Seoul National Labour Relations Commission Woon Bae Jeon, corporate partner Frank Shyn from Kim & Chang, and three new partners for the IP team from Kim & Chang and the Korean Intellectual Property Office.

Client feedback

“It provides professional services tailored to customer needs.” – Aviation

“Lee & Ko provided timely and comprehensive advice. In a jurisdiction not well known by my company, the lawyers helped guide us by distilling the key legal points to be considered in the transaction.” – Competition/antitrust

“Lee & Ko has been very professional and prompt with their advice. It always delivers business-orientated advice. It has a good understanding of the complexity of our business.” – Competition/antitrust

“Excellent firm. Accurate and works fast.” – Corporate and M&A

“Professional, bilingual, quick and experienced.” – Labour and employment

“The team provided us with an in-depth investigation and research.” – Labour and employment

“It is responsive, flexible, give clear advice and are very technically sound. It understood our business, our needs and our concerns.” – Labour and employment

“It is very practical and socially aware. The partner with whom we primarily work has a great command of English, which is important to us as an MNC based out of the US.” – Labour and employment

“Reasonable fees, client-friendliness, and flexibility.” – Labour and employment

“The firm is very knowledgeable and professional. The advice it provided was always tailored to suit our business's needs and was detailed.” – Labour and employment

“The lawyers were strategic, business-oriented and structured which facilitated our business decision-making.” – Labour and employment

“Excellent communications and immediate action.” – Labour and employment

“Fast and accurate feedback.” – Labour and employment

“Lee & Ko has an excellent labour team. The members of the labour team work together to make decisions, which have produced good results for litigation. They have a lot of experience and can help you win a lawsuit by quoting similar cases.” – Labour and employment

“It provided accurate legal review opinions for critical decisions.” – Labour and employment

Chang Soo Jin

“He has good customer care. He provided various materials to our company to eliminate the risks that may arise in the future, as well as those in ongoing lawsuits, and suggests labour law education.”

Kyung Tae Kim

“He is an accountant and attorney at the same time. Therefore, in approaching the tax law problem, he is able to propose more professional solutions.”

William Kim

“William is pragmatic.  He understands client management with relation to an MNC.”

“He is a strategic thinker that provides structured support for decision-making on our end.”

“He is intelligent, quick and has excellent language skills.”

Sang Hoon Lee

“Hands-on, responsive, and clear.”

“He is client-friendly, flexible, knowledgeable and experienced.”

Kee Won Shin

“Shin was very responsive and communicated complex local issues to my company in a very effective manner. His background in Hong Kong and experience with international clients is a big value-add.”

“Kee Won is very friendly and approachable. He has in-depth knowledge of the applicable laws and is able to give a good summary and solution for the issues at hand.”

Hyunseok Song

“Passionate attitude.”

“He communicates with his team and clients very effectively. I am looking forward to working with him and his team in the near future.”

“He provides professional solutions and is very friendly.”

“He is very experienced, full of knowledge and gives us quick feedback.”

Tax
Work highlights

Defended Lotte Property & Development against a tax audit from the local tax authorities concerning the acquisition of Lotte Tower.

Key clients

Amazon, Baring Private Equity, Hanjin, HSBC, LG, MasterCard, Samsung, Shinsegae, SK

Labour and employment
Work highlights

Engaged by Oracle Korea to formulate and implement a long-term strategy for support in handling and improving labour-management relations, in addition to legal support.

Advising Hyundai Motors on its appeal to the Central Labor Relations Commission (CLRC) after losing a wrongful termination suit at the Regional Labor Relations Commission (RLRC). The CLRC reversed the RLRC’s ruling and found in favour of the client. The employee has filed an appeal.

Key clients

Citibank Korea, Colony Capital, Kangwon Land, Kia Motors, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics

Intellectual property
Work highlights

Advising Big Hit Entertainment, the exclusive agent of global K-pop phenomenon BTS, in commencing legal action against publisher Asta TV Korea for selling photobooks fronted as entertainment magazines that featured a large number of BTS photos. The court’s decisions are the first-ever to recognise that entertainment companies are also independently entitled to legal protection for their artists’ name, logo, portrait, and photos.

Representing King.com in a landmark copyright infringement case against Korean developer Avocado Entertainment. The Supreme Court rendered a decision in favour of the client, holding that a game is afforded copyright protection if its elements are selected, arranged and combined in accordance with certain intent so that the resulting game has creative characteristics distinguishing itself from other games.

Key clients

CyberOptics Corporation, Eider, GS Caltex Corporation, Netmarble Corporation, SKC Kolon PI, Tempur Korea

Dispute resolution
Work highlights

Represented third-party interveners Huawei and MediaTek in a lawsuit commenced by Qualcomm against the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) for cancellation of a corrective order. The clients supported the KFTC, which ultimately won a court ruling that its decision was lawful.

Acting for the government of Korea in an investment treaty arbitration under the Korus FTA and 2013 Uncitral Arbitration Rules brought on by US hedge fund Elliott Associates.

Key clients

Chungho Comnet, Hanwha Life Insurance, Kookmin Bank, Woongjin Coway

Restructuring and insolvency
Work highlights

Acting for GS E&C, Koomin Bank and Hanwha Life Insurance in its suit against the city of Uijeongbu to enforce the rights under the operation of the agreement, after the PPP light rail project the clients had provided financing for was declared bankrupt.

Advised Korea Export and Import Bank as the largest creditor in the rehabilitation plan of Sungdong Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Corporation.

Key clients

Ascentury Busan, Busan Bank, Daesang Corporation, Joyson Safety Systems Japan KK, Nonghyup Bank

Corporate and M&A
Work highlights

Advised MBK Partners on its acquisition of 79.8% of shares in Lotte Card from Lotte Corporation for $1.2 billion.

Represented SKC Corporation, a chemical and tech material subsidiary of SK Group, on its acquisition of global copper foil maker KCF Technologies from KKR for $1 billion.

Acted for Sae-A Trading as the acquirer of 60.5% shares in Korean cardboard and box manufacturer Tailim Package, and on the acquisition of both Tailim Paper and Tailim Packaging. The seller in all these transactions was IMM Private Equity.

Key clients

Aramco Overseas Company, Hyundai Oilbank, LG, Samsung Electronics, SK Broadband

Capital markets
Work highlights

Acted for Mirae Asset Daewoo in connection with the establishment of a $5 billion medium-term note (MTN) programme. The client became the first securities company in the world to establish an MTN programme.

Advised LG Chem on the issuance of three tranche notes due 2023, 2024 and 2029. Globally, this was the first-ever issuance of green bonds by a chemical company.

Represented Hanwha Life Insurance on its issuance of $420 million hybrid bonds due 2049 with an interest rate of 3.69%.

Key clients

Central Motek, Jetema Corporation, KEB Hana Bank, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corporation, Korea Resources Corporation, Posco

Competition/antitrust
Work highlights

Acted for Saudi Aramco on filing a merger notification over the acquisition of 17% of the shares in Hyundai Oil Bank that it purchased for $1.2 billion. The client obtained unconditional merger clearance.

Assisted SK Telecom and SK Broadband in attaining merger clearance over the clients’ joint acquisition of systems operator T-Broad Corporation.

Key clients

General Electric, Huawei, MediaTek, Samsung Electronics

Banking and finance
Work highlights

Advised the lenders Samsung Securities, KB Securities and others on an extension of credit facilities to facilitate Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets’ total acquisition of Daesung Industrial Gases through a Korean SPV.

Represented borrower SKC Corporation on acquiring financing through a special purpose company for its purchase of copper foil manufacturer KCF Technologies from KKR valued at $1.26 billion.

Key clients

IMM Private Equity, ING Bank, Kookmin Bank, NH Investment Securities

Regulatory
Work highlights

Advised a domestic automaker on potential competition issues that may materialise, such as platform monopoly and the abuse of market dominance in collecting big data, while launching a connected car service.

Acting on behalf of Woori bank for investigations by authorities for criminal charges related to allegations of violation of the financial supervisory service regulation, criminal code, and Capital Markets Act.

Key clients

BNP Paribas Cardif Life Insurance, Sony Interactive Entertainment Korea, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics