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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Kim & Chang

09 March 2017

Defended Korea in a short-lived ICSID claim

People in Who’s Who Legal 3
Pending cases as counsel 76
Value of pending counsel work US$6.81 billion
Treaty cases 1
Current arbitrator appointments 15 (of which 10 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 13

Founded in 1973, Kim & Chang has had a dedicated international arbitration practice since 1998 that is home to Korean and foreign-qualified lawyers. It is proud to have been the first international arbitration group in Korea (its first case was against the Korean government).

The group has grown from five lawyers to a more than 30-strong team, almost half of whom are foreign-qualified, with a mixture of civil and common law experience. The practice is led by Byung-Chol Yoon and Eun-Young Park, both based in Seoul.

Eun-Young Park is vice president of the LCIA court and serves on the board of directors and court of SIAC. He is also former vice chair of the IBA's arbitration committee and co-chair of its Asia-Pacific arbitration group. BC Yoon is a member of the ICC Court and chairman of the Korean Council for International Arbitration. He is also one of South Korea’s representatives to the Commercial Arbitration Committee at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a special administrative region of North Korea being developed as an industrial free zone between the two Koreas. Both are on the executive committee of the new Seoul International Dispute Resolution Center, where Yoon is secretary general.

Network

The firm has offices in Seoul and Hong Kong.

Who uses it?

The group represents major Korean conglomerates including Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, Kia, SK and Doosan, as well as major foreign companies.

Track record

One famous client is the Hanwha Group, for which it conducted the largest Korea-related ICC arbitration on record over the sale and control of a financial services company, seated in New York and heard in Vancouver. The group prevailed against a Korean government agency and won a significant portion of its legal fees.

Other big wins include US$950 million for a US party in two ICC cases against a Korean government entity, a similar amount in an SIAC arbitration and US$40 million for Lone Star Funds in an ICC case seated in Tokyo.

It has also advised a consortium led by Canada’s Bombardier in an ICC dispute with the government over a public–private partnership driverless light railway project. That resulted in a US$750 million win for the consortium following a fast-track arbitration that lasted 16 months. A subsequent costs award went 80 per cent in favour of the client, and the awards have been successfully enforced.

The firm also helped a Korean media client settle a US$500 million shareholder dispute in 2015 that had played out in a Hong Kong-seated ICC arbitration.

Recent events

Along with Debevoise & Plimpton, Kim & Chang was instructed to defend the Korean government in a US$260 million ICSID claim lodged by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund IPIC in 2015 concerning a levy on a petroleum asset sale. However, the case was discontinued in October 2016.

The firm helped a Korean heavy industry client settle a US$320 million ICC case against a European engineering company.

It continues to act for Korean shipyard clients in a pair of cases being heard under the rules of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association. The two cases, which have a combined value of more than US$1.85 billion, both relate to the construction of semi-submersible rigs. Clifford Chance is co-counsel on one of the cases.

Other pending ICC cases include a US$100 million claim relating to an equipment supply contract for one of the biggest power and water projects in the Middle East; and a Seoul-seated FIDIC dispute over the construction of a warehouse.

In the past year, the arbitration group has hired six new attorneys, including O-Gon Kwon, a former permanent judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Client comment

Andrew Ahn, from autoparts company Hyundai Mobis, says the firm has efficiently handled arbitrations for it involving numerous parties and three different languages. He says the firm has “helped us manoeuvre difficult proceedings” and that Liz Chung was “quick in her responses” and “thorough in her factual and legal analysis.”

A Korean steelmaker that retained Kim & Chang for a Hong Kong arbitration says the firm had “the best teamwork that I have seen”. Meanwhile a US energy company says the firm did “an outstanding job” in handling a Korea-seated case and explaining the differences with US procedures.