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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Kim & Chang

05 April 2019

This Seoul firm is representing a Swiss elevator maker in an ICSID claim against South Korea

People in Who's Who Legal 3
People in Future Leaders 1
Pending cases as counsel 86
Value of pending counsel work US$10.5 billion
Treaty cases 1
Third-party funded cases 0
Current arbitrator appointments 9 (6 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 7

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.

Park is a vice president of the LCIA court, and serves on the court of SIAC. He is also former vice chair of the IBA’s arbitration committee and co-chair of its Asia-Pacific arbitration group.  Park also serves as arbitrator.

Yoon is a member of the ICC Court and is a former chairman of the Korean Council for International Arbitration. He is also on the executive committee of the Seoul International Dispute Resolution Centre, where he was once secretary general.

Meanwhile, partner Byung-Woo Im heads the construction group with support from English and German-qualified partner Kay-Jannes Wegner.  Other members of the construction team are industry specialists who have joined from prominent construction companies such as Dong-Seok (Johan) Oh, who worked as general counsel of Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Daewoong Lee, former in-house counsel at Samsung Engineering.

The arbitration team also includes partners Dong-Seok Oh and Chul- Won Lee, who co-chair the firm’s shipbuilding and offshore plant disputes practice, working closely with senior foreign attorney Sungjean Seo.  

Other names to know include Liz Kyo-Hwa Chung, who served on the amendment committee for the KCAB international arbitration rules; Joel Richardson, Richard Menard; Sup-Joon Byun, Una Cho and Hye Sung kim, all in Seoul. 

Network

There are offices in Seoul and Hong Kong.  Last year, the firm opened a new office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Who uses it?

The group represents major Korean companies including Hyundai, Daewoo, Kia, SK, Korean Air and Doosan, as well as major foreign companies including French aerospace company Hutchinson, New York-based emerging markets asset management firm, The Rohatyn Group, and Swiss-based Schindler Group.  It has also acted for the South Korean government at ICSID.

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% 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.

In 2011, the firm successfully represented Kia in an ICC arbitration regarding a joint venture dispute with Chong Jin Jeon and others, winning all claims and damages of over US$200 million.

Another win was for a European car supplier who had an US$80 million ICC claim brought against them by a Korean auto-parts manufacturer over a joint ventures agreement. The tribunal dismissed all the claims brought against the firm’s client.

Kim & Chang helped a European client, which was seeking US$28 million in a dispute over catalyst products shipped to the UAE, settle its claim.

Another settlement was achieved after the firm helped a client appoint a SIAC emergency arbitrator.  Following an interim award rendered by the emergency arbitrator in favour of the firm’s client, the parties agreed to settle the case.

Eun Young Park and Joel Richardson successfully represented two of Korea’s leading badminton athletes in a CAS arbitration against the Badminton World Federation, obtaining a favourable resolution that allowed the athletes to compete in the 2014 Asian Games in Inchon, Korea.

Recent events

The firm has taken on a number of new construction cases.  In one of these, it is representing two major Korean construction companies in a US$550 million LCIA claim against a Korean government affiliated company in a dispute over the construction of a nuclear power plant in the UAE.

The firm, together with a US law firm, was also asked to defend a Korean heavy industries company in an ICC arbitration against a Qatari gas company over an offshore project in Qatar with over US$2.5 billion at stake.

Among other construction matters, it is representing two major Japanese companies in a KCAB arbitration against a Korean government affiliated company. It is also advising large Korean engineering and construction company in a Seoul-seated ICC claim brought by another Korean party in connection with the one of the largest power and water projects in the Middle East

Kim & Chang has been instructed by a Russian national to advise in a KCAB arbitration against Korean financial companies relating to a joint and several guarantee agreements under Korean law.

It is also defending a Korean chemical company in a Singapore-seated ICC claim (under English law) against a Swiss bio-chemical company over the co-development and marketing of new pharmaceutical product. Kim & Chang is acting as the lead counsel on the case, instructing barristers as well as an international law firm to assist with the claim.

In the investment treaty sphere, as co-counsel with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, the firm is representing Swiss-based elevator maker Schindler in a US$300 million claim against South Korea in which the Swiss company is accusing the state’s financial regulators of illegally approving capital increases in a Hyundai elevator business in which it holds a stake.

Partner Liz Chung is on the IBA Arbitration Committee’s latest slate of officers.  She has been appointed to liaise with the association’s Asia Pacific Forum.

There were a number of new hires to the arbitration group last year from Korean companies, including Dami Park from Doosan Heavy Industries, Doyoung Kim from LG Electronics and Hyun-Bok Lee from Samsung C&T.

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.

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