Ask Korea Law

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Classifying a Foreign Incorporated Corporation as a Domestic Corporation for Korean Tax Purposes: “Actual Business Management Place” Rule

그림 67When a foreign incorporated company does a business in Korea, it is very fundamental to determine whether the company is a domestic or a foreign corporation for Korean tax purposes.  A major difference in tax liability is that, in principle, a foreign corporation is liable for taxes only on the incomes generated in Korea rather than a worldwide income.

In this regard, the Corporate Tax Ac of Korea(“CTA”) defines a “domestic corporation” as a corporation with its headquarter, main office, or actual business management place located in Korea, and a “foreign corporation” as an organization which has its head office or principal place of business in a foreign country.  What makes distinguishing domestic corporation for a foreign corporation under CTA difficult and challenging is the meaning and application of the term of “actual business management place” set forth in CTA.  For example, in a case decided by the Supreme Court of South Korea in 2016, a Singapore incorporated company had challenged the Korean tax authority’s decision that its actual business management place was in Korea.

The Singapore company had a wide variety of international business portfolio and among them was a trading foreign issued corporate bonds including a Korean corporate bond.  The Korean tax authority decided that the company’s actual business management had taken place in Korea after finding the facts that the company had a liaison office in Korea, one of the directors was residing in Korea and financial documents relating to the Korean business was stored and managed in Korea.  And this Continue reading


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[Q&A: Labor Law] I Work for Korean Branch of U.S. Company. My Employment Contract Provides U.S Law Shall Apply and Severance Pay Is Not Granted. Can I Still Get a Severance Pay Pursuant to Korean Labor Laws?

Question) I am an American citizen working in South Korea.  Originally I was working for a U.S. company incorporated in the state of New York, but 3 year ago I was seconded to the Korean branch of my U.S. company, and have been working for the branch until now.  When I was seconded, my new employment contract provided that the New York state law shall apply to my employment relation in Korea.  Now, my employment contract is expiring and I would like to know whether I am entitled to the severance pay under the Korean labor law.  I know my employment contract and my company’s policy do not provide the right to severance pay.  But, as I have been working in Korea for 3 years, I am wondering if the statutory rights of severance pay under the Korean labor law could be given to me.

Answer) The answer is Yes.  You are entitled to the severance pay under the Korean labor laws.  (check here as to how the the severance pay under Korean law is recognized and operates)  This answer could be accepted quite surprising considering the fact that the parties had previously agreed (i) the Korean labor should not apply and (ii) the severance pay should not be awarded.  How come the Korean labor law intervenes in the parties’ employment relation which is seemingly irrelevant to the Korean law implications other than the fact that work place of the employee is in Korea?  The answer lies in the provisions of Private International Act of Korea which provide the general principles for the choice of law in Korea.

When a legal relation has certain foreign elements, the court must decide which jurisdiction’s law shall apply to interpret that legal relation.  In Korea, the Private International Act provides the general rules and principles for the governing laws of the various types of legal relations.  Specifically, the Act provides that if the employer and employee agree to their own choice of law, the employment contract is governed by the law chosen by the parties.  But, this does not mean the parties can freely determine which law and regulations apply to their employment relation.  It is true in Korea that the party autonomy is a general principle of governing laws, but party autonomy is subject to limits imposed by the overriding public policy and mandatory rules.  Accordingly, Continue reading


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Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in South Korea

Let’s say you obtained damages recovery judgment from a U.S. court against a Korean residing in the states.  Soon after your excitement for the winning judgment, however, you found he had no assets in the states to fulfill your judgment.  This could also happen in a litigation between U.S. citizens in a U.S. court where the losing defendant moved to South Korea and there are no assets left in the U.S.  You might have spent quite large amount of legal fees to win the judgment already, but you think your judgment is now in great peril to become useless.  This horrible situation might frustrate you.

But, don’t worry too much.  You can enforce your duly obtained U.S judgment in Korea.  If you are sure the defendant has enough assets to cover your claims in the judgment and your legal fees, you are encouraged to file for an enforcement order for foreign judgment to a Korean court.

According to Article 218 of Civil Procedure Act of South Korea, a final and conclusive judgement by a foreign court shall be recognized and enforceable in Korea, when all the following requirements are met:

  1. the foreign court which issued the judgment had a jurisdiction over the case consistent with the principles of jurisdiction under Korean law and relevant international treaty;
  2. the defeated party received, in a timely manner, a service of complaint and summons by lawful method excluding a service by public notice, or that she responded to the lawsuit Continue reading


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Provisional Attachment of Assets under Korean Law – How to Secure Your Monetary Claim in Korea

Let’s assume a creditor has a monetary claim against a debtor in Korea but the debtor refuses to pay it.  The creditor would proceed to file a lawsuit to get a judgment to collect his claim.  Unfortunately, however, the chances are that, knowing the complaint was filed, the debtor would try to conceal or transfer his assets to evade from the judgment to be made later.  This shows why provisional attachment is highly required to secure the judgment to be obtained.

Provisional attachment is a judicial measure available to anyone who has a monetary claim to lock down certain assets to keep the debtor from selling or giving them away until the court issues a judgment on the merit. The creditor can, and usually does, seek a provisional remedy before she files a complaint on the merit.  So, this is a very powerful weapon for the creditor.  For example, as many Korean creditors do, if the creditor succeeds in putting a provisional attachment on the debtor’s bank account, the debtor would not be able to use the money and could face several penalties regarding its banking/financing transactions with the bank.  This could heavily deteriorate the ability for a small com­pany to con­duct business, which makes the debtor Continue reading


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Apple’s Korean Office Paid Compensation to a South Korean User for iPhone Location Tracking – Does This Mean Korean Court Made an End to the Legal Turmoil?

It was reported that last month Apple’s South Korean office paid $945 of compensation to one of South Korean iPhone users for the breaching of privacy by the controversial iPhone user location tracking.  Here is the detail from Reuters.

By the way, some news media reported that this was a ruling from a Korean district court.  I, as a Korean lawyer, think that statement is half right and half wrong.  Basically it is true that the court issued a ruling which ordered the Apple Korea to pay $945 to the user.  But this was not a formal trial case, but a Request for a Payment Order case.  Payment order is a more convenient & simplified legal procedure for claimant to get a judgment from the court compared to a formal lawsuit.  Once a request filed, the Korean court does not question the debtor (in this case, the Apple Korea) and issue a Payment Order within 2 or 4 weeks (in certain courts, within a few days). This payment order, a sort of ruling, asks the opposing party to choose whether to admit the claim as written on the request or to make an objection.  If no objection has been raised from the opposing party within 2 weeks, then Continue reading


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HSBC, “No More Bid for Korean Bank”

It is reported that Mr. Matthew Deakin, the president of the HSBC Korea, said on last Wednesday that HSBC Holdings Plc had no plan to acquire a local Korean bank for now.  Last year, HSBC walked away from the deal with the Lone Star, a U.S. private equity fund, which provided HSBC the right to buy 51 percent stake of Korea Exchange Bank due to the global financial crisis and continued legal disputes surrounding the 2003 purchase of the bank by Lone Star Funds. (Here is a related previous post)

Things have changed.  The Seoul Central District Court in last November ruled the purchase legal, and as the financial markets are now stabilizing.  But Mr. Deakin, at the press conference which took place for the purpose of introducing the bank’s new Emerging Markets Index, said “right now, we have no interest in any acquisition of Korean banks”.

Here is a related news article.


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[Q&A] Employee’s Act of Adultery and Its Legal Implication to the Employer under Korean Law

We’ve been asked about a criminal charge against an adultery under Korean criminal law quite often.  Foreign employees in Korean should be cautious that adultery is a crime under Korean law.  Here is a real example of such a case where a foreign officer committed an adultery and the company(employer)’s legal concern made them ask for some legal consultation to our law firm regarding the adultery law and criminal law process in Korea.

Q) Mr. XX, who is a head director of our company, committed an adultery and was charged by the Korean prosecutor.  He has confessed his guilty and the prosecutor demanded one year’s imprisonment for his crime to the court.  If the court finalizes that Mr. XX is guilty, does that mean Mr. XX will be imprisonment for one year or lesser?

A) Finding guilty does not always mean Mr. XX will be imprisoned.  The Court may SUSPEND the imprisonment for certain years even though Mr. XX is guilty.  The Korean Criminal Act provides that a married person who commits adultery shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years.  However, the Act also provides the execution of the sentence for an adultery can be Continue reading