Living abroad is stressful. Suffering injury by accident in a foreign country would be one of the worst cases you don’t even want to imagine. Our office is providing legal advice and representation for foreign victims to seek damages in various types of accidents.

In this article, our personal injury lawyer in Seoul, Korea explains what you need to know about the personal injury lawyers in Korea and what you can expect from them.

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그림 2[Updated on March 20th, 2020] In South Korea, the immigration office may remove or deport from South Korea any person who violated the Immigration Control Act(“ICA”).  Any person who is released after receiving a sentence of fine, imprisonment or heavier punishment could be removed from Korea by an exit or a deportation order pursuant to ICA.  In this article, we will provide a general overview of an exit and deportation order under Korean immigration law. (more…)

“I am an adoptee from South Korea to the U.S. Currently I live in the U.S.  Recently I found my biological parents died in South Korea.  He is survived by his wife and 2 sons.  He had businesses in Korea.  Can an adopted child inherit from biological parents in Korea?  I have never met or spoken to his wife and sons and so I don’t know if he had a will written.  What are my inheritance rights under Korean law?”

Everything Boils Down to Whether it is Full Adoption or Simple Adoption

A legal child is entitled to inheritance from his/her deceased parent. When the child is adopted, some jurisdictions treat the adoption as disconnecting the legal relationship with the biological parent, and some jurisdictions don’t. We call the former as a full adoption and the latter as a simple adoption.

As you can understand from the general idea of inheritance, an adopted child can inherit from biological parents in Korea only when the adoption is regarded as (more…)

We are taking about a situation where a foreigner is accused of any crime in Korea but he has already left Korea for any reason.  Some might come back to Korea to defend himself or some might just ignore it.  However, just ignoring can’t free you from the potential legal risk.  You won’t be allowed to enter into Korea and could be arrested at the border.  Recently, Korean Police is very active in requesting the INTERPOL to issue a red notice in order to have law enforcement worldwide locate and provisionally arrest the suspect.

Then can a foreign suspect resolve a pending criminal investigation case while staying abroad?  The answer is yes, but in a very exceptional case.  The Korean prosecutors are having a strict position that all suspects must appear at the face-to-face interrogation with the investigating authority.  If the suspect refuses to do so or the Korean prosecutor can’t locate the suspect, the prosecutor suspends the investigation and asks the court to issue an arrest warrant.  This warrant is noticed to the Korean immigration office.  As a result, the suspect could be arrested when s/he passes the Korean border.  Being abroad are usually insufficient as a just excuse.

There are, however, certain exceptions where the criminal case can be resolved without the suspect’s personal appearance: (more…)

Q) I’m an American and my wife is Korean. She is living in Korea and I have returned to the USA. We have agreed to divorce. However, I can’t go back to Korea just to sign the papers. Is it possible to have her do it? Or have her email me the divorce agreement for me to sign and return to her? I just want to know how to divorce when the spouse doesn’t live in Korea.

Spouses Can Live in Different Country to File for Divorce in Korea

In general, the Korean court requires at least one spouse to reside in Korea in order to process the divorce filing. Thus, the fact that one spouse resides in a foreign country doesn’t bar a spouse living in Korea to file for divorce. The issue, however, lies in a procedural matter.

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I am a U.S. citizen.  I currently have a very complicated inheritance case in South Korea.  My father passed away 10 years ago in the U.S. and his two Korean half brothers in Korea are currently suing my family for my father’s portion as well as my father’s sister’s portion as she passed away many years ago.  They are claiming they want 60% of my father’s portion and all of my aunt.  There is no will left by my grandfather.  They are claiming that they took care of the grandfather who was a Korean citizen.  However, when my father was alive he also sent money regularly to his father and his half brothers but as it was more than 10 years ago I am uncertain how to proceed.

Governing Law Issue

Inheritance gets more complicated when it has some sort of multinational issues.  Here the Korean heirs sued the U.S. heirs at the Korean court.  The deceased was a Korean national and it is probable that the majority of the estate is located in Korea.  That might be one of the reasons why this case should be litigated in Korea, not the U.S.

In an international inheritance case, we first need to find out which country’s law shall apply.  As this case was filed with the Korean court, the Korean court decides this issue pursuant to their own choice of law doctrines.  According to the Korean choice of law, the law of the deceased’s country shall become the governing law.  That means, in our case, the Korean Inheritance law shall apply. (Please refer to this article regarding the basic of Korean Inheritance law)

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Q) This past weekend I was involved in some altercation with a Korean guy at the local bar.  I pushed him slightly, but he fell down and broke his wrist.  He phoned a police officer and filed a criminal accusation against me.  I am an E-2 visa holder.  What can I do now to help myself?

A) If you are a first offender and had no other criminal record, I don’t think this case becomes a serious one.  However, as you are a foreigner, any conviction could lead to an exit order and an entry ban decision from the Korean immigration office.  Under the current rule, if a foreigner is fined more than 5,000,000KRW for any crime in Korea, the immigration office can issue an exit order and a future visa application and extension could be denied.  It can also result in an entry ban.  Under the rule, the duration of the entry ban is as follows:

  • the total amount of fine for the last 1 year exceeds 5,000,000KRW: 1 year
  • committed any crime more than 2 times for the last 1 year: 1 year
  • the amount of fine is between (more…)

1Recently our office represented U.S. parents whose adoption application had been denied by the Korean court.  The adoption was processed as an institutional adoption which is regulated by the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Promotion and Procedure of Adoption.  Institutional adoption, often called an orphanage adoption, is under more strict regulation and qualifications than a private adoption.  In this case, the 1st instance court of Seoul Family Court denied the U.S. parents’ adoption petition due to the concern caused by the adoptive parent’s past medical history of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Our office, led by lawyer Mr. Wonil Chung, took this case at the appellate court level.  We reviewed the entire record and documents from the beginning and found that the lower court’s finding and the conclusion were not based on the true facts, but on the vague concern.  We even found a critical error in the translation of the ODC evaluation report provided by the Korean adoption agency.

Mr. Chung argued in front of the appellate judges that U.S. medical professionals had stated that the petitioner’s OCD did not harm his suitability as an adoptive parent.   He also pointed out that the U.S. government had (more…)

Can Korean Police Issue a Summon Even When the Suspect Resides Abroad?

For a starter, there may be a question about whether the Korean police can summon a foreigner who resides abroad.  The answer is yes. The Korean criminal law applies to those who have committed crimes within Korea and then gone abroad, as well as those who have committed crimes against Koreans while staying outside of Korea.  Thus, a foreign resident could be sued and accused by the Korean police, and in such case, the Korean police moves to demand the foreign suspect to attend the investigation in Korea.  Recently, our office sees many cases where a foreign resident employee of a foreign company is called in by the Korean police in relation with its Korean subsidiary’s business.

Do I have to comply with the summon?

Since a foreign country is not within the domain of Korea’s criminal jurisdiction, it is not mandatory for the foreign resident suspect to comply with the summon.  However, if the foreign resident suspect refuses to comply with, the Korean law enforcement authority can get an arrest warranty, which could put the suspect at risk of being arrested upon entering Korea. (more…)

Q) Recently, the Ministry of Justice(MOJ) had revoked my Korean citizenship.  I came from Pakistan, lived in Korea for 12 years without any problem and duly acquired my Korean citizenship 3 years ago.  The MOJ’s decision was made on the ground that my passport had been forged.  But that is not true.  It has a different name on it but it was a newly issued one which can be authorized by the local government.  Can I get my Korean citizenship back?

A) First of all, the MOJ’ decision to revoke your Korean citizenship is under the judicial review of Korean Administrative court.  There are cases where the court overturned the MOJ’s citizenship revocation on the ground that either (i) there is no legal ground for revocation and/or (ii) the decision causes too much personal harm rather than serving a public cause.

There are many fake/newly-issued foreign passport cases in Korea.  Some courts held that the revocation made against a person who had submitted a fake/newly-issued foreign passport while (more…)

There are so many seconded workers in Korea.  The secondment of an employee creates various legal issues in Korea. One of them is the seconded employee’s severance pay in Korea. The Korean labor law recognizes the severance payment liability of all employers having business in Korea. This doesn’t ask the nationality of the employee. (Please check here as to how the severance pay under Korean law is recognized and operates) The problem is that some foreign companies are ignorant of their severance pay liability under Korean law.  Even further, some foreign employers try to evade their severance liability intentionally.

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On May 30, 2014, the Seoul Family Court handed down a ground-breaking decision which recognized the paternity between a Korean male and his children born out of lawful wedlock in the Philippines.  The decision marked the first time ever that a Korean Family Court adjudicated on the parentage of so-called “Kopino”, the term for those children born between a Filipina mother and a Korean father out of marriage.

The sociocultural issue surrounding the Kopino has been the criticism that the Korean fathers have abandoned Kopinos by leaving Philippines and providing no supports.  In this court case, the story was quite typical.  The Korean father met a Philippine woman back in 1997, when he was running a toy manufacturing business in Philippines.  In 1998 and 2000, they had 2 children.  But he couldn’t marry her, because he was already married to another woman in South Korea.  On April 14, 2004, he suddenly left Philippines alone and never contacted his children again.  He had never paid any support for his children.

In December 2012, frustrated by the irresponsibility of the Korean father, the children’s mother in Philippines had moved to bring a legal action in Seoul Family Court against the Korean father to establish the paternity of her children.  After 15-month litigation, the DNA test confirmed the blood ties between (more…)

It is well known that the Korean labor law provides the employees with generous protections when it comes to the matter of disciplinary measures taken by the employer.  In this article, we explain what protection is given to foreign employees in the area of termination and other disciplinary actions.

Employment Is Not “At-Will” in Korea

Unlike many other foreign legal regimes, Labor Standard Act of Korea (LSA) requires the employer having five or more employees to establish a just cause in order to exercise dismissal and any other disciplinary actions.  In other words, employment is not “at-will” in Korea.  (Note:  There is a legal concept of no-fault dismissal based on the managerial hardship under the LSA, which requires very strict requirements to execute.  This will be the subject of our upcoming article) 

Foreign Employees Can Be Protected By the Korean Labor Law Even If the Labor Contract  Says Korean Labor Doesn’t Apply

This rule of labor laws shall equally apply to the employment contract between Korean employers and Foreign employees in Korea, and vice versa.

More importantly, this is the case even when the employee working in Korea agrees in his employment contract that the Korean labor law does not apply.  That is because the Private International Act of Korea which provides the general principles for the choice of law enables every Korean and foreign employee working in Korea to enjoy the protections under the mandatory rules of the Korean labor law.

Therefore, it is highly advisable that any foreign employee working in Korea and a multinational which has employees in Korea must understand how the Korean labor law regulates the dismissal and under what situation the dismissal becomes a wrongful termination.

What is the Just Cause for Dismissal in Korea?

The LSA does not provide what the just cause exactly means.  It is up to the court’s review and interpretation.  In this regard, it is firmly established in the Supreme Court’s precedent that (more…)

Question) I am an American expat working in South Korea.  Originally I was working for a U.S. company incorporated in the state of New York, but 3 years 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.  Expats are entitled to severance pay under the Korean labor laws.  (check here as to how the severance pay under Korean law is recognized and operates)

This answer could sound 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?  The answer lies in the provisions of the Private International Act of Korea which provides 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, 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, (more…)

그림 2In April 2013, attorney Mr. Wonil Chung successfully obtained a Supreme Court’s ruling which overturned lower court’s decision in connection with the sponsored links, Internet keyword advertising services, operated by Overture Services Inc., a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Yahoo! Inc.  Before this ruling from the Supreme Court of South Korea, there had been an increased controversy over whether Overture system user’s deployment of an automated program to access to the sponsored links could fall into a crime causing a harm to the Internet network system.  In this case, attorney Mr. Chung argued before the Supreme Court of South Korea that it cannot constitute a statutory crime, otherwise the result would be an over-reaching of Korean criminal statute and cause an excessive chilling effect on the free access to the Internet.  Responding to Mr. Chung’s arguments, the Supreme Court of South Korea held that it does not constitute a statutory crime of interference with stable operation of the Internet network.  With its ruling, the Court struck down the prosecutor’s attempt of excessive criminalization and reinforced online service user’s right of free and unrestricted access to the (more…)

Question) I am a US citizen and have been living with my Korean boy friend for about 3 years in South Korea.  We loved each other and agreed to marry, but we were so busy to have the legal process timely done and most importantly we found no need to do that.  We’ve just thought each other as husband and wife and so do our friends and families. While living together, he ran an Internet business and made a quite large profits from there.  I took care of every housework and sometimes I helped his business work, too. But, recently I found he had cheated on me. I was so shocked and got separated from him.  My concern is whether I have any right to the assets accumulated during our cohabitation, like a property division right between divorcing couple.

Answer) Under Korean law, in order to establish the marital relationship, the parties must report their marriage to the government.  Just having a wedding ceremony is not enough.  If the parties live together considering themselves each other’s spouse without reporting the marriage, it is called a de facto marriage.  A de facto marriage is not a legal marriage.  Thus it is not entitled to the same level of legal protection as the legal marriage.  But, when it comes to the resolution of the de facto marriage relationship, the Korean law applies almost identical protection to the parties.

First, the Korean law grants the right of property division to each party of the de facto marriage.  Each party is entitled to the share of the assets acquired during the relationship pursuant to his or her contribution.  Even if the party is solely responsible for the relationship breakdown, the person is still entitled to.  Second, a party can seek a consolation money against the other party, if the other party is solely responsible for the relationship breakdown.  The amount the party can seek is decided by various (more…)

Let’s assume you file an action for a money judgment in the US court or any jurisdiction other than South Korea, and the defendant has significant assets located in South Korea. In that case, you might need to consider putting a provisional attachment on those assets in order to prevent the defendant from hiding or liquidating the assets to render the judgement ineffectual. Then this situation entails the following question: can a plaintiff in a foreign proceeding apply for a provisional attachment to the Korean court, while pursuing the proceeding in the merit in foreign jurisdiction?

The answer is yes.  The Korean court grants and issues a provisional attachment order per the foreign creditor’s application in support of proceedings which have been or are to be commenced in a place outside of South Korea. It does not require the substantive proceedings are to be connected to South Korea. Further, it does not require the defendant to be the resident of South Korea. It just suffices only if the assets are located in South Korea. That said, for example, the US creditor pursuing an action in New York may apply to the court of South Korea for a freezing order on defendant’s bank account in Korean banks to restraint the defendant from dealing with, or disposing of, the funds.

In this regard, There was a case in Korean court where the provisional attachment order against the Korean stocks was issued by the Seoul Family Court as the security for a judgment soon to be obtained in the court of Virginia, USA. The defendant in the US proceeding, which was a divorce case where the plaintiff seek $6,700,000USD for her share of property division, filed an objection (more…)

법원마크A while ago, we posted an article about the recognition and enforcement of the foreign judgment in Korea. One of the hurdles in getting foreign judgment recognized in Korea is to find whether there exists a reciprocity in relation to the enforcement of foreign judgments between the two jurisdictions, i.e. Korea and the foreign country where the judgment was issued.

Korean court reviews this issue on a case by case basis.  If the court finds that the foreign jurisdiction’s requirements for the recognition of Korean judgment are similar or not more difficult to be met than the requirements under the Korean law, the court declares the existence of reciprocity.  This does not require actual precedence in the foreign court that a Korean court judgment had been recognized.  It just means a reasonable possibility that the Korean judgment would be recognized in that foreign jurisdiction.

The Korean courts have so far recognized the reciprocity with, among others, California(USA), New York(USA), Texas(USA), Washington(USA), China, Japan, and Canada.  Then how about Australia?

Back in 1987, the Supreme Court of South Korea rejected the recognition of a judgment from the court of New South Wales, Australia on the ground that there was no reciprocity between the two jurisdictions.  At that time, the Korean court found that the New South Wales law required the Australian court to review the merits of the foreign judgment in order to recognize it.  This was a serious conflict and deviation from the Korean legal stance.  According to the Korean rules, the courts should not consider whether the foreign judgment is substantially correct when granting the recognition of a foreign judgment. With this great discrepancy, the Korean court came to rule that the requirement for the recognition of judgment under New South Wales law was much difficult to be met than the Korean law, and, therefore, the reciprocity was not established.

It should be, however, noted that this ruling was rendered before Australia enacted the Foreign Judgments Act 1991 whereby South Korea was identified as one of the countries with which Australia has a reciprocity.  Under this new act, (more…)

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On December 13, 2012, South Korea acceded to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Child Abduction Convention”), whereby South Korea became the 89th contracting nation to the convention.

Concluded in October 1980, the Hague Child Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty aiming at the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained child from one contracting nation to another.  Under the Convention, any person or institution claiming that a child has been removed or retained in breach of custody rights may apply to any other contracting nation for assistance in securing the return of the child.

As with the Convention entering into force on March 1, 2013, South Korea enacted subsequent domestic legislation concerning the implementation of the Convention.  Under the new legislation, the foreign spouse who is the citizen of the contracting nation of the Convention can make an application to the Minister of Justice of South Korea for the assistance of the return of a child wrongfully abducted to South Korea.  The case asserting the return of the child pursuant to the Convention is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Seoul Family Court.  The court may issue a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo.  Also, the court may dismiss the application for the return of the child when, among others, it has passed 1 or more years since the abduction and the child has already adjusted herself into the current environment.  The person who (more…)

그림 2A distributor from the U.S. entered into a distributorship contract with Korean supplier (exporter) for certain goods.  Of course, the U.S. distributor was thinking to resell the goods in U.S. market for a markup. But the problem broke up after the contract was duly singed and executed.  With no reason, Korean supplier suddenly refused to sell the goods and rescinded the contract.  Due to this unexpected turmoil by the foreign supplier, the U.S. distributor could not properly perform the reselling deals with the local warehouse stores, which the distributor had thought very lucrative. There would be no doubt that the act of Korean distributor constitutes a breach of distributorship agreement. But, the U.S. distributor did not pay anything, yet.  The only loss they encountered was they lost a good deal with 3rd party by reason of the Korean supplier’s breach of contract.  Now, the U.S. distributor tries to recover damages and loss of profits from the supplier in Korea which they suffered from the failure of the reselling deal with the local warehouse stores.  In this case, can the U.S. distributor prevail in Korean court and under Korean law?

The key legal issue would be whether the Korean supplier knew of the fact that the distributor had completed their negotiation with 3rd party for the resale agreement.  According to the ruling from the Supreme Court of South Korea, if the supplier knew of the fact, the supplier is liable for the distributor’s loss relating to failure or non-performance of the resale agreement with 3rd party.  By contrast, (more…)

[Updated on April 29, 2020] 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 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 a 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 South 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 a foreign judgment to a Korean court.

Requirements for the Recognition and Enforcement

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

1. The international jurisdiction of such foreign court is recognized under the principle of international jurisdiction pursuant to the statutes or treaties of South Korea;

2. A defeated defendant was served, by a lawful method(excluding cases of service by a public notice or similar), a written complaint or document corresponding thereto, and notification of date or written order allowing him/her sufficient time to defend, or a defeated defendant responded to the lawsuit even without having been served such documents;

3. The approval of such foreign judgment does not undermine good morals or other social order of South Korea in the perspective of the contents of such foreign judgment and judicial procedures; and

4. Mutual guarantee exists, or the requirements for recognition of a foreign judgment in South Korea and in the foreign country where the foreign court belongs are not far off balance and have no substantial difference between each other in important points.

Any foreign judgment which orders the defendant to do a specific action such as money payment and delivery of goods can be recognized and enforced according to the above rules.  Korean Court had ruled that a foreign alimony order can be enforced, although the Korean legal system doesn’t recognize alimony.

Punitive Damages Award Unenforceable in Korea

As to the 3rd requirement above, please note that punitive damages award by a U.S. court is currently not recognized by the Korean court and therefore not fully enforceable in Korea.  That is because the concept of punitive damages is not accepted by the Korean law and the court sees it violating the social order of South Korea.

In torts law of Korea, the damages a plaintiff is entitled to are only actual damages which can be found legally and reasonably caused by the tortfeasor, which amount is eventually quite smaller than punitive damages.

So, if you bring a punitive damages award from a U.S. court to a Korean court in order to get it recognized and enforced, the Korean court will reduce the amount of the award to the level where Korean law would find it consistent with Korean torts law.

Existence of Mutual Guarantee

As to the 4th requirement, the mutual guarantee which the act requires is similar to the concept of comity and reciprocal recognition of judgments in the U.S.  The Korean law requires the foreign jurisdiction where the judgment was issued has established the standard for recognition of a Korean judgment which should not be more difficult to be met when compared to the Korean legal standard.

This is somewhat hard to grasp, but if your judgment came from a U.S. court, you don’t have to struggle, because the Korean court has been ruling that there exists a mutual guarantee between Korea and the U.S.

The Korean courts have so far recognized the mutual guarantee with, among others, California(U.S.A.), New York(U.S.A.), Texas(U.S.A.), Washington(U.S.A.), Minnesota(U.S.A), New Jersey(U.S.A), Ontario(Canada), China, Japan, Taiwan, and Russia.

By contrast, the Korean court had denied the existence of a mutual guarantee with Malaysia.

If you have any questions about the enforcement of foreign judgments in Korea, please send your inquiry to Mr. Wonil Chung by clicking here.

© 2012 Wonil Chung. All rights reserved.

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may or may not reflect the most current legal development at the time of view, nor is it applicable in all situations nor should be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations. 

We have received questions regarding this issue quite often.  Actually our office had taken a civil case arising out of termination of marital engagement between Korean and non-Korean, and successfully defended our client from civil liability.  So we think it is a good time to look into what happens in this kind of legal dispute and its legal implication.

Firstly, it must be mentioned that, under Korean law, if a matrimonial engagement is duly made, no party can legally terminate or rescind the engagement without justifiable causes.  This, however, does not mean the engagement shall be enforced regardless of the objection from the other party once the engagement agreement was made.  Rather, it just means if one party terminates the engagement without cause, he or she is obliged to pay monetary compensation to the other.

Then what are  the “justifiable causes” to terminate the engagement?  The law sets forth justifiable causes as follows:

  1. If one of the parties has been sentenced to punishment of not less than suspension of qualification;
  2. If one of the parties has been adjudicated as incompetent or quasi-incompetent after (more…)

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 liability under judgment.  This shows why provisional attachment is highly required to secure the judgment effectively.

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 (more…)

There have been disputes as to whether Digital Rights Management(DRM) does violate competition law.  By using a DRM, the company can tie the playback of certain digital files to its own IT device.  The problem arises when the company has a dominant market position, because it entails an argument from competitors that the company has abused its dominant market position to distort a free competition at the market.

In November last year, the Supreme Court of Korea firstly issued a ruling addressing this issue.  The case dates back to 2006, when Fair Trade Commission(FTC) of South Korea ordered SK Telecom, the largest mobile carrier company and music download service provider, to lift up a DRM which had prevented the purchasers of MP3 mobile phone of SK Telecom from playing MP3 files downloaded from other online music store that SK Telecom does not operate.  SK Telecom had appealed the FTC’s decision to the court.

At the heart of this lawsuit lies the issue of whether SK Telecom’s use of DRM does constitute an abuse of its dominant market position under Korean Competition law.  In this regard, the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act(MRFTA) of Korea provides that any market dominant enterpriser shall not commit an act of either (i) unreasonably interfering with the business activities of other enterprisers or (ii) unreasonably doing considerable harm to the interests of consumers.  The FTC found SK Telecom’s using a DRM (more…)

Q) I filed for divorce in Ontario, Canada.  My husband lived in Canada and he was duly served with the court’s documents.  I will have a final divorce ruling from the Canadian court including child support and alimony order soon.  But the issue is he will probably leave Canada and head to South Korea after the ruling is issued.  Will the Korean Courts recognize the Canadian court order in order to enforce his performance of child support and alimony payment?

A) There is a case where the Korean Supreme Court recognized and approved the Canadian court’s divorce/asset distribution/child support/alimony order.  That order was issued from the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario.

As a matter of law, the Korean court recognizes a foreign ruling pursuant to the rules of foreign judgment recognition: (i) the foreign court has jurisdiction over the case in perspective of Korean law, (ii) the defendant was duly served, (iii) the ruling of the foreign court does not violate the social order of South Korea and (iv) there exists a mutual guaranty for recognition of rulings between the two jurisdictions.

For the last element, the Korean Supreme Court clearly declared that South Korea and Ontario have a mutual guaranty.

What is more important in this ruling is that the Supreme Court recognized the foreign court’s alimony order.  Under Korean divorce law, there is no legal concept of alimony in a divorce.  Therefore, some may argue that as the alimony is not the legal right established in Korea, recognizing the foreign court’s alimony ruling in Korea would violate the social order of  South Korea.  But, (more…)

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 (more…)

There have been an increasing conflict between the free expression and the copyright protection in relation to the matter of a UCC, a user-created content, posted on the internet site.  For example, in the United States, there was a legal dispute concerning a 29-second YouTube video clip of a toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”. In that case, the copyright holder to the Prince’s song alleged the YouTube video clip explicitly infringed the song’s copyright.

Almost the identical lawsuit had been filed in South Korea. In Korea, a father uploaded to his blog operated by Naver, the largest Internet portal site, a video capturing his 5 year-old daughter singing and dancing to a famous Korean female singer(Dambi Sohn)’s song, titled “Crazy” – what a coincident that two cases even had very similar song titles, “Let’s Go Crazw” and “Crazy”.  Just soon after the video clip was uploaded, it was taken down by the portal site operator upon a request from the copyright holder to the song alleging the video is a copyright infringement as it was used without permission. Then the father filed both a declaratory lawsuit claiming that uploading the video did not constitute a copyright infringement and a monetary compensation lawsuit for mental distress which he suffered from the unjust take down of the video he’d made.

On February 18, 2010, the Seoul Southern District Court sided with the father. The court ruled that uploading a video at issue did not constitute a copyright infringement because it fell within the scope of “the quotation from works made public” under Article 28 of the Copyright Act, which (more…)

This is an issue arising from an international IP dispute between Konami, a well-known Japanese game production company, and Neople, a Korean game production company.  Back in 2007, Konami alleged that game characters in Neople’s game titled “Shin-Ya-Gu”(New baseball) infringed Konami’s copyright in its famous baseball game “Jikkyou Yaku”(see the picture.  the left image is Konami’s character and the right one is Neople’s) and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit to a Korean court.

The lower courts had overruled Konami’s claim stating a game character itself could not be protected as a copyrighted work under Korean copyright law unless such character had been commercialized independently.

This year, however, the Supreme Court of Korea dissented from the lower courts’ opinion.  The Supreme Court ruled a game character can be copyrighted separated from its original work, a game.  The court held that “In order to be protected under the copyright law, a work must be a creative work expressing human thoughts or emotions. Thus, in case of a character implying shape and name of person, animal and so on appearing in cartoon, television, movie, newspaper, magazine and so on, if the creative personality was shown in the visual expression as to the appearance, action of such person, animal, then such character can be a work as protected under the copyright law, apart from its original work”.  Then the Supreme Court continued to held that  (more…)

eab7b8eba6bc-111South Korean popstar RAIN (Chung, Ji-hoon) and his ex-agency JYP Entertainment had lost their lawsuit in Hawaiian District Court brought by a local promoter, Click Entertainment, alleging Rain’s last-minute cancellation of Honolulu concert in 2007 cost them $1.5 million and caused damage to the company’s reputation.

A couple of days ago, the court found in Click’s favour, ruling that Rain and JYP were guilty of both breach of contract and fraud.  Nearly $5 million of the damages payment are punitive, with Rain himself and JYP ordered to pay half each.

It is reported that Rain has testified he didn’t know why the concert had been cancelled and the cancellation was out of his control.

I think many people, especially outside of Korea, wonder how the singer, the performer himself, couldn’t know the reason of the cancellation and how he could say it was “out of his control”.  In this regard, I think people should know more about Korean music business to understand Rain’s comment.

In Korea, almost every singers and bands are under exclusive contracts with certain entertainment entrepreneurs, called “Ghi-Hoek-Sa”, which is the mixture of agencies and management companies, yes, they’re doing both of jobs in Korea.  The problem is the contract between the singers and the entrepreneur is being criticized as very unfavorable to the singers.  For example, the term of the contract is very long, (more…)

Recently there are so many lawsuits being filed against domestic and foreign banks in Korea with regard to the bank’s irresponsible fund sale.  The Korean fund buyers are alleging the losses in the funds which are still on-going were caused by the fund-sellers’ not informing sufficient information on the risk and possibilities of losses when they put the money to the funds.

As a matter of law, Korean court has ruled that the banks have legal duties to inform the customer sufficiently of the structure of the investment such as fund or option transaction and the risk of possible losses when they solicit the customers for investments.  If they neglect that obligation, it constitutes a breach of contract and (more…)

naverLast December 23, the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office prosecuted NHN corporation, the operator of Naver (the largest Internet portal in Korea) and Daum Communications Co., the operatot of Daum for copyright infringement.

The prosecutors said two Internet portals have been aiding copyright infringement of their users by ignoring copyright holders(The Korea Music Copyright Association and the Korea Association of Phonogram Producers) request for removing illegal music files on their sites and taking no actions.  The prosecutors found 10 millions of uploaded music files (more…)

Last September, Supreme Porsecutors Office(SPO) investigated the ex-head of Military Mutual Aid Association(MMAA) and his son as they had received 30,000 stocks of Kenertec, a Korean Energy company, from its representative in response to securing investments from the MMAA.

Mr. Wonil Chung, a partner of Chung & Partners, represented the son and succeeded in making the SPO drop the charge and not prosecuting him.

Afterward, the SPO prosecuted only the ex-head of MMAA to the court, but last Friday, Seoul Central District Court sentenced not guilty stating there is no evidence that supports there had happened any illegal activities.

Under Korean Criminal Law, a person who, administering other’s business, receives property or obtains advantage from a 3rd party in response to an illegal solicitation concerning his duty, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 5 yeard or by a fine not exceeding 10 million won.

Established in 1984 as a special organization under the Ministry of National Defense, the MMAA administers assistance for military personnel and veterans. It has 160,000 members and its assets are valued at 7.8 trillion won ($5.94 billion).  The organization has seven businesses and recorded a total profit of 153.7 billion won last year.

This case had drawn big attentions within Korean society because of the MMAA’s powerful position in Korea’s financing & investment market and new government and SPO’s attempt to scrape out public enterprises’ corruption.  But at least in this case, (more…)

Yesterday it was reported that Intel Corp. had filed a lawsuit to the Seoul High Court against a 26 billion won ($18.7 million) fine handed down by Fair Trade Commission(FTC).

Previously the FTC fined Intel in June for abuse of its market dominating position after a three-year investigation.   According to the agency, Intel had been offering rebates to major local personal computer makers, including Samsung Electronics, on condition that they not buy central processing units from Intel’s rival, U.S.-based Advanced Micro Devices.

Under Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act(MRFT) of Korea, “No market-dominating enterpriser shall commit acts such as unreasonably interfering with the business activities of other enterprisers or unreasonably impeding the participation of new competitors”.  Intel is currently being regarded as a market-domination enterpriser under MRFT.

Intel stated in its complaint that FTC  had made errors both in fact finding and legal reasoning and the Court would confirm there had been no violation of law in Intel’s business in Korea.

© 2008 Wonil Chung, a Korean Anti-trust Lawyer/Chung & Partners, a Korean Anti-trust Law Firm.  All rights reserved. Some copyrights, photos, icons, trademarks, trade dress, or other commercial symbols that appear on this post are the property of the respective owners.

Last week, the Korean government announced that it would initiate a reviewing process for the approval of the KEB sale soon.  Interestingly enough, today it was reported also that before the government’s announcement, Lone Star Fund had sent an official letter to the Korean government regarding the government’s approval issue on the long-waited sale of Korea Exchange Bank(KEB) from Lone Star Fund to HSBC bank.  Lone Star Fund and HSBC had entered into the stock purchase agreement and the deadline of the agreement is coming at the end of this July.  It was reported that Lone Star Fund stated in that problematic letter that if the Korean government kept delaying the approval, the fund would file a lawsuit domestically and internationally against the Korean government for the compensation of damages by the sale’s deferment(here is a news article).

Well, someone, especially western people, can say that there would be no problem in sending a letter to the other party noticing potential legal disputes.  However, it is quite unusual in Korean legal culture that a private enterprise warns the government stating otherwise it would sue the government.  Of course, it is legally acceptable and in some cases, a statutory right of a private enterprise, to file a lawsuit against the government, but culturally it is not common to take this kind of open and public action to press the government hard in Korea.

By the way, as a matter of law, the fund would be permitted to file a lawsuit to a Korean court, however, the chances are that the fund would not win the case.  Under Korean law, in order for the fund to win the case, the fund must prove there has been an unlawful act of the Korean government in delaying the approval.  But, the approval itself is a right, not an obligation, of the government provided by the law and there have been lawsuits affecting the validity of the ownership of KEB by the fund, which have made the Korean government hold the approval procedures (more…)

Are Internet portals liable for a defamation caused by articles posted on their web pages?

The Seoul High Court said Yes in a libel suit brought by a man who claimed to have been suffered from an article on Internet portals’ website allegedly saying he had made his ex-girlfriend die.  After the article appeared on-line, hundreds of Internet users identified him and moreover posted his photograph.

The Seoul High Court ordered four Korean major portals ― Naver, Daum, Cyworld and Yahoo! Korea ― to pay a total of 30 million won ($30,000) in compensation to the plaintiff.

The court found the major portals should be regarded as “semi-media” spreading information to unsuspecting persons, as they have rights to position news on the screen and invite tens of thousands of readers everyday.  The court ruled that Internet portals should decide whether the contents of a posting defame a person’s character and should either delete or block access to those postings (more…)

Today just a few hours ago, the Seoul High Court sentenced partly not guilty to the head of U.S. private equity fund Lone Star’s South Korean operations (Lone Star Advisory Korea).

Last February Seoul Central District Court had sentenced all guilty and had detained Mr. Paul Yoo, the head of Lone Star Advisory Korea, for stock rigging and misappropriation charges. Also, the court had ordered Korea Exchange Bank and LSF-KEB Holdings SCA, a Belgium-based unit that holds Lone Star’s stake in KEB, to pay 25 billion won ($26.50 million) each in fines, saying both secured unfair profits as a result of the stock-rigging.

The defendants all had appealed and the Seoul Court today reversed and amended the lower court’s ruling, saying “as the Lone Star Fund did actually discuss a capital decrease in a meeting of the board of directors, there had been no falsehood in its reporting of possible capital decrease to the public and therefore no stock price manipulating”.

Also, the High court found not guilty in Mr. Paul Yoo’s tax evasion charge and also found not guilty in 2 out of 4 misappropriation charges against Mr. Paul Yoo.  Finally, the court sentenced  2 and a half year of imprisonment to Mr. Paul Yoo, however, suspended the execution for 3 years.  Mr. Paul Yoo Has been released out of prison today by the court’s decree(see the photo). (more…)

Finally the National Tax Service ruled in favor of Hana Bank in its 1.8 billion tax evasion case.  On February, NTS forced Hana Bank to pay up to 1.7 trillion won ($1.8 billion) in penalty taxes for unfair corporate income tax evasion in the course of a merger with the Seoul Bank back in 2002(Here is my previous post on this case).  Hana bank appealed and NTS ruled on June 6 that the merger was not a reserved merger so the bank do not need to pay the penalty.  The NTS will return the 198.3 billion won Hana Bank paid (more…)

It was reported on May 15 that Starbucks Coffee Korea was sued by the Korea Music Copyright Association for music copyright infringement.  The KMCA alleged the Starbucks played copyrighted music in its outlets without paying royalties.  The KMCA pointed out most Starbucks branches in other countries are paying copyright fees.  Starbucks Coffee Korea said the copyright issue is dealt with by headquarters in Seattle.

Here is the news article.

© 2008 Wonil Chung, a Korean Entertainment Lawyer/Chung & Partners, a Korean Entertainment Law Firm.  All rights reserved. Some copyrights, photos, icons, trademarks, trade dress, or other commercial symbols that appear on this post are the property of the respective owners.

Shareholders including civic groups led by Solidarity for Economic Reform filed a derivative suit at the Seoul Central District Court on May 28 against Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-koo and vice chairman Kim Dong-jin for the damages of W563.1 billion caused by their embezzlement and breach of fiduciary duty last year.

Before their filing a lawsuit, Chung was convicted in February 2007 of embezzling almost 70 billion won. He was also found guilty of breach of duty by causing losses to the company and affiliates by helping weaker units and selling stock to (more…)

What do you think the retirement age of a female fashion model is?  Judges of Seoul Central District Court answered, “it is 35 years old”, reported on April 16.

It was the case where a female fashion model, who was 17 then, was died by an accident during shooting illustrated magazine.  It is reported that the model slipped into the sea while trying to pose barefoot at the tip of a dock on an Island.

The model’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the photographer and the magazine for their negligence for failing to prepare safety measures, claiming monetary compensation of 180 million won(180 thousand U.S. dollars).  This amount was based on plaintiffs’ allegation that the model could work until the age of 60.

The court, however, rejected plaintiffs’ allegation and ordered (more…)