Bird & Bird has entered into an alliance with Korean law firm Hwang Mok Park.

The referral agreement is nonexclusive, meaning that both parties will be free to work with other firms. But Bird & Bird Asia chairman Justin Walkey said in a statement that the alliance could eventually evolve into a full merger when the regulations permit.

London-based Bird & Bird will mainly aim for clients in the technology and intellectual property sector. “Korea’s advanced, technology-driven economy is a natural fit for Bird & Bird,” Walkey said.

Almost 20 international firms, including Ropes & Gray, O’Melveny & Myers, Clifford Chance, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and DLA Piper, have opened offices in Korea since the legal market opened in 2012, following the enactment of free trade agreements between Korea and both the United States and the European Union.

Walkey says Bird & Bird decided to form an alliance instead of opening its own office because Hwang Mok Park already has an excellent reputation in Korea and fully understands the Korean business culture.

British firms looking at opening in Korea have been somewhat challenged by the requirement that foreign firms appoint a chief representative with at least seven years’ experience, three of which must be in the firm’s home market. The United Kingdom lacks the large Korean immigrant population of the U.S., and most Korea practices at British firms are actually led by U.S.–qualified Korean or Korean-American lawyers.

According to its website, Hwang Mok Park has 95 lawyers, about half of them partners. Bird & Bird has over 1,100 lawyers globally in 26 offices.

Email: azhang@alm.com.