O'Melveny & Myers is joining the ranks of law firms applying for a license to practice in South Korea in a limited capacity following the ratification of a free trade agreement with the U.S. and United Kingdom.
The firm is hinging its plans in South Korea on two laterals, Sungyong Kang and Jinwon Park, who both recently joined O'Melveny as of counsel in the firm's Hong Kong office. Kang was most recently a partner at Korean law firm Shin & Kim, and Park an adviser at engineering consulting company Idea Consultants. The pair, who are licensed to practice law in the U.S., specialize in cross-border investments, corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, international trade, and international arbitration.
Several other major law firms have already begun the lengthy approval process required to get an office in South Korea up and running, including Ropes & Gray, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Paul Hastings, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, McDermott Will & Emery, Clifford Chance, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
Earlier this week, Ropes & Gray announced that its partner William Kim became the first lawyer certified as a foreign legal consultant in South Korea. As outlined in an Am Law Daily story last week, such certification is one of a number of approvals needed by the South Korean Ministry of Justice and Korean Bar Association to open there.
The free trade agreement -- ratified in November and put into effect earlier this year -- dictates that for the first several years, firms opening in South Korea will be allowed to practice the law of their home country as well as international trade law; starting in 2017, foreign firms will be allowed to merge with South Korean legal outfits and hire local lawyers.
If approved by the South Korean Ministry of Justice, Kang and Park will work from South Korea full time. A number of other O'Melveny lawyers are expected to frequent that office, including Joseph Kim, the Los Angeles-based head of the firm's Korea practice; George Riley in San Francisco; Kenneth O'Rourke, Ryan Yagura and Youngwook Shin in Los Angeles; Kenneth Nissly in Silicon Valley; Ian Simmons in Washington, D.C.; and Riccardo Celli in Brussels.
Over the past year, the firm has had a string of litigation success in the U.S. for Korean-based companies, according to a press release announcing plans for the new office. Those wins include the defeat of patent infringement claims brought against client Samsung Electro-Mechanics by Murata Manufacturing in a case before the U.S. International Trade Commission; the successful defense of a $3.95 billion antitrust case brought against client SK Hynix, a semiconductor company, by Rambus; and the dismissal of damage claims in the appeal of an antitrust class action accusing firm client Asiana Airlines of price fixing, along with Korean Air Lines.