Covington & Burling has applied to Korean authorities to open an office in Seoul, following the hire of a corporate lawyer from a Korean law firm.

William Park, formerly a founding lawyer of Korean law firm Apex, is to join Covington as a partner. He will be joined in the Seoul office by of counsel Daniel Spiegel, who will relocate from Covington’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The two will co-head the new office.

As he is a U.S.-qualified foreign legal consultant with 47-lawyer Apex, Park is not subject to a condition preventing foreign firms from hiring local Korean lawyers before 2016.

Park became a foreign legal consultant of Apex in 2004 after leaving Seoul-based First Law Offices. In addition, he has been working with O’Melveny & Myers for the past year as a strategic advisor on Korean business and culture. He has also worked extensively in the U.S. After qualifying in California, he practiced as an associate in Latham & Watkins‘ Los Angeles office, before establishing his own firm, Kim & Park, in that city.

Park has a wide-ranging corporate practice, which includes both contentious and non-contentious work. He will initially be based in San Francisco, but will relocate to his native Korea once the new office is approved.

Spiegel, a former diplomat who served as a representative of the U.S. to the United Nations in Europe, is an international policy lawyer with experience in trade and investment, foreign policy, and environment law. He joined Covington in 2008 from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, where he was a partner.

Covington’s Seoul office will initially focus on intellectual property, regulatory issues, foreign policy, and general transactional work. It will advise clients on both U.S. and European Union law, including outbound investment in the Middle East and Latin America, and international arbitration. The firm’s clients include Korean conglomerate Samsung, which it has represented in U.S. antitrust litigation.

“Covington’s entry into Korea is really a critical element in the firm’s Asian and international strategy,” says Spiegel, who points to the firm’s recent announcement of an office in Shanghai, as well as its Beijing office and its extensive work in India. “The Seoul office is part of a strategic push into Asia and these dynamic markets,” he says.

Covington will join a number of rival U.S. firms in Seoul such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Squire Sanders, and McDermott Will & Emery, all of which have announced plans to open in the Korean capital since the country’s passage last year of a free trade agreement with the U.S.

Email: blewis@alm.com