Linklaters has relocated its Korea practice head and partner Hyung Jung Ahn and banking partner Stephen Le Vesconte from Hong Kong to Seoul to spearhead its new office there.
Though the Magic Circle firm had already stated its intention to open a Korea office, it had previously declined to discuss its staffing plans for Seoul.
British firms have been somewhat challenged by the requirement that a foreign firm entering the Korean market appoint a chief representative with at least seven years’ experience, three of which must be in the firm’s home market. The U.K. lacks the large Korean immigrant population of the U.S., and most Korea practices at British firms are led by U.S.-qualified Korean or Korean-American lawyers, like Ahn. Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freehills, the two other British firms that have opened in Korea, both appointed non-Korean lawyers as their chief representatives.
Linklaters has tapped Le Vesconte, who moved to Hong Kong six months ago after nine years in London and 2 1/2 years in Moscow, for the chief representative role. He specializes in project and structured finance.
But while Vesconte will have the chief representative title, the firm stressed that Ahn, as Korea practice head, will be the leader of the Seoul office. He joined Linklaters as an associate in 2003 from Silicon Valley firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and became a partner in 2007. Earlier in his career, he also worked in New York for Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.
Linklaters is also relocating senior corporate practice consultant Hyo Young Kang and counsel Kyungseok Kim to Seoul. Finance specialist Kang joined the firm in 2011 from Korean firm Yulchon, where he had been a senior foreign counsel. Before moving to Yulchon in 2005, Kang had been a partner and Korea practice head for Allen & Overy. Kim joined Linklaters as associate in 2007 and was made counsel this year.