Linklaters and Bakers receive approval to launch in Seoul

Linklaters and Baker & McKenzie have received approval from South Korea’s Ministry of Justice to launch offices in Seoul.

The international duo, both of which applied for licences last year, bring the total number of foreign law firms legally permitted to work in the North Asian country to 18, with more firms expected to be granted approval in due course.

The magic circle firm is the fourth UK outfit to receive a licence after Herbert Smith Freehills, which was given the go-ahead to launch in March and formally opened in the capital last month.

Linklaters’ Korea practice is currently led by New York-qualified, corporate partner Hyung Jung Ahn from Hong Kong, with a focus on corporate, finance and projects work. 

Meanwhile, global giant Bakers has appointed veteran transactional lawyer Nam Hung Paik as office chief representative in the city, given his 25 years of experience. Partner Won Lee will continue to lead the Korean practice from Hong Kong.

The new office will be Bakers’ fifteenth in the Asia-Pacific region and seventy-third globally, boosting the US firm’s international footprint further. The base will focus on intellectual property (IP), corporate, finance, disputes and antitrust.

The liberalisation of South Korea’s legal market has come after the ratification of a free trade agreement with Europe in February 2011. As Asia’s fourth largest economy and a hotspot for lucrative corporate and IP work, Korea has attracted attention from a string of international and boutique firms looking to boost their Asian revenues.

For UK firms, rules which require the chief representative of the Korean office to have qualified in the firm’s home jurisdiction and practised there for at least three years have presented some barriers to market entry.

Clifford Chance was one of the first international firms to move in on the market after last July receiving approval to open an office, while DLA Piper launched in the country this January.