I had no job prior to becoming a lawyer. My first-ever job was a lawyer.
Where did you study?
I studied at Seoul National University (BA in law, 1976-1980), and at the University of Chicago Law School (LLM, 1986-1987). Lastly, I studied at Columbia Law School as a visiting scholar (2003).
Where did you train?
After passing judicial examination in Korea in 1979, I was trained at the Judicial Training Institute of the Korean Supreme Court (1980-1982). Thereafter, I joined Shin & Kim, a Seoul-based law firm (1982) and have worked with the same firm to date. I briefly worked with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Palo Alto, California (1987) and Coudert Brothers, Brussels (1988) as a foreign attorney.
Have you lived or worked outside your home jurisdiction? What did you learn from it?
I went to the University of Chicago Law School (1986-1987) and then moved to Palo Alto to join Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (1987) and to Brussels, Belgium to join Coudert Brothers (1988). Most recently, I lived in New Jersey while studying at Columbia Law School (2003).
When did you become partner?
What deal/case in your career stands out the most and why?
My speciality is in M&A, international arbitration and international trade. Among the numerous deals and cases that I worked on, I would take as most outstanding the WTO dispute proceeding (2000-2003) concerning EU’s claim against Korea for Korea’s alleged violation of WTO Subsidy Agreement. If the Korean government lost this case, the Korean shipbuilding industry should have been seriously damaged as they would have to return a huge amount of subsidies allegedly received from the Korean banks owned by the Korean government. The case was tough, but I won it.
The other case that I would take with pride is Hanwha Merchant Banking Corp hostile take-over case (1997). In this case, I represented the attack side. This was a landmark case as it dealt with an unprecedented legal issue as to whether the target company’s defence strategy using the convertible bonds issued to a third friendly party is lawful or not. We won the case and elicited from the court a very important ruling that guided following hostile take-over cases.
What have been your recent deals?
An investor-state arbitration (ICSID) between Lone Star and Republic of Korea, which is ongoing.
What is the biggest challenge facing your market at the moment?
Contraction or very modest growth of legal demand, downward pressure on legal fees, and a stiff increase in the number of lawyers, due to inflow of new lawyers graduating from Korean law schools.
What has been the most significant development in your sector in recent years?
In M&A, outbound transactions are more active than inbound or domestic ones. Litigation in the US and other foreign jurisdictions is increasing in line with Korean companies’ increased overseas business activity.
Which country do you travel to most frequently and which country do you like the best?
Singapore and Europe. I like Italy best.
What is your favourite book?
I mostly read books regarding human arts.
What is your favourite restaurant?
Not a particular type of restaurant, but I prefer traditional Korean restaurants where you can eat Korean foods with the Korean spirit soju.