Herbies prepares ground for April Seoul launch

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has received final regulatory approval to open its long-planned base in Seoul.

HSF lodged its application for a Foreign Legal Consultant Office certificate to the Ministry of Law in Korea last October (30 October 2012) and received the approval last month.

The new office, which is set to launch in April, is headed by construction and litigation partner Tony Dymond, who will relocate to Seoul from London by the end of this month. He is experienced in large-scale construction projects, particularly those that are energy related, and previously worked in the firm’s Hong Kong office for seven years before moving to London in 2005.

Dymond will be joined by Singapore-based corporate partner Lewis McDonald and four associates drawn from London, Singapore and Hong Kong across corporate, projects and litigation practice groups. One of the associates has been on secondment at Korean firm Yulchon and Hyundai Engineering & Construction over the past year. The firm plans to hire more associates and partners if client demand dictates.

HSF’s Seoul office will be located in the Gangbuk business district, where several other international firms, such as Squire Sanders, are based.

The new outpost’s focus will be primarily on energy and resources, infrastructure, project finance and dispute resolution.

“South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy, and a big outbound economy. It’s actively investing in a host of overseas destinations such as Australia, Africa, Latin America and South East Asia. Most of these transactions and projects are governed by English law and, therefore, it’s an important place for us to be in,” said Dymond.

“Freehills had done a lot of work in Korea and advised Korean clients investing into Australia. The Seoul office is one of the key synergy projects come out of the merger. That synergy is also a big impetus to the Seoul opening.”

Herbert Smith merged with Australian firm Freehills last year (20 July 2012). Prior to the merger, the Australian firm had advised a number of Korean companies in Australia, such as advising a consortium including Korean Steel company POSCO on the A$3.2bn acquisition of a stake in the Roy Hill project. Herbert Smith had also advised on a number of Korean outbound investment, such as acting for project sponsors Sumitomo Corporation and Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) in the financing of Abu Dhabi’s $1.5bn (£920m) Shuweihat 3 Independent Power Plant (IPP) project (30 May 2011).

Herbert Smith is the third UK firm to open a Seoul office, following Clifford Chance (16 July 2012) and DLA Piper (7 January 2013).