Greenberg Traurig opens South Korea base

US firm Greenberg Traurig has opened an office in Seoul despite the rising threat from North Korea.

The Seoul office will be the firm’s second base in Asia, following its Shanghai opening in 2008.

Greenberg is among the latest group of foreign firms to have received approval from the Ministry of Justice of South Korea to open a foreign legal consultant office. Herbert Smith Freehills (13 March 2013) and US firm McKenna Long & Aldridge (12 March 2013) were also recently granted licences.

Greenberg Traurig’s Korea expansion is led by New York-based partner Chang Joo Kim, who was born and raised in Korea and holds law degrees from both Korea University College of Law and University of Iowa College of Law. He leads the firm’s Korea practice, which comprises of corporate and securities partner Hyun Chung, litigation partner Richard Edlin, international trade partner Rosa Jeong and associate Sun-Young Park.

It is understood that the firm is still finalising the staffing arrangements for the new office.

“Unlike the many firms who quickly sent large numbers of foreign lawyers to work on the ground, Greenberg Traurig’s focus is on adding extraordinary value through strategic and deep relationships with the people, companies and governing bodies of Korea with both legal and cultural understanding of how they operate,” said Greenberg CEO Richard Rosenbaum.

“We’re not entering the Korean legal market to compete with local law firms, but rather to work closely with them to serve the global needs of Korean corporations.”

According to Edlin, chair of the firm’s regional operations, Korea exerts a strong influence on the world’s economic and cultural markets, making it an important market for the firm’s global intellectual property, finance, litigation and M&A practices.

The firm’s Seoul opening took place against the backdrop of the increasing tensions between South Korea and North Korea, which has been making heightened war threats in recent weeks. A source at the firm noted that no one is panicking in Seoul, adding that it is “business as usual” for the international business community in the country.