EU-Korea FTA drives Korean firm to Germany

Against the backdrop of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement, South Korean firm Shin & Kim has announced a plan to open an office in Munich in October.

The Seoul-headquartered firm is on course to become the first Korean law firm to enter Germany with the branch office. The new office, Shin & Kim’s first in Europe, will be led by German-qualified lawyer Alexander Son, who is a German-born Korean.

“The free trade agreement between South Korea and the European Union will bring about tremendous growth opportunities to Korean law firms and their European counterparts. The firm’s management made the decision on the background of the ratification of the agreement,” said Son.

The EU-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) , effective since July 2011, is expected to create an estimated $30bn in new trade of goods and services annually.

Initially, the new office will be a sole-practitioner outlet but will expand further upon client demand. Shin & Kim’s Munich office will focus on advising Korean companies in Germany on German law while developing more European clients who are looking to invest and expand in Korea. It will also serve as a liason and marketing point for the firm in Europe.

Shin & Kim is one of the largest law firms in Korea, with over 300 staff across offices in Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai.

Beside taking on the lead lawyer role with Shin & Kim’s Munich branch, Son will continue practising with German firm Remmertz Son Rechtsanwälte, an IP boutique firm he co-founded in Munich in 2009.

“Having an office in Europe will help the firm strengthen ties with the major German firms. We will be seeking cooperation opportunities, including establishing alliances and non-exclusive relationships with European firms,” said Son, anticipating rising interest in the Korea market from European firms.

While Korean firms have started entering Europe, more European firms are planning to expand into Korea, either directly or through a tie-up with a local partner. Several firms, including DLA Piper and Pinsent Masons, have already started to consider their options, with the prospect of ­opening up offices within five years (28 February 2011).

Under the FTA, European law firms will be allowed to open offices in South Korea to advise foreign investors or Korean clients on non-Korean law. Law firms will also be able to form partnerships with Korean firms and recruit Korean lawyers to provide “multi-jurisdictional” services.