Latham & Watkins has received regulatory approval to establish a foreign legal consultant office in South Korea, naming Tokyo managing partner Joseph Bevash to the role of office head to spearhead the new operation.

Bevash has assumed a dual role of both Seoul and Tokyo managing partners. He has practised in the Asia Pacific region for over 20 years and has worked with South Korean clients on project finance matters across the region and globally.

Latham’s Seoul office, its sixth in Asia, will primarily focus on project development and finance practice, as well as provide corporate and M&A, private equity, leveraged finance, debt and equity capital markets, and international arbitration services.

The office’s official launch comes eight months after The Lawyer first reported on Latham’s intention to expand into South Korea in February, when the firm submitted an application for a foreign legal consultant office and signed a lease in the One IFC tower in financial district of Yeouido.

Latham has also appointed Hong Kong finance partner Sungjin Kang to lead the firm’s project finance practice in Seoul together with Bevash. For corporate work, counsel Helena Kim will lead the practice in South Korea.

Latham chair and managing partner Bill Voge said: “The opening of an office in Seoul is a key development in the firm’s global expansion. Seoul is one of Asia’s leading financial centers and an engine of economic growth, with strong and growing importance globally.”

Bevash added: “It is a further sign of our commitment to the region.”

Apart from the Seoul opening, Latham has also recently expanded its Hong Kong office with seven new partners to build up its private equity and leverage finance practices. Among them, three are lateral hires including Clifford Chance’s Asia co-head of private equity Simon Cooke.

Over the past two years, several international firms have set up base in South Korea, including White & Case, Milbank Tweed, Hadley & McCoy, Stephenson Harwood and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. Other firms have opted for local tie-ups, including EY Law’s alliance with Apex Legal, Taylor Wessing’s alliance with DR & AJU and Bird & Bird’s alliance with Hwang Mok Park.