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  • Posts Tagged ‘korus fta’

    Barbarians at the Legal Gates?: South Korea’s Liberalization of its Legal Sector (5 Things to Know)

    October 17th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    1. Prior to the passage of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement that would liberalize South Korea’s legal services market to allow for the onshore entry of U.S. law firms for the first time in its history, domestic Korean law firms rapidly began a race-to-the-biggest strategy, trying to gauge the potential costs and benefits of merging with other law firms. The collapse by many of South Korea’s law firm dominance was a tangible fear by many Korean legal professionals based on evidence of legal markets having been liberalized in such countries as Germany and France, which was subsequently followed by domi- nation in the league tables by foreign law firms in each of their home markets. South Koreans, always fearing the potential for perceived global embarrassment—in part stemming from the country’s 1910–45 occupation by Japan as well as the 1997–98 financial crisis—did not want to see its own domestic league tables dominated by non-Korean firms.
    2. In response, the South Korean government put forth a set of three “pre-emptive” globalization policies to reconstitute and increase the overall competitiveness of its lawyers and legal services sector through various agencies to help the local legal services sector related to legal education and licens- ing of foreign legal professionals. The three pre-emptive globalization policies included (1) a mandatory course in Anglo-American law taught in English (required for all incoming new Korean lawyers under the Traditional Bar Exam); (2) the introduction of “American-style” professional graduate law schools (beginning in 2009 by converting twenty-five government-selected law pro- grams to three-year “American-style” professional graduate law school system as well as instituting a New Bar Exam); and (3) the passage of a FLCA (allow- ing for foreign legal consultants to practice in South Korea).
    3. Such pre-emptive globalization policies, set forth by various entities in the legal services and education sectors, reflected the South Korean desire to sty mie the possible negative effects of having foreign law firms enter its borders in a “barbarians at the gates” perceived scenario following the implementation of various free trade agreements, namely with the U.S. (but also with the EU), which effectively opened South Korea’s historically closed legal gates to foreign participants for the first time in its modern history.
    4. The South Korean legal market now allows for the entry of foreign law firms for the first time in its modern history due to the signing of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. In an effort to globalize its domestic legal services sector pre-emptively in the face of an inevitable “barbarians at the gate” scenario, Asia’s fourth-largest economy unveiled three pre-emptive policies as a means by which South Korea’s legal sector could become more globally competi- tive in the face of such incoming foreign legal competition.
    5. Thus, the question often asked within South Korea’s legal circles was, “Will South Korea’s legal market follow the footsteps of Germany and France, or will it meet a different fate in which South Korean law firms will be able to sufficiently compete with American and European law firms?” Cognizant of this, and bearing the lessons learned from Germany and France, Korean policymakers strategically structured the liberalization of South Korea’s legal market in a way that would maxim- ize the benefits and mitigate the risks to local law firms.
    To view the full academic article by Jasper Kim, “Barbarians at the Legal Gates: Examining South Korea’s Pre-emptive Globalization Policies Prior to Legal Market Liberalization” (Peking University Transnational Law Review, vol. 1, issue 2, 2013), click HERE.
    For an article featuring Jasper Kim’s views on South Korea’s legal market liberalization in the UK’s Law Society Gazette, “UK law firms are making headway in the tough South Korean market,” CLICK HERE.
    For an academic article by Jasper Kim focusing on South Korea’s implementation of “American-style law schools” in South Korea, entitled Socrates v. Confucius:
    An Analysis of South Korea’s Implementation of the American Law School Model” (Asia-Pacific Law & Policy Journal), CLICK HERE.

    For a WSJ op-ed by Jasper Kim, “Cracking Open Hermit Kingdom LLP,” CLICK HERE.
    For a book on legal careers by Jasper Kim featuring 24 “24-hour career profiles” of law school graduates working in traditional and non-traditional global careers, titled “24 Hours with 24 Lawyers: Profiles of Traditional and Non-Traditional Careers” (West Publishing/Thomson Reuters), CLICK HERE.

    Pres. Park Geun-hye’s “Korea brand diplomacy”: takeaways from her US working trip

    May 16th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    This blog is based on a full op-ed in the Global Times (China), which can be viewed in its entirety HERE:

    The US and South Korea reaffirmed their 60-year alliance in Washington during South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s first visit to the US since being elected to the Blue House.
    The main objective of both presidents was to show unity over trade and security issues for the two nations. Park was also accompanied by one of the largest economic entourages in recent memory, with more than 50 high-profile and senior representatives from South Korea’s business sector accompanying her. Such figures included some of the heads of South Korea’s largest conglomerates, including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. They were there to pitch the mantra that South Korea is a safe place for foreign direct investment.
    Park’s economic entourage also served as a strong signal of how importantly South Korean firms value the US marketplace.
    The US is still one of South Korea’s largest export markets. Thus, Park attempted to strategically disentangle North Korea’s recent provocative actions and threats from South Korea’s economic interests during her trip. Her “Korea brand diplomacy” strategy was a purposeful and forceful counter-response to notions that a “Korean discount” is needed for Korean assets due to North Korea.
    In the current post-crisis slow growth era, both Park and Obama share a vested interest in furthering the alliance, especially since increased trade opportunities would be more than welcome to spur the economic growth of both countries. Perhaps it is for this reason that Park and her economic entourage received such a warm welcome by Obama and the US Congress.
    After all, South Korea represents a model state of a liberal democracy in a key region, Northeast Asia, that not only has produced a vibrant export-led economy, but also represents an economy that will hopefully be increasingly open to US imports of goods and services.



    South Korea’s post-KORUS (Korea-US FTA) legal market – 6 Factors

    October 31st, 2012  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    1. The Korea-U.S. free trade agreement went into effect in March this year. As a result, you say that American and Korean law firms will be able to jointly launch ventures, invigorating the traditionally isolated Korean legal market. You wrote about this in May — reflecting on this half a year later, what fruits have you seen so far?
    There’s always pros and cons to change. The pros are that a wider variety of law firms and lawyers will, over time, steadily increase here in South Korea (a country that has had zero onshore presence in terms of foreign law firms until this year). The cons exist with existing domestic law firms, small to large, that now faces greater competition. But arguably, increased competition should–in theory and hopefully practice–lead to increased quality and lower prices (i.e., more value for money).
    2. You have said that Korea doesn’t have enough lawyers in a fairly recent WSJ op-ed (Cracking Open Hermit Kingdom, LLP–by Jasper Kim). Compared to the U.S., which has one lawyer for every 268 people and England that has one lawyer per 513 people, South Korea has one lawyer for every 1,264 people–correct? Does this really speak to a true shortage of legal workers in Korea? Could it point, instead, to a shortage of demand for legal services in an arguably less litigious culture than those of the West?
    South Korea, according to Harvard’s Program on the Legal Profession, actually has one one lawyer for every 5, 178 people (dividing South Korea’s population of 48.8 million by 9,400–the approximate number of licensed Korean attorneys, known as byeonhosa). In comparison, Japan has one lawyer for every 4,188 people, which is a high number for Japan since it has also undergone a recent graduate law school system reformation, similar to South Korea beginning in 2008. So South Korea has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, ratio of lawyers to its general population among industrialized economies. The same thinking was also thought of Japan, that Asians like to avoid conflict, including litigation. But this has not proved true in Japan, nor will it in South Korea. As one example, take a look at the ongoing Apple v. Samsung series of global lawsuits. One could argue that this is because a non-Korean party is involved. But this is an economic reality for contemporary South Korea, in which 48% of its domestic economy is based on non-Korean entities and consumers dealing with Korean products overseas. Even domestically, the sheer number of litigation cases has increased dramatically, especially in recent years.
    3. You’ve also written about the Americanization of legal education in South Korea (as well as Japan), with the introduction of professional graduate law degrees. How do you reconcile what you’ve claimed about the lawyer shortage in Korea with recent reports that many of these new graduates of law schools can’t find well-paying jobs?
    The employment numbers earlier this year, just after the new law schools’ first class of graduates were not great. But according to recent surveys six months after graduation, the job placement rate of new law school graduates have surpassed 80 percent. This, in my view, is fairly extraordinary given that the number of Korean lawyers has doubled just this year (due to the added new law school graduates), in addition to having to find employment within a global post-subprime crisis economic slowdown period, domestically and internationally. The number is also on average higher than the law school graduate employment rates in the U.S. This is a sign that demand does exist for Korean lawyers, both under the new graduate system as well as the traditional bar exam system (the traditional bar exam does not require an academic degree to sit for the exam, while under the new law school system, a person must first graduate from one of Korea’s 25 graduate law schools to sit for the new bar exam).
    4. Do you think the new generation of Korean-educated lawyers are equipped to deal with the increasingly globalizing legal market here in Korea? Or will the market respond by bringing in more foreign-educated lawyers?
    The two are complementary to one another, although some (but not all) local media outlets have portrayed it as something less benevolent. With the new Korean lawyers, employers should get two skill sets in one–that is, an undergraduate degree say in economics and/or engineering, along with a graduate law degree. So, for instance, with the ongoing Apple v. Samsung suit, a new Korean lawyer with such academic skill sets, could be able to navigate through the relevant technical patent issues as well as the legal issues, instead of having to pay for and manage two separate personnel for the same analytical capabilities. This will help, not hurt, the Korean economy.
    5. A lot of foreign firms looking to do business with, or even merge with Asian firms are looking to take a piece of the China pie… What kind of positioning does Korea have for attracting foreign legal firms?
    South Korea can leverage its unique “hybrid” legal system as a model for other systems. South Korea on paper is a civil law country patterned after Japan, which in turn, was patterned after Germany during Japan’s Meiji Restoration period from 1868. But the hybrid element comes in the form of South Korea’s post-Korean War, and particularly, post-1997/98 Korean financial crisis experience dealing with often cutting-edge commercial law issues, including US legal issues relating to bankruptcy, restructuring, and M&A.
    6. Do you think growth of Korea’s domestic legal market will be symbiotic with the growing prominence of Korean companies abroad?
    Yes, the two are symbiotic. But the greater issue is how Korean firms leverage their legal talent. Right now, lawyers are just lawyers–they are expected to wear just one hat–a legal hat. But as mentioned earlier, this may not be the best way to maximize value for the company’s and even country’s legal talent for the twenty-first century.