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Skadden latest US firm to enter Seoul after obtaining local licence

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has announced it is opening in Seoul, South Korea, joining a growing number of UK and US firms who have already entered the market.

The global top five firm received its licence earlier this month, making Seoul Skadden’s seventh office in the Asia Pacific region, after Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney.

The office will be led by corporate partner Young Shin, a native Korean speaker who was head of Skadden’s Korean practice when it was based in New York. He has over ten years’ experience advising Korean clients such as Samsung and one of the country’s largest conglomerates, Hanwha Group, on outbound M&A and other corporate transactions.

‘Skadden has a long history of advising a diverse range of Korean and international clients on Korea-related business matters and legal disputes,’ said Skadden executive partner Eric Friedman.

Skadden Arps joins fellow US firms such as Ropes & Gray, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, along with UK firms such as Clifford Chance and Linklaters, which opened in Seoul following the ratification of a free trade agreement between South Korea and the US and Europe in 2012 and 2011 respectively.

The US firms’ dominance in the region can be in part attributed to the legislative requirement that the head of a foreign firm’s Korean office must have spent three years working in the firm’s home country, where the US benefits from its strong Korean American community and ties.

Of the 19 firms based in Seoul, 14 are from the US whereas just five are from the UK.

Stephenson Harwood last month signalled its intent to enter the market with the hire of DLA Piper’s local office head and litigation partner Michael Kim, although the firm has yet to apply for a licence.