Korea’s labor and employment laws are highly protective of employees. These laws prohibit dismissal without cause; restrict the use of fixed-term and temporary agency workers; endow most workers with robust rights to overtime and severance pay; allow employees to quickly and easily collectively organize and bargain; provide a convenient and inexpensive means for employees to assert their rights, through labor tribunals; and more. Attempting to navigate this complex legal landscape without counsel of the utmost quality is a perilous undertaking.
Yulchon’s Labor & Employment Practice has the expertise and experience to guide clients through all manner of labor and employment matters, from undertaking large-scale restructurings to implementing routine compliance policies and procedures, and from individual wrongful-termination suits to large-scale litigation over wages and benefits. Our practice, consisting of approximately 25 professionals, has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as medium and small companies and is committed to providing the most effective advice and practical solutions to enable clients to minimize their legal risks and successfully resolve disputes.
We regularly conduct labor and employment-related due diligence on all manner of corporate transactions. We counsel our clients on their most sensitive workforce-related matters, including executive terminations, workplace investigations and disciplinary proceedings, and redundancies. And we pride ourselves on our experience representing clients involved in complicated negotiations with labor unions, high-stakes labor disputes, and all manner of employment-related litigation, advocating for our clients before the Korean courts and the Labor Relations Commissions. The caliber of our representation and counsel is confirmed by Yulchon’s perennial recognition as an elite practice in the area of labor and employment law by Chambers Asia-Pacific, The Legal 500, Asialaw Profiles, and other domestic and international publications.
Major Practice Areas
- Workforce Reduction
- Planning and implementation
- Voluntary separation programs
Businesses that need to reduce their workforces due to competitive, technological, or financial pressures, can find Korea’s legal environment, with its robust legal protections for employees’ job-security, difficult to navigate without experienced and competent counsel. We have advised several large multinational corporations in connection with significant downsizing and outsourcing plans, and are able to provide comprehensive assistance in the planning and execution stages, through any potential litigation.
- Industrial Relations
- Labor unions and “time off”
- Collective bargaining agreements and negotiation strategy
- Unfair labor practices
- Strikes and other concerted actions
Our practice is highly experienced in guiding clients through the pitfalls of Korea’s complex system of collective labor relations. We offer both legal and practical strategic advice in connection with collective bargaining, management of labor disputes (including strikes and other concerted actions), compliance with Korea’s regulation of compensation for union-related “time off,” and responding effectively to industrial action. Our clients seek our advice both for responding to the formation of a new union in the workplace, or managing relations with a long-standing union or unions, whether amicable or antagonistic. Our expertise in collective labor relations enables us to effectively provide comprehensive advice in all manner of transactions.
- Individual Terminations
- Employee dismissals
- Executive/director termination
- Voluntary separation
Korea’s robust job-security for employees—with an almost total lack of at-will employment—makes dealing with a problematic employee a delicate process fraught with numerous potential risks in the absence of experienced counsel. We counsel clients frequently on how to handle unsatisfactory employees. We advise our clients on whether employee misconduct or poor performance justifies involuntary termination under Korean law, assist them in negotiating voluntary separation where appropriate, and provide counsel on all manner of ancillary issues. We also have extensive experience handling the particular issues that arise in the context of terminating directors and officers, including determination of whether they enjoy protection under Korea’s labor laws.
- General Compliance / Internal Investigations
- Employment/service contracts
- Work rules and internal company policies
- Internal investigations and evaluation of HR risks
We advise clients on the full spectrum of general compliance issues relating to all manner of activities and practices, such as evaluation of wage-systems, overtime requirements, leave practices, and any workplace harassment. Our assistance ranges from high-level advice to detailed assistance requiring on-site due diligence and investigation. We also provide clients with employment agreements, tailored to their particular needs, whether standard forms for ordinary employees or more complex agreements for high-level officers and other high-import employees who deal with sensitive confidential information. And we frequently draft or review employee handbooks and workplace policies, and assist in filing with the Ministry of Labor and Employment where required.
- Litigation and Administrative Proceedings
- Ordinary-wage and severance-pay claims
- Discrimination claims
- Defense against wrongful-dismissal claims and other adverse employment actions
We counsel our clients in all manner of administrative, civil and criminal proceedings relating to employment and labor issues. Our expertise extends to all manner of employment-law claims, such as wrongful termination cases before the Labor Relations Commission and in civil court, and large-scale wage claims, such as those based on the recent Supreme Court decision relating to the “ordinary wage” on which overtime and other statutory allowances are based. Certain violations of the labor/employment laws are criminally punishable. Our team is made up of numerous highly skilled and experienced litigators, including former judges and prosecutors whose extensive courtroom experience is invaluable to our clients.
- HR Issues in M&A
- Transfer of employees
- Changes to terms of employment
- Labor unions
- M&A and labor disputes
We frequently advise foreign and domestic clients on the HR issues relating to their acquisitions or sales of companies and business units. We assist our clients from the due diligence stage, enabling our clients to properly understand the potential labor-related liabilities associated with the transaction; with the preparation of deal documentation to effect the smooth transfer or continuation of employment relationships, often in close cooperation with our M&A team; and past the closing stage, to help ensure continued compliance with all relevant labor laws.
- Employee Benefits and Compensation
- Evaluation of compensation policies
- Ordinary wage and overtime
- Severance pay and pensions
Many employers come to us for help navigating Korea’s complex compensation system, including mandatory allowances and benefits, severance pay, and qualified pension plans. In particular, many businesses are now experiencing significant disruption due to the Korean Supreme Court’s recent decision classifying many kinds of allowances and regular bonuses as part of the “ordinary wage” on which overtime and other statutory benefits are calculated, and we are assisting them both in defending against the resulting claims for back wages, and in developing effective new compensation policies in compliance with the law.
- In-House Outsourcing/Non-Regular Employees
- Review of in-house outsourcing schemes
- Discrimination against non-regular employees
- Obligation to hire non-regular employees
Korean law tightly restricts the ability of businesses to direct and control workers whom they do not directly employ (dispatched workers), and violation of those rules can lead to various forms of liability, including an obligation to hire the relevant workers directly. When a business hires an outside service provider whose employees work at the hiring business’s workplace, the legal issues can be complex and the potential liability significant. We assist employers in evaluating the structure of their outsourcing and service arrangements, and complying with these legal requirements. Dispatched workers, fixed-term employees, and part-time employees (non-regular employees) have been granted strengthened anti-discrimination protections under recent changes to the law, which provide for expanded enforceability of anti-discrimination orders and treble damages for violations. We counsel our clients in navigating these requirements and ensuring proper compliance.
Industry Leading Clients
- ADT CAPS
- Audi Volkswagen Korea
- British American Tobacco
- Corning Korea
- Costco Korea
- Deutsche Bank
- ElringKlinger AG
- Hanhwa Group
- Hyundai-Kia Motors Group
- KEB Hana Bank
- KB Kookmin Bank
- LG Group
- Lotte Group
- Macquarie Financial
- Marriott International
- Merck Serono
- Otis Elevator
- Plastic Omnium
- Robert Bosch Korea
- Samsung Group
- SK Hynix
- Tesco PLC
- Towers Watson
- Tyco International
- World Bank
- 2015-12-04 [Legal Times] Yulchon’s Labor & Employment Group places Top of the League Table for the Second Consecutive Year
- 2015-11-10 [Legal 500] Yulchon Ranked Tier 1 for Labor & Employment in The Legal 500 Asia Pacific for the Fourth Consecutive Year
- 2015-10-27 [Asialaw Profiles] Yulchon’s Employment & Labor Group Receives ‘Highly Recommended’ Rating for the Fourth Consecutive Year
- 2017-03-24 [Who’s Who Legal] Sang Wook Cho and Soojung Lee recognized as leading lawyers in Who’s Who Legal: Labour & Employment 2017
- 2016-11-29 [Seminar]Global HR Issue: Employment and Immigration across APAC(December 15)
- 2016-11-08 [Asialaw Profiles] Yulchon’s Competition & Antitrust, Dispute Resolution & Litigation, Intellectual Property, Private Equity and Tax Received Top Ratings by Asialaw Profiles 2017