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[Guest Report] ‘Impeccable’ globalization goal

Sept 24,2019
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Yoon Hee-woong, co-managing partner of the major Korean law firm Yulchon, says he looks forward to promoting Yulchon’s globalization strategy of “local responsiveness” at this week’s International Bar Association (IBA) annual conference, which runs through Friday at Coex in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. [PARK SANG-MOON]
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Yulchon’s office, just a three-minute walk from Coex, southern Seoul, prepares to host numerous meetings this week with legal professionals from around the world visiting for the IBA annual conference. [YULCHON]
The Korean law firm Yulchon opened its doors with just six lawyers in 1997, when the Asian financial crisis jolted the Korean economy. Today, it’s home to nearly 500 lawyers and experts across numerous fields and is one of the top five firms in the country’s cutthroat legal industry.

Very few know Yulchon’s history better than Yoon Hee-woong, a co-managing partner who joined Yulchon in 2001. With just three years left until Yulchon celebrates its 25th anniversary, Yoon says the company’s bar is set at a very high level.

“We’re now aiming for the real global standard,” Yoon told the Korea JoongAng Daily last week ahead of the International Bar Association’s (IBA) annual conference, which kicked off at Coex in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, on Sunday.

“We have six offices abroad, and I think what sets us apart from other Korean law firms is that we aim for impeccable globalization - not just hiring Korean lawyers who can speak in English or foreign lawyers who know the local language, but lawyers who can speak all three: Korean, English and whatever the local language is.”

Yoon said he was looking forward to describing Yulchon’s globalization strategy of “local responsiveness” to his foreign clients as they descend on Seoul this week for the world’s largest annual gathering of international lawyers and vowed to make the most of the opportunity.

“It’s really important for Korean law firms to strengthen their networks with globally renowned law firms as they try to break into foreign markets,” said Yoon. “If Korean lawyers and law firms manage to leave a good impression on their foreign counterparts during the IBA conference, I’m sure it will open many new doors.”

Yoon himself is planned to join the Managing Partners’ Breakfast session as a speaker on Wednesday at 8 a.m. to talk about key challenges and opportunities of the Korean legal market. Some 20 other lawyers at Yulchon have been invited to speak at various other sessions throughout the week.

Woo Chang-rok, honorary managing partner of Yulchon, spoke at the Managing Partner's Career session on Monday, and Yun Sai-ree, another honorary managing partner at the firm, is planned to offer his insights in the Law Office of the Future session on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. Yun was named Asian Law Firm Leader of the Year at the Asia Legal Awards in March.

On the sidelines, Yulchon held a reception Sunday and was scheduled to hold another one tonight in the sky lounge of its office, just a three-minute walk from Coex. The firm said in a press release last week that it was planning to organize nearly 30 seminars and networking events during the IBA conference, which runs through Friday, in a bid to expand its global clientele.

Yulchon currently has six foreign offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Yangon in Myanmar, Shanghai, Moscow and Jakarta in Indonesia.

In Vietnam, Yulchon helped Mirae Asset Life Insurance acquire a 50-percent stake in the Vietnamese insurance company Prevoir Vietnam Life Insurance in 2017. In Indonesia, the firm helped KB Kookmin Bank acquire new shares issued by Bank Bukopin to become the second-largest shareholder in 2018. Yulchon also advised the Industrial Bank of Korea on its acquisition of the majority of shares in Indonesia’s Bank Agris and Bank Mitraniaga in 2018.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]