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Antitrust & Competition

"Kim & Chang offers top-notch client experience."
– Chambers Asia-Pacific 2019

Overview

Our Antitrust & Competition Practice consists of Korea’s finest team of over 100 professionals, specializing in antitrust issues, including economists, industry experts, and former senior officials of the Korea Fair Trade Commission (“KFTC”), whose combined experience and expertise is unrivaled in all aspects of Korean antitrust and competition law.

Highly Recognized Global Leader

Described as “the best of the best,” “head and shoulders above the rest,” and “a benchmark for the other local firms, always providing effective and innovative solutions” by Chambers Global, Kim & Chang has been widely recognized as Korea’s leading law firm since its establishment some 45 years ago.  In particular, our Antitrust & Competition Practice has been considered an “Elite Team” and the undisputed leader in competition law in Korea year after year by Global Competition Review's GCR 100, a survey of the top competition law firms.

Unrivaled Experience and Expertise

As the pioneer of antitrust and competition law practice in Korea, our Antitrust & Competition Practice has advised more clients from around the world than any other law firm in navigating through complex antitrust cases in Korea and has accumulated an unparalleled level of experience and know-how through our undertakings.  Supported by our clients’ trust and satisfaction, our Antitrust & Competition Practice strives to provide creative and effective solutions to our clients.

The Best Legal Minds in the Field

With more than 100 of the best legal professionals in the field, our Antitrust & Competition Practice is the largest of its kind in Korea, capable of providing clients with solutions that are comprehensive and effective. Our closely knit team of seasoned antitrust professionals, including Korean and foreign-licensed attorneys, patent attorneys, experts in intellectual property rights and related technologies, civil and criminal antitrust litigators, in-house economists, market researchers, and digital forensics experts all work together to more effectively address the full spectrum of antitrust and competition law issues that may arise in highly specialized and technical industry sectors. 

Tailoring to Specific Client and Industry Needs

Handling complex antitrust and competition law cases requires an expert understanding of not only the legal theories and practices, but also the knowledge of the relevant industry and the client’s specific and highly specialized needs. In recognition of such needs, our Antitrust & Competition Practice puts together teams of antitrust experts customized to our clients’ specific needs and encourages active interdisciplinary cooperation between each team and the firm’s other practices and industry experts.  This allows our teams to more effectively address each client’s needs in handling antitrust and competition law matters, especially those involving highly specialized industry sectors, such as the IT, pharmaceutical, banking, insurance, energy, construction, telecommunications, entertainment, and other regulated sectors.

Key Servicesshow

Merger Filings

Our Antitrust & Competition Practice has unmatched experience and success in obtaining the regulatory approval from the KFTC of complex, large-scale mergers in concentrated industries.  Our attorneys, together with our in-house economists, counsel clients at every stage of the merger process, from an initial antitrust analysis and structuring of transactions through obtainment of the KFTC's approval.  The members of our Practice have been involved in virtually every major cross-border acquisition of Korean companies and global mergers, successfully advising both overseas and domestic clients. 

 

Cartel Investigations

We have a leading practice defending clients involved in cartel investigations by the KFTC.  Our in-depth experience across many industries is of particular value in advising clients on diverse issues that can arise in cartel investigations.  We also provide immediate response assistance to dawn raids conducted by the KFTC, based on our long experience with KFTC investigations and advise our clients throughout the investigation process. We have substantial experience in advising on the implications of a leniency application and in coordinating responses when a multi-jurisdictional cartel investigation is launched. 

 

Abuse of Market Dominance

We advise clients on a broad range of matters relating to the abuse of market dominance and other exclusionary or exploitative conducts. In dealing with unilateral conduct in the market, we are supported by industrial experts and litigation attorneys who are former judges specializing in antitrust cases. We also work closely with our in-house economists to carry out economic analyses of the competition in the relevant market.  We have long-standing experience in providing comprehensive advice to our clients involved in multijurisdictional abuse of market dominance investigations. In abuse of intellectual property rights cases, which have become an area of focus for the KFTC in recent years, we work closely with our Intellectual Property Practice to provide comprehensive advice even in the most complex, technology-oriented matters. 

 

Unfair Trade Practices

It is becoming increasingly important for companies doing business in Korea to consider the risk of an unfair trade practice violation as law enforcement agencies continue to step up their enforcement efforts.  In addition to the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Law (“FTL”), there are other special laws that regulate unfair trade practices, such as the Large-Scale Distribution Transactions Act, the Fair Labeling and Advertising Act (“FLAA”), and the Standardized Contracts Regulation Act, to name a few.  Our Antitrust & Competition Practice advises clients to help identify potential unfair trade practices in their current and contemplated business activities in Korea and to navigate through investigations by the KFTC, mediation by the Korea Fair Trade Mediation Agency (“KOFAIR”), and criminal investigation following the KFTC’s referral of cases to the Prosecutors’ Office. 

 

Distribution & Franchise

Our Antitrust & Competition Practice has advised numerous established and emerging companies in various industries, including retail and fashion, food and beverage, and hospitality and leisure, from the very nascent stage of establishing their distribution or franchise network in Korea through its maturity, expansion and termination.  Our multidisciplinary approach to assessing and minimizing legal risks, involving experts with extensive practical experience in antitrust, regulatory, compliance, litigation, and transactions, has enabled us to effectively navigate clients through complex investigation and disputes.  

 

Fair Labeling and Advertising

Our Antitrust & Competition Practice has unrivaled experience and expertise on a wide range of fair labeling and advertising issues.  Working closely with in-house industry experts and patent attorneys, we provide sound legal advice and creative solutions to companies accused of violating the FLAA.

 

Horizontal and Vertical Commercial Agreements

Our long experience in dealing with horizontal and vertical commercial agreements dates back to the enactment of the FTL in Korea.  We accumulated tremendous experience and expertise in advising on the specific antitrust implications of horizontal and vertical commercial agreements between competitors, joint venture agreements, distribution and licensing arrangements, joint research and development agreements, and strategic alliances.

 

Compliance Programs (Risk Diagnosis and Prevention)

We offer unparalleled experience in designing, implementing and monitoring comprehensive, custom-tailored competition compliance programs.  The consequences of failing to comply with competition laws are substantial and increasing – possibly leading to the imposition of heavy fines, civil damages claims, reputation damage, and even criminal sanctions.  It is, therefore, essential for businesses, particularly those with global operations and/or a high turnover of employees, to establish a sound risk management and internal control program.

 

Unfair Affiliate Transactions

Recent changes in the business environment in Korea brought to the foreground the issue of unfair affiliate transactions.  The KFTC is now carefully monitoring transactions between affiliates to determine whether they are merely tools of profiteering by the controlling individual shareholders or whether they are used to unfairly subsidize an affiliate against unrelated competitors.  Our professionals, consisting of antitrust attorneys, white-collar criminal attorneys, litigation attorneys, in-house economists, and CPAs, with extensive experience in landmark affiliate transaction cases, can best analyze and advise on affiliate transactions to identify the potential antitrust risks, develop defenses, and protect the justified interests of our clients in engaging in affiliate transactions.

 

Civil and Administrative Litigation and Criminal Defense

Our Antitrust & Competition Practice comprises an expert team of experienced antitrust attorneys, including former judges and prosecutors with a wealth of experience in prosecuting or ruling on antitrust cases, who work in close collaboration with other in-house antitrust specialists to provide effective legal advice and services in defending our clients in civil and administrative litigation, as well as criminal investigation.  The Practice represents clients who appeal the KFTC’s decisions to the appellate court and the Supreme Court, in addition to those who are subject to private damage actions and criminal proceedings upon referral from the KFTC.

Key Experiencesshow

Our key clients include pharmaceutical companies, banks, securities companies, private equity funds, insurance companies, energy companies, construction companies, entertainment companies, telecommunications service providers, broadcasters, software developers, hardware manufacturers, IT companies, chemical companies, retailers, consumer product manufacturers, luxury goods manufacturers, auto makers, and auto parts manufacturers

 

Our Practice has an unmatched record for successfully handling competition law cases and continues to be involved in many high-profile cases involving both overseas and domestic clients.

 
Merger Filings

Kim & Chang successfully obtained KFTC's clearance of some of the most significant transactions in recent years:

 
  • Represented both parties in IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat (unconditional clearance, 2019)
  • Represented Momentive Performance Materials Holdings Inc. in its acquisition by a Korean consortium of SJL Partners, KCC and Wonik (unconditional clearance, 2019)
  • Represented both parties in Thales’ acquisition of Gemalto (unconditional clearance, 2019) 
  • Represented both parties in BASF’s wet-end paper and water chemicals business with US-based specialty chemicals company Solenis (unconditional clearance, 2018)
  • Represented The Walt Disney Company in its acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox (unconditional clearance, 2018)
  • Represented both Siemens and Alstom in the merger filing for the merger of Siemens’ mobility businesses with Alstom (unconditional clearance, 2018)
  • Represented both parties in Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP Semiconductor (conditional clearance, 2018)
  • Represented both parties in BASF’s acquisition of Solvay’s global polyamide business (unconditional clearance, 2018)
  • Represented Dow Chemical and DuPont in their merger of equals (conditional clearance, 2017)
  • Represented Maersk Line in its acquisition of Hamburg Südamerikanische Dampfschifffahrts-Gesellschaft (conditional clearance, 2017)
  • Represented HP in its acquisition of the global printer business from Samsung Electronics (unconditional clearance, 2017)
  • Represented Bain Capital Investors in its acquisition of Toshiba Memory Corporation (unconditional clearance, 2017)
  • Represented Sanofi in a swap deal with Boehringer Ingelheim involving their animal health and consumer healthcare businesses (unconditional clearance, 2016)
  • Represented Hahn & Company in its multi-jurisdictional acquisition of Halla Visteon (clearance from eight jurisdictions: Korea, US, China, India, Turkey, Russia, Czech Republic and Slovakia, 2015)
 
Cartels
  • Represented several steelmakers in the KFTC’s investigation into alleged rebar price fixing. Using a comprehensive strategy that included verification of facts, legal review, and industry and economic analysis, our attorneys persuaded the KFTC to radically reduce its sanctions against the companies (2018) 
  • Represented three vehicle importers in a KFTC investigation into their alleged collusion in the pricing of hourly retail labor rate.  While recognizing that there had been an exchange of information among the competitors on their hourly rate, the KFTC closed the investigation without bringing any charges, as the exchange of information did not amount to an “anti-competitive agreement to collectively fix, maintain, or alter prices" (2018) 
  • Represented multiple diode and transistor manufacturers in the KFTC’s investigation on alleged bid rigging.  The KFTC investigated the practice of tender and pricing, but has closed the case on the grounds that it is impossible to assess the illegality (2018)
  • Represented one of four duty-free retailers in the KFTC’s investigation into their alleged cartel activity and the Incheon Airport Authority’s abetment of that activity (concluded with “no violation” decision) (2018) 
  • Represented multiple foreign banks in a KFTC investigation into the banks’ alleged collusion on non-deliverable forwards (NDF) of Brazilian Real, obtaining a “discontinuation of deliberation” decision by the KFTC based on analysis of the currency’s low impact on the Korean market (2017) 
  • Represented one of three major multiplex cinemas in a KFTC investigation into an alleged collusion to fix ticket prices and prices at concession stands within the cinemas.  Despite the fact that the case was initiated by an accusation by a civic group, the KFTC, having found no exchange of information between the cinemas, closed the case without bringing any charges (2017) 
  • Represented three major hotels in an investigation by the KFTC for alleged collusion to fix prices for various hospitality services and successfully persuaded the KFTC to close its investigation based on insufficient evidence (2016) 
  • Obtained judgments denying liability and annulling the KFTC's fines for several insurance companies in their appeal of the KFTC’s decision finding fixing of commission rates on variable life insurance products (2015) 
  • Obtained judgment denying liability and annulling the KFTC's fines for a major oil refining company in its appeal of the KFTC’s decision finding collusion by five oil refining companies (2015) 
  • In an appeal before the Supreme Court of Korea, obtained a court decision overturning the KFTC’s finding of a Korean food manufacturer’s participation in an agreement to fix the price of instant noodles (2015) 
  • Represented power cable manufacturers and obtained a significant decision from the Supreme Court regarding the issue of determining the “Completion Date” in collusion cases (2015)
 
Abuse of Market Dominance and Unfair Trade Practice

Kim & Chang also has a vast amount of experience in defending diverse companies from allegations of abuse of market dominance and unfair trade practices. For example, in the last few years, Kim & Chang:

 
  • Represented a language proficiency testing organization in the KFTC’s investigation into alleged use of unfair terms and conditions (received a “no violation” decision, 2019)
  • Defended a food delivery service provider against the KFTC’s investigation into alleged unfair trade practices (obtained a “no violation” decision, 2019)
  • Represented a global card payment organization in the KFTC’s investigation into an alleged abuse of dominance relating to cross-border transaction fees (received a “no violation” decision, 2018)
  • Represented a cable system operator in the KFTC’s investigation into alleged unfair trade practice against its partner companies (received a “no violation” decision, 2018)
  • Represented an association in an abuse of superior bargaining position (unfair trade practice) case which was referred to the Korea Fair Trade Mediation Agency by the association’s Korean partner (a settlement was reached and the complaint was withdrawn, 2018)
  • Defended a leading consumer goods company in Korea in the KFTC’s investigation into alleged abusive pricing practices (received a “no violation” decision, 2018) 
  • Represented a vehicle importer in the KFTC’s investigation into alleged unfair trade practice against its dealers (received a “no violation” decision, 2018)
  • Represented a major distributor in the KFTC’s investigation into its alleged violation of the Fairness in Large-Scale Distribution Transactions Act (received a “no violation” decision, 2018) 
  • Obtained the KFTC’s determination of “no violation” on an allegation that a cleaning products manufacturer’s advertisement of its disinfectant product’s sterilizing power against MERS virus is a false and exaggerated advertisement (2017)
  • Defended an animal health company against the KFTC’s allegation that the company’s supply and distribution policy violated the prohibitions against abuse of market dominance and unfair trade practices (unfair refusal to deal), and obtained a “no violation” decision for abuse of market dominance and a corrective order for unfair trade practices, with no monetary sanction (2017)
  • Represented a Korean convenience store franchise company in an appeal of the KFTC’s decision in an alleged abuse of trade position case (the High Court and the Supreme Court found no violation and overturned the KFTC’s decision, 2017) 
  • Obtained the KFTC’s determination of “no violation” against an allegation that a vehicle importer’s promotional advertisement based on change in consumption tax is a false and exaggerated advertisement (2016)

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