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Labor & Employment “They have a competitive advantage in terms of their excellent service and client-focused approach.
They are not just legal advisers but extended business partners.”
– Chambers Asia-Pacific 2018


Kim & Chang’s Labor & Employment Practice, consisting of over 130 professionals with diverse capabilities and experience, is uniquely positioned to provide clients with the most effective representation on all aspects of human resources and industrial relations.

Our Labor & Employment Practice provides a wide range of legal services, including labor and employment-related issues in mergers and acquisitions, business restructuring and reorganization, spin-offs, performance management and personnel management.  In particular, we advise our clients on (i) employment regulations and policies, such as employment contracts and work rules, (ii) individual employment issues, such as wages, working hours, retirement pensions, recruitment and separation, disciplinary actions, prevention of workplace discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment, and industrial safety, (iii) collective labor relations issues, such as collective bargaining and labor-management councils, (iv) implementation and reform of HR or wage systems, and (v) organization assessment in order to provide not only legal stability, but also practical guidance to our clients to encourage their business growth and positive and productive labor-management relations.

We pride ourselves on being regularly ranked as the Top Labor and Employment Law Group in major legal publications such as Chambers Asia-Pacific and The Legal 500 Asia Pacific

Our Labor & Employment Practice’s lawyers focus on providing our clients with practical and to-the-point legal advice based on in-depth legal knowledge and experience related to a broad range of labor and employment issues.  We also utilize the expertise of specialists at our firm who are both within and outside our Labor & Employment Practice, providing a multi-disciplinary approach enabling prompt and proactive solutions for our clients.

Key Servicesshow

Advice on Employment Laws for Overall Personnel Management

Workplace challenges are diverse, ranging from day-to-day managerial activities to crisis management requiring immediate strategic responses.  Clients seek our legal advice on a full spectrum of preventive and responsive employment legal challenges, including labor and employment issues in establishment of companies, mergers and acquisitions or spin-off contexts, restructuring and organizational changes, the legal and practical implications of people management and HR strategies, and compliance with Korea’s numerous labor and employment rules and regulations.

  • Business establishment
  • Mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs and integration after mergers and acquisitions
  • Restructuring and organizational changes, optimal management of human resources and disciplinary actions process
  • Discrimination and retaliation
  • Employee benefits and employment policies
  • Statutory compliance matters


Labor Relations

Our Labor & Employment Practice provides practical advice to employers on labor relations issues, such as collective bargaining, mediation and industrial actions, based on comprehensive legal knowledge and understanding as well as extensive practical experience.  Understanding Korea’s complex and strict labor laws is critical to achieving legal compliance and mitigating legal risk.

  • Collective bargaining
  • Labor disputes and crisis management
  • Labor-related regulations and compliance issues


Employment Policies and Regulations

A well-designed and well-implemented employment policy is vital for employee satisfaction and workplace harmony and acts as the first line of defense in any employment issues that may arise.  In this regard, our Labor & Employment Practice assists our clients by preparing or revising company rules of employment/work rules, codes of conduct, privacy policies and other personnel policies, and by helping our clients properly implement those policies in accordance with Korean law and practice.

  • Rules of Employment (i.e., work rules, employment policies or employee handbooks)
  • Personnel management system (i.e., performance management, employee benefits, people strategy)
  • Code of conduct
  • Privacy policies and background checks


Employment and Performance Reviews

The Labor & Employment Practice drafts and reviews employment offer letters/agreements, independent contractor/subcontractor/dispatch (i.e., temp agency) agreements, as well as non-competition, non-solicitation, confidentiality, non-disclosure, severance and separation agreements and forms for processing personal information.  We also provide services related to leadership training, talent management, employee benefits and welfare, performance improvement plans and performance reviews.

  • Letters/agreements related to employment 
  • Performance reviews and performance improvement plans 
  • Leadership evaluation and training 


Working Hours, Compensation and Benefits

Working hours and employee compensation and benefits are another multi-faceted and complex area of employment law in which our lawyers and experts have great expertise and experience. The Labor & Employment Practice offers an integrated team of experts who have a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the laws and extensive experience and who can provide practical and legal advice on all relevant aspects of a compensation and benefits package to ensure that the interest of the company and its employees/officers are best served.


We also provide our clients with advice on tax and foreign exchange implications of compensation and benefits by working with specialists outside the Labor & Employment Practice. 

  • Compensation, retirement benefits, welfare and benefits of employees and executives
  • Improvement of wage system
  • Management and improvement of working hour system
  • Human rights impact assessment, management of human rights-related risks for employees and organization assessment
  • Tax and foreign exchange implications of compensation and benefits


Internal Investigations and Government Audits

Our Labor & Employment Practice offers systematic guidance on internal investigations (and disciplinary processes) and dispute resolutions concerning employee misconduct including allegations of sexual harassment, fraud, embezzlement and trade secret violations.  In addition, we advise our clients on preparation for routine governmental labor and employment audits and on how to proactively minimize the potential exposure prior to such audits.


  • Grievance handling, internal investigations and dispute resolution process
  • Discrimination and retaliation
  • Internal labor audits
  • Governmental audits


Administrative Proceedings and Litigation

Our Labor & Employment Practice consists of not only experienced lawyers but also former judges, prosecutors, and MOEL officials who understand all sides and facets of a dispute.  Therefore, the combined experience and legal knowledge we have accumulated as counselors and advisors in these particular areas of the Korean labor and employment law allows us to effectively resolve disputes and be more responsive to clients’ needs when representing them before the Korean labor authorities and courts in case of disputes, while it is best to resolve labor-management disputes through dialogue and compromise. 

  • Disputes related to unfair disciplinary actions, unfair dismissals, and termination of employment
  • Disputes related to labor standards violations (e.g., wages and working hours)
  • Mediation and disputes before the labor relations commissions and courts


Education and Training

Our Labor & Employment Practice provides compliance education as well as more comprehensive training programs which address key labor and employment (legal and non-legal) issues relevant to a company’s operations.

  • Statutorily required education, such as sexual harassment prevention training, occupational safety and health training, educational programs to promote disability awareness and inclusion, and personal information protection training
  • Compliance and ethics training
  • Cooperative labor relations training

Key Experienceshow

In-house Subcontracting Litigation
  • Successfully represented a defendant tire manufacturer in a landmark case filed by in-house subcontracted workers, where the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that the in-house subcontracting arrangement for a manufacturing process was not an illegal dispatch arrangement.

  • Successfully represented the defendants (a LCD glass manufacturer, its contractor and its representative) in a case where a glass manufacturer used an in-house subcontracting arrangement for part of a manufacturing process.  The Supreme Court reversed the High Court decision and found the defendants not guilty of violations of dispatch laws.  This is a significant decision that shows that a manufacturer can engage in a legitimate in-house subcontracting arrangements for the manufacturing process.


Employee Status Litigation
  • Successfully represented a platform provider in an administrative lawsuit where freelance drivers asked that their '“employee status”' be recognized.   The Seoul Administrative Court overturned the National Labor Relations Commission’s (NLRC’s)'s decision and held that platform workers are not employees on the following grounds: (i) the existing legal principles that are premised on a traditional employment relationship are not applicable to platform labor, and (ii) the platform provider’'s provision of information to enable the performance of platform work is different from the employer’'s supervision and control. 

  • Successfully represented an automobile manufacturer in an employee status case filed by the sales representatives of its distributor, where the Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision that denied the formation of the worker dispatch relationship.  We successfully argued that (i) a sales distributorship agreement is a commercial agency contract, which is the typical type of contract governed by the Commercial Act, (ii) the automobile manufacturer established work standards and inspected whether the distributor properly followed sales conditions and training plans in an effort to achieve the purpose of the distributorship agreement and to comply with car sales-related public laws (i.e., consumer protection laws and the Personal Information Protection Act), which should not be regarded as an indication of worker dispatch relationship.


Ordinary Wage Litigation
  • Successfully represented a global auto parts maker in a lawsuit where its labor union claimed that regular bonuses and performance bonuses constitute ordinary wages.  The company argued that those bonuses do not constitute ordinary wages since the decision on whether payment would be made and the amount of payment to be made was based on the attached conditions, and therefore such bonuses shall not be deemed as a fixed payment.  The company won the case at the trial, appellate and the Supreme Court levels.

  • Successfully represented an airline company in a case filed by its employees claiming that per-hour flight allowance and default flight allowance constitute ordinary wage, where the District, High, and Supreme Courts had all denied that these allowances constitute ordinary wage.  Regarding the plaintiff’s claim that regular bonuses should be included in the ordinary wage, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the airline company, accepting our argument that such inclusion could pose a material managerial risk to the company and breaches the principle of good faith.


Wage Peak System Litigation
  • Successfully defended the legality of an insurance company’s wage peak system in a case filed by its former employees, where said employees sought to invalidate the wage peak system on the basis that the company did not obtain each individual employee’s consent.  Accepting our argument that a wage peak system that is introduced with consent from the employee representative is legitimate unless any individual employment contracts more favorable than the changed rules of employment exist, the Supreme Court ruled that it would be unreasonable to assess the wage peak system as disadvantageous only on account of the resultant wage reduction without considering the accompanied extension of the retirement age in the plaintiffs’ favor, even though the extension was anticipated with the amendments to the relevant laws.


Improving Corporate Competitiveness
  • Advised a global financial company in connection with its workforce restructuring and improvement of its severance pay system. 

  • Supported communication and negotiations with union, enabling the client to successfully turn around its business without triggering any major industrial action or labor dispute.


Litigation Support
  • Successfully represented a manufacturing company in a wrongful termination claim arising out of workforce restructuring efforts and unilateral employee terminations for “urgent business necessity.”


M&A-related HR Issues
  • Successfully advised a multinational corporation in a sale of a Korean subsidiary in crisis. 
  • Advised the client on various legal and HR issues and ensured that labor and management reached an agreement on those issues, such as reduction of labor costs through workforce restructuring and amendment to the collective bargaining agreement. 


Integration and HR Policy Reform
  • In connection with a multinational client’s integration with a local company, assisted the client in integrating the local company’s HR policies with its global HR policies.  This new HR system enabled the local company to significantly improve its business performance.


Internal Investigations and Improvement of Internal Procedures
  • Supported a client’s internal investigation regarding employee misconduct, verified the facts of employee misconduct, and advised on the appropriate disciplinary action.

  • Also assisted the client in improving its internal procedures based on the investigation.


Criminal Liability in Unfair Labor Practice Case
  • Represented a company charged with unfair labor practice related to the establishment of a labor union, and minimized the criminal liability by proving that each relevant act was not an unfair labor practice. 


Productivity Enhancement
  • Advised a large manufacturing company on issues related to plant operations, and helped develop a system aimed at improving productivity and efficiency.

  • Also assisted in the implementation stages, resulting in an improvement in productivity.


Performance Evaluations and Training for Executives
  • Assisted a large Korean manufacturing company in evaluating its executives and prospective executives, and utilized the results to restructure and reposition the executives.


Human Rights Due Diligence and Human Rights Impact Assessment
  • Provided a human rights impact assessment for a domestic tech company in order to identify and assess the actual or potential negative human rights impact that can occur across business operations and activities as well as in the supply chain, with the aim of identifying and preventing human rights risks.  This allowed the company to effectively prevent and/or alleviate the negative human rights impact the company had on the affected employees and to establish a human rights management system that maximizes the company’s positive impact on the community.


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