Dong Woo Seo is an M&A lawyer, and an expert in securities and financial industry regulation. He is currently chair of BKL’s Securities, Banking & Finance practice group, and in recent years his deal work has centered on the financial sector and M&A exits by financial institutions. From 2002 to 2009 Mr. Seo was co-chair of the firm’s M&A practice group. As counsel to banks, private equity firms and other financial and strategic investors, he has handled many of the major acquisitions and investment exits in Korea since the 1990s. He played a major part in the government-led restructuring of the financial industry in 2000 to 2005. In the hostile takeover context, Mr. Seo is an expert on defensive strategies and corporate governance-related litigation. Mr. Seo is regularly named among the leading M&A practitioners in Korea by industry observers such as Chambers. His deal work has won recognition in many quarters, including a number of “Deal of the Year” type awards over the years.
Among transactions representative of his work, Mr. Seo advised:
- the controlling shareholders of Hynix Semiconductor, including nine financial institutions, in the sale of a 21.0% stake in the chipmaker to SK Telecom for KRW 3.37 trillion (some US$3.0 billion at then exchange rates) in 2012.
- Hana Financial Group in the KRW 3.9 trillion (US$3.5 billion) acquisition of Korea Exchange Bank from the Lone Star Group, completed in 2012.
- the financial institution sellers in the auction and sale of Hyundai Engineering & Construction to the Hyundai Motors Group for KRW 4.96 trillion (US$4.5 billion), completed in 2011, one of the largest M&A deals in Korean history.
- Hanjin Shipping in the restructuring of its U.S. and North Asian port terminals business, in 2005 to 2007.
- Korea Telecom and MBK Partners in the KRW 300 billion (US 270 million) acquisition of Kumho Rent-A-Car in 2010.
- the shareholders of cable provider C&M Communications in the sale of the company to MBK Partners and the Macquarie Group for KRW 1.45 trillion in 2008.
- STX Group in the acquisition of Norway’s Aker Yards for KRW 660 billion (US$640 million) in 2007~2008.
- the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Financial Supervisory Commission (now called the Financial Services Commission) in a series of projects involving the recapitalization and sale of financial institutions, including the sale of Daehan Investment Trust Co. to Hana Bank, and Korea Investment Trust Company to Dongwon Financial Group, both in 2005; the sale of Hyundai Investment & Securities to Prudential in 2003; the sale of Korea Life Insurance to the Hanhwa Group in 2002; and the sale of several other life insurers in 1999 to 2000.
In the area of hostile M&A, Mr. Seo was lead advisor to the Hyundai Group in its successful response to a takeover campaign by Korea Chemical Co. in 2003~2004, widely seen as the most significant takeover battle in Korean corporate annals.
Mr. Seo has been with Bae, Kim & Lee LLC since completing his military service in 1990. He is a graduate of Seoul National University Law School (LL.B. 1985) and Harvard Law School (LL.M. 1992). He was admitted to the Korean bar in 1987, having recorded top scores at Korea’s Judicial Research and Training Institute and on the bar examination. He is also a member of the New York bar (1993). He was a visiting lawyer in 1992~1993, with Rogers & Wells, Washington, DC, and Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, New York.
Mr. Seo has been an advisor to the KOSDAQ Listed Companies Association since 2000, and an independent director of the Korea Insurance Development Institute since 2010. He has served with the Financial Services Commission’s Market Efficiency Committee (2005~2011) and Financial Development Review Committee (2011~present), and the Ministry of Justice’s International Trade Law Research Group (2002~present). He has been on the panel of arbitrators of the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board since 1999.
Mr. Seo is fluent in English as well as Korean.