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Since its founding in 2002, BKL’s arbitration team “has gone from newbie, to respected co-counsel working with the big international names, to being one of those big names,” says the Global Arbitration Review, and now “sits at the heart of Seoul’s impressively busy arbitration scene.”

Tenacious and uncompromising in its representation of clients, the team has earned such highly sought-after awards as the Global Arbitration Review’s 2010 “Win of the Year” and the honor of being the first firm in Korea (and just the second in Asia) to make the GAR 30 list of most robust arbitration practices worldwide.

Now with 32 lawyers dedicated exclusively to arbitration, it is the largest team in Asia, with attorneys licensed in several jurisdictions with language abilities spanning English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Urdu, and Spanish, and diverse legal backgrounds ranging from civil litigation to M&A, IP, maritime and construction. And specialized legal issues are no obstacle, with the backing of a full-service business law firm over 500 professionals strong. Drawing on this diversity, the team can optimize staffing based on the needs of each case.

In addition to its traditional bread-and-butter commercial disputes, the team has developed a substantial portfolio of treaty-based arbitration and construction disputes. It also regularly handles ancillary proceedings such as actions to enforce or set aside arbitral awards or pursue emergency relief in Korean court, with the support of BKL’s 100-member domestic litigation team, and advises on cross-border litigation. Several team members also frequently sit as arbitrator.

Co-founders Kevin Kim and John Bang, among other members, regularly receive top listings in industry rankings, speak at conferences, and have taken on leadership roles in the field. Kevin serves as a Vice President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, Governing Board Member and Chair of Audit Committee of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) and Board Member of the American Arbitration Association (AAA), among other positions. John, among other honors, has been identified as a leading figure in GAR’s “45 under 45 in Arbitration.” He currently holds positions as a Director of the Korean Council for International Arbitration and an officer in the IBA Litigation Committee.

Finally, cementing its premier position in the field, the team has authored the first and only comprehensive treatise on arbitration law and practice in Korea in English (Juris Publishing, 2010), with a companion volume in Korean (Pakyongsa, 2011).
Major Cases
    Active highlights

    • In the first-ever investment treaty-based arbitration where the Republic of Korea is the respondent, BKL is defending the government against claims exceeding several billion USD brought by Lone Star Funds under the Korea-Belgium/Luxembourg BIT. Proceeding under ICSID rules with high stakes, the dispute arises from an eight-year sale dispute involving Lone Star’s shares in Korea Exchange Bank and other Korean companies.

    • BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group currently represents Ansung Housing Co., Ltd., a Korean property developer, in an ICSID arbitration brought against the People’s Republic of China pursuant to the provisions of the Korea-China bilateral investment treaty (only the second investment treaty arbitration to be instituted against the PRC). Arising from the actions of a provincial government in relation to the construction of a golf country club and condominiums in Sheyang-Xiam, Jiangsu province, the case seeks hundreds of millions of CNY in damages.

    • In this USD 100 million dispute, BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group successfully represented a major Korean construction company in an ICC arbitration arising from the construction of a power plant in the Middle East. After rendering a decision on an interim application that effectively restrained a threatened bond call against our client, the tribunal ultimately awarded all of the amounts sought by our client in respect of outstanding contract payments while dismissing the bulk of the counter-party’s claims for liquidated damages.

    • BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group is representing a major Korean telecommunication company in a dispute under the ICC Rules that involves the determination of ownership of a highly sophisticated and complex telecommunications device. This dispute involves complex domestic regulatory and criminal issues. The national interest of Korea being at stake, BKL also acted as counsel for the client in an international regulatory proceeding related to this arbitration.

    • In an ad hoc arbitration against an African state in relation to alleged violations of a bilateral investment treaty, BKL is currently representing a globally active Korean engineering and construction company. Among other relief, our client is seeking compensation for damages estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. To our knowledge, this is the first case where a Korean investor has brought claims against a foreign state under an investment treaty.

    • In this post-M&A dispute arising in the aftermath of a Korean retailer’s USD 630 million-acquisition of a major chain of supermarkets and hypermarkets in the People’s Republic of China, BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group succeeded in receiving an award finding the seller, a major Hong Kong retailer, liable for breach of contractual representations and warranties.

    • In an international arbitration under the SIAC Rules and seated in Singapore, BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group represents a major Korean automotive parts manufacturer against highly technical claims filed by a multinational automotive parts manufacturer alleging misappropriation and repudiatory breach. Implicating both claims and counterclaims, together valued in the millions of US dollars, ancillary litigation was initiated by the counterparty in a national court overseas. BKL not only succeeded in dismissing the ancillary proceedings, but also successfully obtained an anti-suit injunction from the arbitral tribunal, an action considered to be a highly difficult task in international arbitration.

    • BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group represents a major Korean shipbuilder in a high-value dispute against a major foreign manufacturer of thrusters, in an LCIA arbitration seated in London. The dispute arises under several contracts for the sale and purchase of thrusters, intended to be used by the shipbuilder in the building of several vessels. The contracts in question are governed by English law, and the parties’ dispute relates to delays in the delivery of thrusters, and defects found therein.

    • BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group represents a major Korean construction company in a SIAC arbitration arising from the construction of a high-rise building in a Central Asian country. The dispute involves claims for unpaid contract amounts, extension of time and additional costs as well as various counterclaims. Prior to the filing of the arbitration, BKL successfully blocked a bond call from the project owner by obtaining a provisional attachment against the proceeds of the call in Korean court. This innovative maneuver is thought to have been unprecedented in Korean civil practice.

    Historical highlights

    • 2015: In this recently concluded ICC arbitration, BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group successfully represented two Korean construction companies in a dispute arising from a major mining and processing plant project in Africa. In the final award, the tribunal rejected all liquidated damages claimed against our client as penal and awarded nearly USD 30 million – the entire amount claimed by our client – in respect of outstanding contract payments plus a substantial amount in reimbursement of our client’s arbitration costs.

    • 2011: Represented a Korean auto maker in liquidation in an ICC arbitration brought by the largest US auto company and its Korean subsidiary in which we were able to secure for the client a final award in which approximately 87% of the USD 187 million claim amount was rejected. The award also granted the client’s counterclaim in addition to an order to reimburse more than KRW 8 billion (approx. USD 7.5 million) of the client’s arbitration costs in view of its successful defense in the case.

    • 2010: BKL’s International Arbitration Practice Group received GAR’s “2010 Arbitration Win of the Year” for its victory on behalf of a major Korean heavy industries company in an arbitration against investors of an oil refinery company. The outcome represented a 100% victory for our client, resulting in its takeover of one of Korea’s largest oil refiners at a discounted price totaling some USD 2.3 billion. The judgment is unprecedented in arbitration annals worldwide, achieving enforcement of a punitive call option of this scale under a private shareholders agreement. It is one of the largest arbitration awards ever in Korea, and among the largest awards under the ICC rules in recent years.

    • 2010: Successfully defended a claim in an ICC arbitration seated in Seoul between two of the world’s leading electronics manufacturers. The claims had a value in excess of USD 50 million, all of which were dismissed.

    • 2010: Successfully defended one of the world’s largest manufacturers of medical products in an ICC arbitration in Singapore against one of Korea’s most prominent pharmaceutical companies. The value of this arbitration exceeded USD 16 million.

    • 2009: Obtained an award for a prestigious Hong Kong-based private equity firm in an ICC arbitration held in Singapore against one of Korea’s largest confectionary companies granting damages of over USD 25 million plus costs.

    • 2006: Obtained an award representing one of Korea’s largest auto manufacturers in an ICC arbitration seated in London in which the tribunal dismissed the USD 32 million claim and awarded approximately USD 2 million in costs.

    • 2000: Secured an award valued at approximately USD 300 million for a Korean telecommunications research institute in ICC arbitration. This was believed at the time to be the largest monetary recovery by a Korean entity in international arbitration.

Main Contact
John P. Bang
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