Under the KORUS FTA, Korea became fully opened to U.S. law firms as of March 2017, allowing them to set up joint ventures with Korean counterparts, hire Korean lawyers and partially practice domestic law. The plan also allows foreign lawyers to temporarily stay in Korea to handle cases requiring international mediation. U.S. lawyers can practice in Korea as a “Foreign Legal Consultant” (FLC) under the Korean Foreign Legal Consultants Act of the KORUS FTA. An attorney from a country with a free trade agreement in place with South Korea is eligible to apply to be an FLC. They must have at least a three-year work experience in their respective jurisdiction. In order to hold chief status, they must have seven years of experience overall. Foreign attorneys must seek approval by the Minister of Justice and register with the Korean Bar Association.
U.S. accounting firms must register with the Financial Services Commission (FSC) in order to open an office in Korea. These U.S. firms are then allowed to hire foreign accountants and provide accounting consultations to Korean companies on overseas financial operations only. They are not allowed to hire Korean accountants. As of March 2017, foreign accounting firms are eligible to purchase less than a 50 percent stake in a Korean accounting firm. The FSC will approve U.S. accountants who have secured accounting licenses overseas to do business in Korea for five years.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) refers to an investment of not less than KRW 100 million made by foreigners. To be recognized as such, at least 10 percent of the voting stocks issued by a domestic corporation or business should be foreign owned, or at least 10 percent of the total investment amount should be made by foreign investors. Alternatively, foreigners may acquire less than 10 percent of stocks issued by a domestic corporation or business or invest less than 10 percent of the total investment amount but should dispatch or appoint an executive member who holds authority to participate in the major decision-making and management processes of the corporation or company. To learn more about how one can open offices in Korea, please visit https://www.investkorea.org/ik-en/cntnts/i-333/web.do.