South Korea - Country Commercial Guide
Licensing Requirements for Professional Services

Includes license requirements for key professional services that are open to U.S. service providers.

Last published date: 2020-09-21

Under KORUS FTA, Korea will be 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 (http://www.moj.go.kr/moj_eng/index.do) and register with the Korean Bar Association (https://www.koreanbar.or.kr/eng/pages/main/main.asp).

U.S. accounting firms must register with the Financial Services Commission (FSC - http://www.fsc.go.kr/eng/) 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. In March 2017 (five years after the launch of the KORUS FTA), foreign accounting firms will be 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.

For general consultants, opening an office in Korea requires a Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) approach. For a corporation to open an office, a minimum investment of 100 million Won (~ $100,000) is required for a G8 visa, and for a consultant to practice in Korea, it would require 300 million Won (~$300,000) for a G9 visa. To learn more about how one can open offices in Korea, please visit http://www.investkorea.org/en/index.do.