William KIM is a foreign attorney and member of the Labor & Employment Group.
Prior to joining Lee & Ko, Mr. Kim served as a corporate in-house counsel for Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). At HHI, Mr. Kim assisted in protecting the company’s legal interests throughout all phases of its multi-billion dollar construction projects in the Middle East, advising on local content laws, EPC terms and conditions, joint-venture negotiations, and international commercial disputes.
In the U.S., Mr. Kim worked as an associate at Bryan Cave, LLP as part of its Tax and Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Groups. His experience covers issues involving international/cross-border employee stock options, ERISA litigation, and Section 409A compliance.
During his law school education, Mr. Kim was a judicial clerk for the Honorable Edward W. Sweeney of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri (St. Louis), and a Rule-13 assistant at the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. Mr. Kim has also served as an executive board editor for the Washington University Global Studies Law Review.
Mr. Kim is admitted to the New York State Bar.
• Assisted in litigations, hearings, investigations, and settlements before the Korean Labor Relations Commission.
• Represented a Fortune 500 manufacturer of motion and control technologies in a cross-border internal investigation of potential FCPA and internal policies violations, and conducted employee interviews, advised on disciplinary actions, and served as liaison between the Korean and US offices.
• Assisted (e.g., depositions, documentation reviews, memorandums) in the defense of a global insurance provider against criminal charges including misappropriation of personal information, public official bribery, and destruction of evidence.
• Conducted internal investigations for a worldwide insurance corporation and a global software devices/services company regarding claims of sexual harassment filed internally against its executives or to the National Human Rights Commission.
• Assisted a British multinational insurance provider in the termination of its Asia-Pacific Regional HR Manager, conducting employee interviews in both Korean and English and drafting subsequent documents required for separation.
• Advised a US international healthcare company and a global logistics company during collective bargaining negotiations (e.g., time frame, negotiation bargaining chips, and anticipated demands and responses thereto) with their respective local unions.
• Performed due diligence analyses for multiple international asset purchase deals and business transfers and advised the client representatives on both the legally required and practical steps for successful transfer of employees and benefits.
• Drafted employment rules, employment contracts, benefits summaries, separation agreements, and other employment-related materials to be used as global templates for multinational corporations in the transportation, clothing, and airline industries.
Publications / Speaking
• Publication: “Breaking Down the Just-Cause Barrier: A Systematic Approach of Securing Greater Flexibility in Managing Poor Performing Employees,” Legal 500 (August 2016)
• Speaker: Korea Business Leaders Alliance Seminar (October13, 2016), “Hiring & Dismissing Key Personnel”
In 2018 there were major reforms to South Korean employment laws, including the Labour Standards Act. This resulted in many employers struggling to adjust employees' weekly working hours to comply with, for example, the new 52-hour limit. The legislative reforms and amendments proposed in 2018 will take effect in 2019. For example, a duty to prevent workplace harassment will be introduced, as will a uniform standard for termination notice exemptions.
South Korea recently overhauled its employment laws. Some of the most significant changes that may have an impact on business operations concern annual paid leave entitlements and fertility treatment leave, eligibility for childcare leave, protection for workplace sexual harassment victims, mandatory disability awareness training and the scope of the anti-discrimination statutes.
The Seoul High Court recently ruled that an employee's repeated personal use of his or her corporate card, in and of itself, may not always constitute sufficient just cause for termination. The court's ruling is an adverse precedent that may have an impact on many businesses as they consider whether to terminate an employee for personal use of corporate cards. However, this case is now pending before the Supreme Court.
In recognition of the hardship faced by emotional labour workers, there have been increasingly audible calls to improve their working environment, which has led to a view that employers must take proactive steps to protect the health and wellbeing of such employees. Although legislative changes have been insubstantial, the National Assembly of Korea recently passed legislative amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Act which seek to protect emotional labour workers.
The National Assembly recently passed a legislative amendment designed to reform the Labour Standards Act. The new legislation is projected to have a significant impact on all industries and levels. According to a study by the Korea Economic Research Institute, the additional annual labour costs that companies will incur is likely to exceed W12 trillion ($11 billion) in total.