At only 38 years old, Kyungchun Kim LLM ’14, a partner at Lee & Ko in Seoul, Korea, is already an experienced hand at billion-dollar deals. Described by colleagues as a quintessential “problem solver,” Kim has used his talent for constructing clear solutions to difficult situations—and his LLM degree from NYU Law—to rise to the top of his field. Last year, Kim was named as one of Thomson Reuters’ Asian Legal Business 40 Under 40, and he was named an mergers and acquisitions (M&A) rising star in 2016 by the Korea Economic Daily.
The list of global companies that Kim has represented includes Samsung, LG Group, Korean Air, and Hyosung Corporation. He was an advisor to Samsung when the company sold its chemical affiliates to Lotte Group in a $2.6 billion deal. “After the closing sale everyone was very happy, and Samsung could focus on their future business and industry,” Kim says of that transaction. He also advised the Samsung C&T Corporation on its $8 billion-dollar merger with Cheil Industries Inc., and advised LG Group in the $1.1 billion merger of LG Chem Ltd and LG Life Sciences—a move that marked that company’s efforts to boost its growth in its biomedicine business.
Kim did not always envision himself being involved in such high-profile—and high-value—transactions. When he first entered law school at Seoul National University, he had planned to become a judge. But as he learned more about commercial law and M&A work, he says, he became more interested in corporate law. After receiving an LLB and LLM from Seoul National University and attending the Judicial Research & Training Institute at the Supreme Court of Korea, Kim served first as a judge advocate officer in the Korean Army for three years before joining Lee & Ko to practice corporate law.
Kim had been working at Lee & Ko for five years when he decided to pursue an LLM degree in the United States, with the firm’s support. The decision to attend NYU Law was an easy one, he says. “NYU Law is one of the finest law schools in the world, I liked the curriculum, and New York is the center of the world,” Kim says, noting that he had never been to New York before attending the Law School. “New York City is also famous for its diversity, so [attending] NYU Law was a good opportunity to experience [that] diversity.”
Enrolling at NYU Law also marked a return to the world of legal academia. “After years of working in a law firm, becoming a student again itself made me really excited,” Kim recalls. He enjoyed courses on corporate law and contracts that gave him an even deeper understanding of the work he had been doing for the previous five years, as well as courses that exposed him to new areas of the law, such as international human rights.
After graduating from the LLM program, Kim stayed in the US for another year, working as a foreign attorney in Mayer Brown’s New York City office. The experience was a particularly fruitful one, Kim says, because after returning to Lee & Ko in Seoul, he and his former colleagues from Mayer Brown continue to refer cases to one another. Kim also notes that having an LLM degree from NYU Law and experience at a New York law firm often helps him gain trust when he is presenting or giving advice to foreign clients.
That’s not the only reason clients trust Kim, according to Lee & Ko colleague Jungeun Janet Han. “He is an excellent teacher,” says Han, an associate in the firm’s corporate group who worked with Kim when she joined the firm as a first-year associate, “[and] it was also a learning experience to watch him interact with the clients, because he appears to have a natural ability to understand the clients’ needs perfectly, always thinking one step ahead of the situation.” She adds: “Not only [does he have] a vast knowledge on the substantive laws and recent trends on M&A practices, he possesses an ability to always find a solution in a difficult situation.”
Kim says he is particularly proud of a recent project advising the Hyosung Corporation, one of Korea’s largest conglomerates which operates in industrial materials, textiles, chemicals, construction, and the information and communication sectors. The corporation had decided to separate itself into one holding company and four operating subsidiaries—a $6 billion deal that was intended to create better transparency in corporate governance, Kim says. “I’m proud that we provided effective advice to our clients for a successful transaction,” Kim says, adding, “It had a good impact not only for the Hyosung Corporation, but also the Korean economy.”
Posted November 27, 2018