Mr. Sang Hoon LEE is the head of Lee & Ko’s Employment and Labor Practice Group, and renowned international legal publications such as AsiaLaw, Chambers Asia, Legal 500 and Who’s Who Legal have consistently recognized Mr. Lee as one of the top employment and labor lawyers in Korea.
With over 25 years of experience, Mr. Lee has a proven track record of providing effective and practical advice to clients regarding the full range of matters involving the Korean employment and labor laws. Mr. Lee has advised clients on matters regarding both individual employment relationships (e.g., employment agreements, termination, wages, etc.) and collective labor relationships (e.g., collective bargaining agreements, strikes, crisis management, etc.). He has also successfully represented many multinational and domestic clients in matters pertaining to employment agreements, changes to work rules, sexual harassment investigations, employment discrimination litigations, general compliance matters, employee discipline and terminations, layoffs, wage and hours, leaves, severance pay, pension and benefit, non-competition, employee privacy, temporary or dispatched worker, unjust labor practice, labor unions relations, employee transfers, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate restructuring. For example, in Samsung’s sale of its HDD business (valued at US$ 1.5 billion) to Seagate, Mr. Lee was appointed by Samsung Electronics as its sole advisor for HR-related issues and contributed to the successful completion of the deal. Mr. Lee also played a key role in the successful injection of US$ 4 billion of government funds by the Korea Deposit Insurance Corporation (“KDIC”) into six Korean banks during the Asian financial crisis in 2000. During negotiations among the KDIC, the banks and the labor union regarding the issues of restructuring and employee withdrawal from the union, he provided various legal advice to the KDIC, which enabled injection of government funds and revived Korean banks.
Areas of Practice
Labor & Employment
University of Washington School of Law - LL.M.: 1997
Judicial Research & Training Institute, Supreme Court of Korea: 1992
Seoul National University Graduate School of Law - LL.M.: 1987
Seoul National University College of Law- LL B.: 1985
Lee & Ko: 1992 - Present
Advisory Attorney to the Ministry of Employment and Labor: 2016 - Present
Labor Law Practice Study Institute, Supreme Court of Korea, Member and Editor: 2005 - Present
Corporate Environment Improvement Practice Commission, Ministry of Justice: 2005
Kelly, Drye & Warren, LLP, New York: 1997 - 1998
Admitted to bar, Korea: 1992
Admitted to bar, New York: 1998
Korean and English
Selected as “Band 1” or “Leading” Lawyer in Labor & Employment by major international legal publications:
Significant changes to the Gender Equality Employment and Work-Life Balance Support Act, including changes to employees' rights to paternity leave and reduced working hours for child and family care, recently came into effect. Employers are strongly advised to review their existing practices and policies to ensure compliance with the act's latest amendments. Workplace disruptions are expected due to the increased benefits.
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.