Updated: Jul 24
With vast differences in economic structure, legal and regulatory oversight, cultural norms, and countless other variables, no two regions are the same when it comes to e-discovery. Observing how each market has evolved during this century has been a fascinating pastime for many in this industry.
In South Korea, the e-discovery space might still be considered fledgling. But its data stores and analytical needs are complex. Most e-discovery providers supporting clients in Korea are based elsewhere around the world. Recently, though, a local team opened their doors in Seoul: Intellectual Data.
We sat down Yongmin Cho, Intellectual Data’s founder and CEO, to get his perspective on the Korean e-discovery community and what makes it—including his team—unique.
Big on Data
In contrast to the abundance of case law covering the discovery and exchange of data during legislation in the United States, it isn’t an area of focus in the Korean legal system. Instead, data protection efforts tend to take a different form in Korea: a strong focus on cybersecurity.
“I think Korea is not advanced in e-discovery by comparison to the US, but Korean corporations have much stronger information security measures,” explained Yongmin.
Dedicated cybersecurity laws are on the books in Korea, protecting personal information, preventing unauthorized access, defending against cyber threats, and so on.
As a result, Korean companies have robust—and unique—security measures in place to protect data on their networks and thwart bad actors.
“Korean clients tend to apply their own customized IT environments and security systems,” Yongmin explained. “Sometimes we have to collect data from proprietary software. Some corporations within the same group—affiliates of the same entity, such as Mirae Asset Global Investments, Mirae Asset Daewoo, and Mirae Asset Life Insurance—may have different setups in infrastructures or IT environments.”
Korean companies are keen to protect their intellectual property, and frequently go to court to do so. However, e-discovery practices aren’t truly formalized. These disparate security systems complicate those practices even further.
New to Discovery
“Unlike those in other countries, many Korean companies do not understand the significance of preservation of data and overall e-discovery in litigation,” Yongmin explained. “In Korea, since there is no such legal system as e-discovery for now, it is very difficult for us to educate local clients on the legal system in the US and the importance of it to their businesses.”
However, with many of their clients working internationally and becoming subject to cross-border laws and regulations, there is a growing need for Korean service providers to help these companies understand their e-discovery obligations—and fulfill them as needed.
“Korean corporate workers should be aware their PCs and mobile devices can be targets for e-discovery. However, their in-house counsel often has difficulty making them understand this,” Yongmin said. “Given than, Korean corporations tend not to invest much on information governance or building retention policies conservatively beyond where they can meet the requirements of the Korean data privacy laws (or the relevant).”
Unfortunately, these policies may mean huge volumes of disorganized data. That, of course, spells out a veritable nightmare when e-discovery does become necessary.
Add together these vast stores of unstructured data, complex data storage and security layers, time zone differences, the presence of multiple languages—and e-discovery for Korean clients becomes quite intimidating very quickly.
“From an e-discovery perspective, there is a deep need for Korean corporations to rigorously implement information governance practices and regularly educate their employees accordingly,” Yongmin emphasized for us.
Finding Friendship in the Experts
Fortunately, these corporations aren’t left in the lurch: working with an educated partner makes all the difference in tackling challenges as cases arise, and even educating employees to help close gaps before the next matter appears.
At Intellectual Data, local expertise is their best calling card. They’re the first e-discovery service provider to be based in Korea and believe this gives them a lot to offer local clients who want a partner in building and executing on their e-discovery practices.
“In Korea, there are a limited number of professionals with e-discovery knowledge and experience, Yongmin said. “So it was our main focus to build a strong team of highly experienced—all with 6 to 10 years of e-discovery experiences in this region—professionals.”
Yongmin explained that his team also has deep experience in project management and cross-functional collaboration: “Our project managers have a lot of experience in managing e-discovery project from data collection to document production. Additionally, with the infrastructure experts and our software development team, we are building add-on functions that help create efficient working processes for our customers.”
Real-time response is an added strength for Intellectual Data. “Time zone differences affect processing settings and review support. Although our time zones are different from other parts of the world, our project managers are responding to requests in real time,” Yongmin said.
With Relativity in-house to support these workflows and custom applications, and the Relativity team supporting their efforts behind the scenes, Intellectual Data is also able to leverage their local expertise as effectively as possible.
“We are finding Relativity very helpful in providing full-scope of e-discovery services to our clients. Intellectual Data has been utilizing Relativity from processing through production,” said Yongmin. “It is a very efficient and time-saving process, having all functions in one platform whilst working in a very fast-paced industry.”
The team is also able to affect the evolution of the Korean legal community at large: They’ve established an affiliated research center, in which their team contributes their global e-discovery knowledge and development skills toward “setting up an e-discovery system and guidelines which properly reflect Korea’s situation,” Yongmin said.
Sam Bock is a member of the marketing team at Relativity, and serves as editor ofThe Relativity Blog.