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Overcoming Challenges in Exercising Stock Options in Korea: A Foreigner's Guide to Navigating Regulatory Hurdles and Ensuring Successful Transactions

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I am a French. I have visited Korea for leisure, but I have never lived there. I was fortunate to be employed at a small Korean venture pharmaceutical company at a later age, where I assisted in the development of new drugs. Thankfully, we were able to secure development funds through listing and succeed in the development of new drugs that require long-term investment, which are now in clinical trials.

Now that I am older, I wish to retire and spend more time with my family. I thought that if I exercised the stock options I had received over the years, I would be able to prepare for my retirement. However, I heard that it is very difficult for foreigners to exercise stock options in Korea. This is because it is difficult for foreigners to open bank accounts and securities accounts, which has been a concern. The process of exercising stock options in Korea is very complicated, with as many obstacles at each step as there are mines in the DMZ. If you open a bank account incorrectly, you could be denied overseas remittance after completing all stock options.

From an employee’s perspective, it’s just a matter of applying for stock option exercise, remitting the exercise price, selling the stock, transferring the sale proceeds to a Korean bank account, and then remitting it to the France. However, from the company’s perspective, there are numerous documents to be stamped with the corporate seal, reports to be written, and notifications to be made until the issuance of new shares, reporting to the securities exchange, reporting to the Securities Supervisory Commission, notifying the Korea Securities Depository, and depositing into the securities account…

These procedures are all very backward and conservative ways of handling business, and the approval process varies at each step. In fact, it is extremely rare for a foreigner’s stock option exercise to be cleanly completed, and it is almost miraculous. Can Jz help with such a difficult exercise of stock options without my presence there?


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