In 2004, South Korean lawmakers introduced sweeping legislation to regulate Korean private equity funds. I describe this Korean regulatory initiative as a ‘law-first’ approach to financial regulation: the laws first clearly outline the terms of an ideal private equity structure, and private equity funds and their managers are required to comply with such terms to gain entry into the Korean private equity market. Elsewhere, private equity funds are referred to as shadow banks, with the descriptor ‘shadow’ referring to the funds’ ability to remain outside of the regulatory purview. Attempts to regulate private equity funds and other shadow banks more extensively have been resisted with claims that such regulation will go either too far and regulate shadow banks out of existence, or not nearly far enough as shadow banks expediently exploit loopholes to navigate around new regulation. This article presents the Korean private equity regulatory regime as a counterexample to the existing discourse by showing that private equity funds can survive, and in some cases thrive, under a law-first regulatory approach.