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South Korea data adequacy pact brings £15m Brexit bonus

UK government finalises a data adequacy agreement with South Korea, saying it will unlock a post-Brexit business bonus of just under £15m

The UK government has boasted of £14.8m in annual business savings and increased exports to South Korea after finalising a data adequacy agreement with Seoul, having previously secured an agreement in principle in July.

Having now completed a full assessment of South Korea’s personal data legislation, the government said it was confident that the country had strong privacy laws in place to protect data transfers into its territory, while upholding the rights and protections of the UK citizens to whom the data pertains.

This is the UK’s first decision to recognise a so-called priority country as adequate for data-sharing purposes since Brexit, but the deal will recoup some of the billions of pounds of lost trade and investment, to the tune of £11m, from the easing of admin and financial burdens on UK businesses, and £3.8m in increased exports to South Korea.

It does, however, differ from the European Union’s existing deal with South Korea in that UK organisations will be able to share personal data related to credit information with South Korea to help identify customers and verify payments. Westminster said this would help UK organisations with a presence in the country to boost their credit, lending, investment and insurance operations there.

“Before the end of the year, businesses will be able to share data freely with the Republic of Korea – safe in the knowledge that it will be protected to the high privacy standards we expect in the UK,” said digital minister Julia Lopez.

“Removing unnecessary burdens on businesses will help unleash innovation, drive growth and improve lives across both our countries.”

Ko Haksoo, chairperson of the Korean Personal Information Protection Commission, added: “It’s a great pleasure for us to see the outcome of the UK's adequacy decision for the Republic of Korea today.

“I look forward to strengthening our partnership in promoting the trustworthy use and exchange of data between Korea and the UK based on a high level of data protection.”

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Until now, UK organisations wanting to move data into South Korea would have needed multiple contractual safeguards in place, such as standard data protection clauses and binding corporate rules. The new agreement will ease some of this burden, and it is hoped it may encourage more organisations, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises that may have avoided making international data transfers, to do so.

The government also hopes that removing barriers to data transfers will have a positive impact on research and innovation in areas such as medical research.

The legislation will now be laid in Parliament and is expected to come into force on 19 December 2022.

The government’s list of priority countries with which it is seeking to establish post-Brexit data adequacy agreements includes Australia, Colombia, Singapore and the US. Also on the list is the Dubai International Finance Centre, a special economic zone within Dubai that sits outside the legal remit of both the Emirate of Dubai and the federal system of the United Arab Emirates for such purposes.

The UK government said it was making “excellent progress” in assessment of these other markets, to which it believes global data-enabled services exports are worth as much as £80bn.

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