UK follows EU in securing data deal with South Korea

UK and South Korea flags appearing side by side in same image
(Image credit: Getty Images)

UK organisations are set to be able to share personal data with the Republic of Korea (ROK) by the end of the year, a year after the EU secured a data deal with the country.


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The government said that sharing data without restrictions will help businesses in each country to operate and grow. The legislation, expected to come into force on 19 December, is estimated to reduce the administrative friction associated with cross-border data transfers and ease financial burdens for UK businesses by £11 million per year.

Additonally, the deal is also projected to increase exports to South Korea by £3.8 million a year, the government said.

Since the UK left the EU, it’s now independently able to strike data adequacy agreements with international partners, with this legislation representing its first decision to recognise an adequate “priority country” since then.

Other priority countries undergoing data adequacy assessments include the US, Australia, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre, and Colombia. The government said it’s making "excellent progress" in assessing these countries.

With the legislation set to come into force on 19 December, it means it will be implemented a year after the EU and South Korea made a data adequacy agreement on 17 December 2021. Personal data has been able to travel between the EU and the ROK since then, without any need for further authorisations.

However, the UK government said that its adequacy decision with South Korea is broader than the EU’s deal. The biggest difference is that UK organisations will be able to share personal data related to credit information to help identify customers and verify payments.

The government said this will help businesses with a presence in the ROK to boost lending, insurance, and credit operations in the region.

“Before the end of the year, businesses will be able to share data freely with the ROK - safe in the knowledge it will be protected to the high privacy standards we expect in the UK,” said Julia Lopez, minister of state for media, data, and digital infrastructure. “Removing unnecessary burdens on businesses will help unleash innovation, drive growth, and improve lives across both our countries.”

The UK and the ROK agreed to a data adequacy agreement in principle in July 2022, and now the UK government has carried out an assessment of the ROK's personal data laws.

It concluded that the Asian country has strong privacy laws which will protect data transfers to South Korea. At the same time, it will also uphold the rights and protections of British citizens.

The government said that the legislation will open up opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, who before may have avoided international data transfers to the country since they needed to have contractual safeguards in place, like data protection clauses.

Research and innovation are also expected to be boosted as experts can collaborate on vital research since barriers to data transfers have been removed.

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.