NOV 24, 2023
Korea unveils detailed plan for retail CBDC transaction pilot with 100K participants
The Bank of Korea (BOK), Financial Services Commission (FSC) and Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) jointly announced on Thursday (local time) their comprehensive plan to pilot a central bank digital currency (CBDC). This pilot program will concentrate on two key areas: retail transactions and technical experiments within simulated environments.
For the retail transaction aspect, the test aims to give citizens direct experience in using the new digital currency, helping them understand its advantages. This practical approach will promote public familiarity with the CBDC.
In terms of technical experiments, these will be conducted in partnership with various banks. The goal is to explore and develop methods for constructing a financial market infrastructure suitable for the future, leveraging the capabilities of the digital currency.
Retail CBDC test to commence in Q4 2024
The initiative to examine retail transactions using a CBDC is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2024. This test will focus on improving how vouchers work. Currently, the use of vouchers faces several challenges, such as high fees, complex and slow settlement procedures and the risk of fraudulent transactions. CBDC-based deposit tokens programmed with the digital voucher functionality could help solve these problems. The exploration of digital vouchers within the realm of CBDCs is not just a concern in Korea but also a topic of global interest.
Banks that will participate in the CBDC retail transaction test are to be selected by the end of the third quarter of next year, following necessary procedures such as the financial regulatory sandbox policy. These selected banks will receive the green light to issue deposit tokens within this regulatory sandbox framework. They’ll be in charge of recruiting and managing test participants, which includes both individuals and merchants. Additionally, these banks will be responsible for developing digital wallets for users and handling payment transactions. On the other hand, any bank interested in joining technical experiments in simulated environments may apply to do so until mid-December this year.
Citizens who want to take part in the retail transaction test for the CBDC can apply through the banks involved in the test. However, it’s important to note that since this CBDC utilization test is a limited trial, the number of participants will be limited to a maximum of 100,000.
The retail transaction test for the CBDC will involve three stages: issuance, distribution and payment. Initially, banks will issue deposit tokens with digital voucher functions upon request. Users will then use these tokens to buy goods from merchants, with the transactions being settled accordingly. Before starting, the BOK, FSC and FSS will propose pilot tasks to the banks, following consultations with relevant agencies and the review of pertinent laws. Banks will also propose tasks related to the voucher function. During the test, these tokens will be used solely for digital voucher transactions, and peer-to-peer transfers won’t be allowed.
Simulated environment experiments: three use cases
For technical experiments within simulated environments, the financial authorities have selected three use cases focused on examining the technical feasibility of new types of financial instruments.
The first objective is to collaborate with Korea Exchange, the only securities exchange operator in the country, to connect the CBDC system with a carbon credit trading simulation platform. This platform will be based on an external distributed ledger. The key objective here is to assess if the “delivery versus payment” (DvP) mechanism between carbon credits and special payment tokens can function smoothly. DvP is a settlement method that ensures the transfer of securities occurs only after the corresponding payment is made.
The second objective will see collaboration with the Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute (KFTC). In this scenario, a hypothetical issuer will release tokenized assets to the public through a public offering. To manage this, deposit tokens that match the subscription amount by investors will be temporarily frozen, preventing them from being liquidated. After the final allocation of these tokenized assets is determined, the system, using smart contracts, will automatically transfer funds equivalent only to the allocated tokenized assets.
The last objective revolves around advancing the concept of a unified ledger introduced by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). In this endeavor, the BOK aims to issue digital demo securities within the CBDC system. Following this, an experiment will be conducted where financial institutions will have the opportunity to trade these digital securities using the institutional CBDC. This trading will be executed using the DvP method.