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DEC 13, 2023

NFTs not subject to South Korea’s Virtual Asset User Protection Act

by CoinNess Global

In anticipation of the Virtual Asset User Protection Act coming into effect in July of next year, the South Korean Financial Services Commission (FSC) has issued an advance notice regarding its subordinate statutes.

Seven specific provisions

The subsidiary regulations under the Act detail seven specific provisions aligned with the Act’s objectives. Firstly, assets categorized as electronic securities, mobile vouchers, deposit tokens backed by the Bank of Korea’s central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will not be classified as virtual assets and hence, not regulated by this Act. However, in instances where NFTs are used as a means of payment for specific goods or services, they will be regarded as virtual assets.
Secondly, banks will take responsibility for managing the deposits of users on cryptocurrency exchanges. This aligns with the Act’s requirement for virtual asset service providers (VASPs) to keep users’ funds separate from their own, either by depositing them in, or entrusting them to, reputable institutions. Under these regulations, banks are required to manage users’ assets in a manner consistent with how investors’ deposits are handled under the Capital Markets Act. This means that banks are allowed to invest VASP users’ assets only in secure instruments, such as state and local government bonds, and are also obligated to pay fees to deposit owners, taking into account the yields of these investments.

80% of user assets in cold wallets

The third key aspect of the regulations is that VASPs are required to store a minimum of 80% of user assets in cold wallets, which are not connected to the internet. This is higher than the current requirement of 70%, enhancing the security measures for users of virtual assets. To calculate the total value of a virtual asset at any given time, its total supply is multiplied by its average daily price over the past year. VASPs are obligated to assess the value of virtual assets every month.
The fourth regulation mandates that VASPs must enroll in an insurance plan, contribute to a rainy day fund or accumulate reserves. This is to ensure they can fulfill their compensation responsibilities in the event of incidents like security breaches or technical failures. The required preparation amount is set at a minimum of 5% of the user assets stored in hot wallets, as these are more susceptible to risks. VASPs are required to update their compensation thresholds or reserves monthly and must take any necessary actions to comply with these requirements by the next working day following the update.

Information disclosure guidelines

Another regulation addresses the issue of insider trading in the context of the virtual asset market. Under the current Capital Markets Act, information is considered disclosed when it’s made available through disclosure systems of the FSC or the Korea Exchange (KRX). However, since the cryptocurrency market lacks a similar system, the new statute provides criteria for determining when information is deemed disclosed.
For instance, if a VASP, including exchanges, releases crucial information about a virtual asset on an exchange and six hours pass, that information is regarded as disclosed. This acknowledges the non-stop nature of the crypto market. Moreover, information disclosed post 6 p.m. is treated as officially disclosed after 9 a.m. the next day.
Additionally, if a virtual asset issuer publishes significant information about its token on a website hosting its white paper, the information is deemed public after one day. This is conditional upon the website being publicly accessible and having consistently provided important token information for the preceding six months.
These rules aim to provide clarity and fairness in information disclosure in the crypto market, adapting the principles of traditional financial markets to the unique dynamics of virtual assets.

No arbitrary suspension of transactions

The sixth regulation restricts VASPs from arbitrarily halting deposits and withdrawals of virtual assets unless there are justifiable reasons for such actions. Acceptable circumstances for suspending these transactions include situations where the VASP experiences a technical disruption in its system, where regulatory authorities instruct a VASP to cease deposits and withdrawals or where cyberattacks or similar incidents have occurred or are clearly imminent.
Lastly, virtual asset exchanges are required to monitor for abnormal transactions continuously. These are transactions that show substantial shifts in the prices or trading volumes of virtual assets, particularly in response to news or rumors that could influence cryptocurrency prices. If VASPs suspect unfair trading practices, they must report to the FSC or the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS). When there is ample evidence of such activities, crypto exchanges are obligated to notify the police or the prosecutors’ office. In addition, the financial regulator has the authority to levy fines based on the prosecution’s decisions or after completing consultations with the prosecution if a year has passed since the day of the report.
During the period of advance notice, which spans from Nov. 11 to Jan. 22, the FSC will seek comments from relevant organizations, experts and businesses. This process is aimed at refining the rules and regulations subordinate to the Virtual Asset User Protection Act. Moving forward, the financial authorities plan to publish a set of guidelines and Q&A materials and conduct explanatory sessions, with the goal of ensuring a smooth implementation of the Act.
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