OCT 5, 2023
South Korea Embarks on Wholesale CBDC Pilot Program
Aiming to pave the way for a future-oriented monetary infrastructure, South Korean financial agencies announced a plan on Wednesday (local time) to pilot a central bank digital currency (CBDC). This trial is designed to evaluate its practical use in real-world scenarios.
The Bank of Korea (BOK), alongside the Financial Services Commission (FSC) and the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), has been working with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) from the inception of this project’s blueprint. Together, they plan to partner with multiple commercial banks to successfully carry out this initiative.
The test will concentrate on a wholesale CBDC designed for transactions and settlements between financial institutions. This concept is akin to how commercial banks use reserves in their central bank accounts for transactions and settlements.
Meanwhile, banks will introduce tokenized deposits for public use within the CBDC network. These payment instruments will circulate securely within the new monetary infrastructure built by the BOK and managed jointly with the FSC and the FSS.
The pilot of this cutting-edge monetary infrastructure is poised to set the stage for the introduction of diverse, innovative payment and financial services that stand out from current offerings. This effort will also lay the groundwork for newer financial products, like security tokens, to be traded with greater safety and efficiency.
Participation from citizens
The test aims to complete its Proof of Concept (PoC) through technical trials in simulated settings. Furthermore, a select group of citizens will be given the opportunity to engage in specific use case tests, letting them experience firsthand the advantages of the emerging digital payment methods. This project will significantly contribute to the future research and development of CBDC infrastructure.
The Korean financial authorities have engaged in in-depth discussions regarding policy matters leading up to the test. To ensure alignment with existing laws, only banks will be involved in this initial phase. Decisions on expanding the test will come later, after a thorough evaluation of relevant policy considerations after the trial.
The agencies will continue working to ensure that transaction tests involving citizens are conducted with sufficient user protection measures under the existing legal framework.
Moreover, from the outset of the test’s preparation, the BIS offered insights from its research and development experiences with CBDC systems. In particular, members from the BIS’s Innovation Hub and the Monetary and Economic Department provided technical advice on designing and constructing a CBDC network. Stemming from their discussions, the BIS and the BOK jointly released a report highlighting the test’s importance and its intricately crafted model.
This trial is a step towards identifying the best CBDC model suited for Korea’s financial and economic landscape. It’s important to note that the test doesn’t necessarily indicate a complete rollout of a CBDC or the final version of a CBDC network.
Moving forward, the BOK, FSC, and FSS will form a collaborative working group. They’ll work hand-in-hand with pertinent ministries and entities, including the Ministry of Economy and Finance, to ensure a seamless execution of the test. Their technical partnership with the BIS will also remain ongoing.
The selection process for a system developer began on October 4. Later this month, there will be an informational session for companies and banks engaged in the project. By the end of November, the financial authorities will unveil information regarding the banks involved and the specific use cases slated for testing. Public involvement is anticipated to start in the fourth quarter of next year.