SEP 5, 2023
South Korea Reveals Guidelines for Public Officials’ Virtual Asset Disclosure
South Korea’s high-ranking government officials will soon be obliged to divulge specific information regarding their virtual asset holdings, including types and quantities, as part of their wealth declaration process. The Ministry of Personnel Management (MPM) issued a press release yesterday, announcing revisions to the Enforcement Decree of the Public Service Ethics Act. These amendments are slated to come into effect on December 14.
In addition, officials holding positions of rank one or higher will be required to disclose the methods through which they acquired their virtual assets. They must also furnish documentation of transaction records for a period of one year.
These amendments to the decree come in the wake of the revised Public Service Ethics Act, which was passed in May. The primary aim of this act is to make it obligatory for government employees to declare their virtual asset holdings. The changes to the decree can be summarized into five main points.
Types and amounts
First, officials obligated to disclose their wealth must report the types and amounts of virtual assets. The prices of virtual assets traded on Upbit, Bithumb, Coinone, and Korbit — all virtual asset service providers (VASPs) designated by the Commissioner of the National Tax Service — are required to be reported using the average daily price observed on the reporting day. As for other assets, their values should align with their most recent market prices. In cases where determining these prices is not feasible, they should be reported at reasonable values that reflect transaction prices.
Second, high-level public officials must explain how they acquired virtual assets. Under the existing regulation, officials are obligated to reveal both the date and method of acquisition, along with the source of funds. However, following the adoption of the updated decree, they will also be required to provide analogous information for virtual assets.
Year-long transaction history
Third, comprehensive guidelines will be established to outline the process of reporting virtual asset transaction history records. Officials subject to the disclosure requirement must divulge all virtual asset transactions conducted within the past year, even if they do not possess such assets on the day of reporting. They are obligated to furnish documentation prepared by VASPs.
Officials and their family members
Fourth, officials are required to permit VASPs and other relevant institutions to provide the Government Ethics Committee with information on virtual asset holdings owned by both themselves and their family members. This will be facilitated through the inclusion of virtual assets in the existing information provision agreement, similar to the approach applied to other types of assets such as real estate.
Addressing conflict of interest
Lastly, the revised decree could potentially impose restrictions on certain public officials with regard to possessing virtual assets, especially when their responsibilities encompass tasks like formulating relevant policies, granting approval for virtual assets, and overseeing taxation matters related to them. The outcomes of these restrictions will be reported on an annual basis to the Government Ethics Committee.
In a briefing regarding this development, MPM Vice Minister Lee In-ho underscored the significance of the amended decree as the regulatory framework for enforcing the requirement of public officials to declare their virtual assets. He highlighted the Korean government’s commitment to ensuring that public servants adhere to accurate reporting practices concerning virtual assets, thereby preventing unlawful accumulation of wealth.