On December 17, 2021, after the adequacy discussion that started in March 2021, European Commission granted an adequacy decision for the transfer of personal data from the European Union to the Republic of Korea.
The official joint press statement indicated shared commitment to a high level of data protection and safer transfer of personal data from the EU to the Republic of Korea to the benefit of citizens and economies on both sides, without additional authorizations or tools:
“The adequacy decision builds on the strong protections for Europeans under Korean law when their data is transferred, including through the additional safeguards that were agreed as part of the adequacy dialogue.”
What is an adequacy decision?
An adequacy decision is one of the tools for safe cross-border data transfer from the EU to third countries (in this case South Korea) that should guarantee a comparable level of protection of personal data to that in the European Union.
An adequacy decision as prescribed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and represents a formal decision of the European Commission.
The adequacy decision covers the entire European Economic Area (EEA) which includes Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein in addition to the countries of the EU.
Improvements to the Personal data protection in South Korea
In the Republic of Korea, personal data is protected under the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), which provides similar standards and safeguards as European data protection laws.
However, most of the discussion before granting an adequacy decision was the necessary reform of PIPA that was aimed at strengthening the enforcement powers of the Personal Information Protection Commissioner (PIPC).
It was also agreed that South Korea would implement additional safeguards for improved and stronger data protection, especially regarding :
- the transparency – by requiring Korean data importers to inform Europeans about the processing of their data
- onward data transfers – by ensuring that data remains under the same level of protection when further transferred to third countries.
Adequacy decision covers transfers of personal data to the Republic of Korea’s commercial operators as well as public authorities.