Anndy Lian: South Korea’s New Crypto Rules Bring Market Stability

Anndy Lian: South Korea’s New Crypto Rules Bring Market Stability

South Korea is a significant player in cryptocurrency and blockchain adoption — and has a regulatory framework that recognizes this.

One development on this journey is the Virtual Asset User Protection Act, representing South Korea’s first formal attempt to establish legal guidelines for the management and oversight of virtual assets, including cryptocurrencies.

In essence, the Virtual Asset User Protection Act defines virtual assets as digital representations of value that can be electronically traded or transferred and grants authority to the Financial Services Commission (FSC), the primary financial regulator in South Korea, to supervise and regulate the crypto sector effectively.

The regulations, scheduled to take effect on July 19, 2024, are designed to protect user assets and interests, prevent misuse and abuse, enhance transparency and accountability, and promote innovation and development, and we took a closer look during the proposal stage.

We sit down with intergovernmental blockchain expert Anndy Lian for a nuanced take on the new regulations.

Key Takeaways

  • The Virtual Asset User Protection Act marks South Korea’s first formal attempt to establish legal guidelines for managing and overseeing virtual assets, including cryptocurrencies.
  • The regulations take effect on July 19, 2024, aimed at protecting user assets and interests, enhancing transparency and accountability, and promoting innovation and development.
  • They are expected to have significant implications for both South Korea’s virtual asset market and those abroad — but may pose challenges for teams complying with the strict regulatory standards.
  • There is room for future developments, such as smart contract-based services like DeFi, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), and Web3.

Impact of South Korea’s Crypto Regulations

Q: How is the Virtual Asset User Protection Act applied internationally, and what impact could it have on virtual asset service providers outside of Korea?

A: The Act is going to have a significant impact on the virtual asset industry, both in South Korea and abroad.

The primary function of the Act is to protect the South Korean market and its users. I think it fits the purpose.

On one hand, it may enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the virtual asset market, as well as the protection and security of users.

On the other hand, it may also pose challenges and costs for VASPs [virtual asset service providers]  to meet the strict regulatory standards and requirements — some VASPs may decide to exit the South Korean market or restrict their services to South Korean users, while others may seek to adapt and innovate to comply with the law.

If you look deeper into the Act, I think it is fair for everyone — this is very similar to traditional finance.

Q: Regarding financial investment services and the Capital Markets Act (FSCMA), could you explain the changes brought about by the Token Security Guidelines? What are the potential implications of these changes on the virtual asset market?

A: The implications of these guidelines are significant for the virtual asset market, as they will enable the issuance and circulation of security tokens within the legal boundaries of the capital market regulations.

This will facilitate the creation and trading of new and diverse rights, such as fractional shares, in the form of security tokens. It will also foster the development of small-scale OTC markets where atypical types of securities can be exchanged.

Moreover, the guidelines will ensure the protection of investors and the maintenance of market order, as security tokens will be subject to the same rules and regulations as traditional securities, such as mandatory disclosure, authorization, and prohibition of unfair trading activities.

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I think this is a positive and progressive move by the South Korean authorities, as it will promote innovation and inclusion in the virtual asset market while safeguarding the participants’ interests. I hope other countries will follow suit and adopt similar regulatory frameworks for security tokens.

Strengths and Challenges of South Korea’s Rules

Q: How does the Digital Asset Framework Bill specifically regulate virtual/digital assets, and what are its advantages and challenges?

A: The advantages of this bill are manifold.

First, it will create a more transparent and predictable legal environment for the development and innovation of virtual/digital assets, which will attract more investment and participation from domestic and foreign entities.

Second, it will enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the virtual/digital asset market, which will increase the public trust and acceptance of these new forms of value and exchange.

Third, it will foster the integration and interoperability of virtual/digital assets with the existing financial system, which will enable more efficient and convenient transactions and services for users and businesses.

Fourth, it will contribute to the global leadership and cooperation of South Korea in the virtual/digital asset space, as it will align with the international standards and best practices set by organizations such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the G2014.

Q: And the challenges…?

A: First, it will require a careful and balanced approach to ensure that the regulation does not stifle the innovation and diversity of the virtual/digital asset market, which is constantly evolving and expanding.

Second, it will demand a high level of coordination and collaboration among various stakeholders, such as regulators, legislators, industry players, experts, and users, to ensure that the bill reflects the needs and interests of all parties involved.

Third, it will entail a continuous monitoring and evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of the regulation, as well as a timely and flexible adjustment of the rules and standards to cope with the rapid changes and challenges in the virtual/digital asset market.

I think this is a very important and timely initiative by the South Korean government, as it will provide a solid foundation and direction for the future of the virtual/digital asset market, which has a huge potential and value for society and the economy.

South Korea’s Digital Future

Q: How will the Virtual Asset User Protection Act contribute to market stability and investor protection? In your view, could it enhance the stability and transparency of the virtual asset market?

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A: The Act will also establish a set of rules that virtual asset service providers (VASPs) are required to follow to ensure the protection of users’ assets, such as separating customers’ funds and virtual assets from their own, storing a certain proportion of virtual assets in cold wallets, having insurance or reserves for liability, and maintaining transaction records.

Moreover, the Act will confer the market oversight and sanctions authority to the Financial Services Commission (FSC), which will be able to punish unfair trading activities using virtual assets, such as insider trading, market manipulation, and fraud, with criminal penalties and fines.

I think it brings market stability and provides investor protection in several ways.

First, it will create a more transparent and predictable legal environment for the development and innovation of virtual assets, which will reduce uncertainty and risk for investors and users.

Second, it will enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the virtual asset market, which will increase public trust and confidence in these new forms of value and exchange.

Third, it will foster the integration and interoperability of virtual assets with the existing financial system, which will enable more efficient and convenient transactions and services for users and businesses.

Fourth, it will ensure the protection of users’ rights and interests, as well as the maintenance of market order, by imposing strict standards and obligations on VASPs and enforcing sanctions on violators.

Q: The Financial Services Commission excluded deposit tokens linked to NFTs, electronic bonds, mobile gift certificates, and CBDCs from the law. What do you think are the reasons behind this decision? In your view, does this effectively prevent virtual asset-related crimes?

A: In my view, excluding these types of tokens from the law does not necessarily prevent virtual asset-related crimes but rather clarifies the scope and applicability of the law to the relevant types of tokens that could pose potential risks or challenges to the financial system or the users.

The exclusion is very obvious as it overlaps with existing laws.

For a few examples, electronic bonds are tokens that represent the debt obligations of an issuer, such as a government or a corporation, to pay a fixed amount of interest and principal to the holders of the bonds.

These tokens are not considered virtual assets under the law because they are already regulated as securities under the existing capital market regulations and do not pose any additional risks or challenges to the financial system.

CBDC is a digital form of fiat currency issued by a central bank, which can be used as a legal tender for payments and settlements. CBDC is not considered as a virtual asset under the law, because it is a direct liability of the central bank, and does not involve any intermediaries or third parties that could pose any operational or security risks.

What Needs to Happen Next?

Q: There’s an opinion suggesting that while the Virtual Asset User Protection Act focuses mainly on asset segregation and unfair trading activities of virtual asset service providers, regulations on smart contract-based services such as DeFi, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, and Web3 are inadequate.

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How do you perceive this? What alternative methods do you see for the upcoming laws to provide more comprehensive regulations aimed at preventing user harm?

A: Personally, I think the current regulations are sufficient for the time being. We must understand that we are dealing with innovation, which changes very fast.

Putting up a base and having backup correction plans along the journey would be a more protective method for the South Korean market.

I think the best way to approach this issue is to adopt a balanced and flexible perspective that considers both the benefits and drawbacks of smart contract-based services and seeks to find a middle ground between regulation and innovation. Some possible alternative methods for the upcoming laws to provide more comprehensive regulations are:

  • Establishing clear and consistent standards and definitions for different types of smart contract-based services, such as decentralized finance (DeFi), DAOs, and Web3, and applying appropriate rules and requirements for each category.
  • Creating a sandbox or pilot program that allows for testing and experimenting with new and innovative smart contract services under certain conditions and exemptions and with regular monitoring and evaluation.
  • Encouraging collaboration and communication between regulators, developers, users, and other stakeholders to foster mutual understanding, trust, and feedback and to promote best practices and self-regulation.
  • Adopting a principles-based and risk-based approach that focuses on the outcomes and impacts of smart contract-based services rather than the specific processes and mechanisms and that applies proportional and tailored measures according to the level and nature of risk involved.

 

Source: https://www.techopedia.com/anndy-lian-south-koreas-new-crypto-rules-bring-market-stability

Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author- “NFT: From Zero to Hero” and “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.

Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.

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