Personal data can now flow freely between the EU and South Korea

Now it’s official: the European Commission has adopted an adequacy decision for the transfer of personal data from the European Union to South Korea, under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Based on this decision announced this Friday, December 17, the data will be able to “travel in complete safety” on both sides without the need for authorizations or additional tools, the European executive details in his press release.

Streamline business relationships

“Today’s decision is a unique opportunity to further strengthen our strategic partnership,” said Didier, Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, in a message posted on Twitter. In effect, this means that data transfers to South Korea are now treated in the same way as transmissions between member countries of the European Union.

The procedure began several years ago. It wasn’t until March 2021 that the talks were signed paving the way for a final decision. The Commission had to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the data protection framework in South Korea, both of the protection applicable to personal data and of the monitoring and redress mechanisms available. Please note that adequacy does not require the third country system to be strictly identical to that of the EU, but is based on the “essential equivalence” standard.

In South Korea, the processing of personal data is governed by the law on the protection of personal information, known as the “PIPA” law, which provides individual guarantees, principles, rights and obligations similar to those of European legislation. It was the revision of the PIPA that tipped the Commission’s election because it strengthened the investigative and enforcement powers of the Personal Data Protection Commission (PIPC), equivalent to the National Commission for Data Processing and Freedoms (Cnil). .

Easier remedies for Europeans

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) raised concerns in an opinion issued in September 2021 on the conditions under which Korean authorities could access data from Europeans. On this issue, the adequacy decision foresees a central role for the PIPC, as well as resources provided for European citizens before the South Korean Commission with the support of their national data protection authorities.

This adaptation decision completes the free trade agreement between the EU and South Korea that entered into force in July 2021. It has led to a considerable increase in bilateral trade in goods and services, Brussels notes. The adequacy decision will support this commercial relationship “worth almost 90,000 million euros per year,” he adds.

The adequacy decision has no validity limit. The European Commission will carry out a first review three years after the decision is taken and at least every four years thereafter. Adequacy decisions can be adapted or even withdrawn in the event of events affecting the level of protection in the third country.

The European Commission has already adopted adequacy decisions with Andorra, Argentina, Canada, the Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, the Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, New Zealand, Switzerland, Uruguay, Japan and the United Kingdom. The Commission is also exploring the possibility of a match with other major partners, especially in Asia and Latin America, based on the current trend of global upward convergence of data protection standards.

The adequacy decision with the United States was reversed in July 2021 by the Court of Justice of the European Union. “Establishing a new agreement for secure transatlantic data flows is a priority for us and our US partners. Negotiations are ongoing and have intensified in recent months, with discussions at the technical and political level,” the Commission writes.

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