UK signs landmark data sharing agreement with South Korea

A new ‘data adequacy agreement’ between the UK and South Korea should provide a significant boost to trade between the two countries.

This somewhat vaguely named pact is all about removing a bunch of bureaucracy when it comes to sharing data between the two countries. In practice, it means companies based in one of the countries are free to receive, process and store data belonging to citizens of the other. That, in turn, should lower a lot of the administrative and legal obstacles to the trade of goods and services – digital and otherwise – between the two.

“Today marks a huge milestone for the UK, the Republic of Korea and the high standards of data protection we share,” said Data Minister Julia Lopez. “Our new agreement will open up more digital trade to boost UK businesses and will enable more vital research that can improve the lives of people across the country”

“I am honoured to agree to this joint statement today,” said Jong in Yoon of the South Korean Personal Information Protection Commission. “Strengthening cooperation between the UK and the Republic of Korea based on the shared recognition of high standards of protection can contribute to forming a healthier and more sustainable global data landscape.”

The UK government press release makes a point of emphasising what a symbolic post-Brexit deal this is and it’s certainly good to see further evidence of the UK continuing to reap the dividends of being unshackled from the EU leviathan. Of course, we probably didn’t have to leave the EU to have access to similar pacts but now we have the ability to optimise them for the UK’s specific circumstances and needs.

Another caveat that should be noted is that this is an ‘in principle’ agreement, implying there are still a few loose ends to be tied up. Hopefully those are just technical and legal formalities and the two countries can get on with flogging each other more digital goodies than ever soon.

“This announcement by the UK and the Republic of Korea today is really important for a company like Mastercard,” said Caroline Louveaux, Mastercard’s Chief Privacy Officer. “The ability to safely and securely exchange personal data, especially financial and credit information, is paramount to building trust. That trust is important for consumers to live their day to day lives and for small businesses to thrive.”

It’s increasingly hard to see how international trade can hope to thrive without this sort of thing. The EU and US seem to be locked in an eternal battle of wills over data privacy that shows little sign of resolution. On the other hand, despite the general suspicion in which China is held by much of the West, we manage to do plenty of trade with it anyway. It seems the biggest beneficiaries of agreements such as these are SMEs, which can’t afford to retain massive compliance teams.


UPDATE – 14:30, 6 July 2022: Lopez has now resigned from the UK government.


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