Name
Global FinTech Guide
Country Name
Korea, Republic of
SectionTitle
Payment services
Body
FinTechs belonging to this category offer alternative payment services which are supposed to provide a faster and cheaper way for national, European, and international payments for private and business customers by using new technologies. 

For example, payment service providers hereby offer solutions to easily integrate several payment services in online shops.

Some FinTechs furthermore provide real cash register systems and online-reservation solutions for restaurants and shops providing their own payment services or making use of the payment services of FinTechs described above.

Introduction

Attitude of the country towards modern payment services

As mail-order sales and e-commerce have become increasingly widespread with the development of information and communication technology, the digital payment services market (electronic prepayment means, payment gateways, etc.) is also growing continuously. The growth of this market has been accelerating even more since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, in order to encourage innovative businesses in the industry, as mentioned in ii. and iii. below, Korean financial regulators are promoting institutional reforms, such as through the revision of the Electronic Financial Transactions Act (“EFTA”).

Legal affairs

Obligations and requirements to provide payment services or ancillary services described above

In Korea, the EFTA regulates digital payment services under the umbrella term of “electronic financial services.” The following services are categorized as electronic financial services under the EFTA: issuance and management of electronic money, electronic fund transfer, issuance and management of electronic debit payment means; the issuance and management of electronic prepayment means, payment gateways (“PG”), escrow services, electronic bill payment and presentment (“EBPP”). Those engaged in the business of providing the above electronic financial services must be licensed by the financial regulators (for the issuance and management of electronic money) or registered (in the case of all other electronic financial services).

To register as electronic financial service providers in order to provide electronic prepayment means and PG services, which are especially relevant to FinTech, one must qualify as a company or other qualified entity under the Commercial Act of Korea and meet the minimum capital requirements (KRW 2 billion, or approximately USD 1,637,968, for electronic prepayment means service providers; KRW 1 billion, or approximately USD 818,886, for PGs), personnel requirements, IT equipment requirements, financial soundness requirements, as well as certain requirements applicable to major investors in the relevant financial service provider.

Additional comments regarding the legal situation for payment services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area

The financial regulators have been pushing for a regulatory overhaul of the EFTA since last year, and the proposed amendment bill has been submitted to the National Assembly. However, due to conflicts of interest between traditional finance and FinTech, the passage of the proposed amendment has been delayed. The amendment bill proposes to consolidate the 7 existing electronic financial service licenses and registrations by function into the following 3 license types instead: (i) fund transfer (remittance); (ii) payment service (settlement); and (iii) PG. 

The proposed amendment also introduces 2 new licenses: (i) the new “MyPayment” business license, which would allow licensees to direct payments to financial institutions on behalf of its customers, all without holding customer funds and through a single website or mobile app for all accounts of the customer; and (ii) a comprehensive payment and settlement service provider license, which would permit licensees to provide all categories of electronic financial services based on a single license and also provide account-related services (e.g., transfer of wages, payment of credit card bills/insurance premiums/utility bills) by exercising direct control over customers’ payment accounts. With this license, companies will be able to provide a one-stop digital finance service solution capable of directly issuing and managing customers’ payment accounts, handling payments and transfers, and providing other digital financial services.

Economic conditions

Market size for payment services and biggest payment service providers

According to information published by the Bank of Korea, as of the first half of 2021, the average daily amount for transactions through PG services was about KRW 863.5 billion, and the number of transactions reached approximately 20,912,000. The average daily transaction amount for electronic prepayment services was approximately KRW 624.7 billion, with around 22.3 million transactions. KG INICIS, Toss Payments, and NHN Korea Cyber Payment are the largest players in the PG market. Together, they make up over 60 per cent of the market share. The electronic prepayment services market is dominated by KakaoPay, which holds about KRW 321.2 billion worth of customers’ prepaid funds.

Additional comments regarding the economic situation for payment services or what FinTech’s must be aware of in this business area

In Korea, simple, mobile payment services, which store data on payment methods on mobile devices and allow users to make payments using simple authentication such as password and pattern input, have become massively popular. Generally, it is understood that registration as an electronic financial service provider is required for such service provider to provide the mobile payment services, but the specific type of registration required varies depending on the business model. As of the first half of 2021, the daily average transaction amount using mobile payment services exceeded KRW 559 billion, and over 18.21 million transactions were made. NaverPay and KakaoPay, Korea’s top mobile payment services, have about 30 million users each.

Authors

Disclaimer

© 2022, Lee & Ko. All rights reserved by Lee & Ko as author and the owner of the copyright in this chapter. Lee & Ko has granted to Multilaw non-exclusive worldwide license to use and include this chapter in this guide and to sublicense Lexis Nexis, a division of RELX Inc. and its affiliates certain rights to use and distribute this guide.

The information in this guide provides a general overview at the time of publication and is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all legal developments nor should it be taken as opinion or legal advice on the matters covered. It is for general information purposes only and readers should take legal advice from a Multilaw member firm.

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