In South Korea, despite its robust growth of foreign exchange transactions over the years both in quality and quantity, much of its regulatory landscape remains untouched since the IMF crisis at the turn of the century with strict restrictions imposed on the outflow of foreign capital.

Concerns over such incongruence have now reached a consensus that the nation’s closed and restrictive foreign exchange regulatory system has become an obstacle in the development of its capital markets and financial industry.

In a concerted effort to address this issue, South Korean authorities and institutions are now exploring ways to improve the nation’s foreign exchange regulatory system. In February 2023, the joint authorities announced policy tasks, launching a task force for economic regulation innovation.

The task force has taken its first step by pushing forward with revisions to the enforcement decree and regulations governing Foreign Exchange Transactions. The revisions are scheduled for implementation within 2023, and among these revisions include reduced ex-ante reporting requirements for capital transactions, reduced ex-post investment management requirements for Foreign Direct Investment, removal of excessive penalties, and increased limit for overseas remittance with no supporting documents.

Following the regulatory revisions above, more profound legislative changes are expected to come as the task force will be preparing a revision plan for South Korea’s Foreign Exchange Transactions Act with subsequent legislative procedures to commence in 2024. Simply put, South Korea is now moving towards a negative regulatory system for foreign exchange transactions whereby laws and regulations would define what is prohibited and allow for everything else.

Thusly, an opportune time to engage in foreign investment deals in South Korea may be coming. For instance, at least up to a certain loan amount, the time required for remittance of a loan provided by a parent company abroad to a subsidiary in South Korea would be significantly reduced under the upcoming regulatory changes, which could, depending on the nature of their businesses, result in a notable difference in terms of securing investment opportunities and maximizing profit.

Accordingly, for those who are currently conducting, or plan to soon conduct, cross-border deals in South Korea, it is advised that you seek legal advisory services, especially with respect to foreign exchange transactions involved in the deals. A law firm well-versed in such transactions should be able to provide you with timely advice reflective of aforesaid changes and help you navigate through the shifting regulatory landscape, ensuring that you make the best use of the opportunities and benefits that may become available to you under the changes while remaining legally compliant.

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Andrew Baek
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