Under changes to Location Information Act, to take effect in October 2018, businesses will be allowed to track goods after obtaining registration instead of license.

The Korean National Assembly has passed amendments to the Act on Protection, Use Etc. of Location Information (the Location Information Act or LIA) that will soon allow the online tracking – collection and handling of location data via telecom network – of objects (as distinct from location data of individuals) upon obtaining only a fairly straightforward registration for “location information business”. Under the current LIA, in order to collect location data of objects – as well as location data of individuals – a business must first obtain a location information businesslicense from the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), which is a quite involved process and subject to significant agency discretion. Under the amended LIA, online collecting location data of objects, as such, will require only the simpler, straightforward process of registration with the KCC, though collecting location data of people will remain subject to the license requirement. Further, the content of the application for registration will be streamlined, as compared with an existing procedure for “location based services” registration.

The amendments, passed on March 30, 2018 and promulgated on April 17, 2018, will take effect as from October 18, 2018. Under one part of the amended provisions, certain types of enterprises, such as small start-up companies, will be permitted to engage in object tracking without registration for a grace period of one-month after the start of such business.

The immediate impact of the amendments may be muted, in that at present the large-scale telecom-enabled tracking of objects tends to involve, at the same time, location data of individuals, for example in the case of smartphones. Those types of businesses have required a location information business license, and they will continue to require such a license in any event, in respect of the location data of individuals.

However, the amended LIA will, for example, present a significantly easier environment for the possibility of drone delivery systems. (Indeed, parameters for distribution by drone were mentioned among the rationales for the amendments.) While under the current LIA the online tracking of drone deliveries would require the cumbersome process of a license from the KCC, starting in October of this year the delivery method would entail only a registration. There is also, certainly, a range of potential implications for IoT business models.