South Korea to Classify Certain NFTs as Virtual Assets Ahead of New Crypto Regulations

South Korea to Classify Certain NFTs as Virtual Assets Ahead of New Crypto Regulations

South Korea’s Financial Services Commission (FSC) is set to reclassify certain nonfungible tokens (NFTs) as virtual assets in preparation for the country’s new crypto regulations. The FSC’s revised stance, detailed in a June 10 report, highlights the evolving nature of NFTs and their emerging roles in the digital economy.

Criteria for NFT Classification

According to the FSC, NFTs that are divisible, mass-producible, or usable as a means of payment will now be classified as virtual assets. This reclassification aims to address the unique characteristics that set NFTs apart from traditional cryptocurrencies. Businesses issuing such NFTs will be required to report them to South Korean regulatory authorities.

Implementation Timeline

The new classification directive precedes South Korea’s first comprehensive crypto regulatory framework, set to be implemented on July 19. This framework, known as the Virtual Asset User Protection Act, seeks to establish a robust legal structure to govern the burgeoning digital asset sector.

Regulatory Insights

Jeon Yo-seop, head of the FSC’s Financial Innovation Planning, emphasized that NFT collections produced in large quantities could potentially be used as a means of payment. For example, a collection of one million NFTs could be traded and utilized in a similar manner to cryptocurrencies. Jeon also noted that there would be no single standard for classifying NFTs as virtual assets; instead, the FSC will adopt a case-by-case review approach.

Additionally, NFTs exhibiting characteristics of financial securities, as outlined in South Korea’s Capital Markets Act, may be classified as securities. This nuanced approach aims to ensure that the regulatory framework is flexible enough to accommodate the diverse functionalities of NFTs.

Potential Benefits and Exclusions

Under the new guidelines, some NFTs might qualify to receive interest when deposited on an exchange, according to an FSC notice from late last year. This notice mandates that virtual assets deposited on crypto exchanges should be eligible for interest generation. However, regular NFTs and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are excluded from this benefit.

Broader Regulatory Framework

The Virtual Asset User Protection Act, which passed in 2023, aims to criminalize malpractices such as using undisclosed information for crypto investments, manipulating market prices, and engaging in fraudulent transactions. The legislation provided cryptocurrency-focused entities with a one-year grace period to comply with the new regulations.

To further bolster these efforts, South Korean regulators have established the Joint Virtual Asset Crime Investigation Unit, comprising 30 experts from seven national agencies. This unit is dedicated to tackling crypto-related crimes and ensuring the integrity of the digital asset market.


South Korea’s proactive stance on NFT classification and crypto regulation underscores its commitment to fostering a secure and transparent digital asset ecosystem. By reclassifying certain NFTs as virtual assets and implementing stringent regulatory measures, the FSC aims to safeguard investors and promote sustainable growth in the crypto industry.

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