South Korea, one of the most digitally connected and tech-savvy nations in the world, has seen a major leap in its regulatory push with an aim to become a leading nation in the area of artificial intelligence (“AI”).
On February 14, 2023, Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee of Korean National Assembly passed a proposed legislation to enact “Act on Promotion of AI Industry and Framework for Establishing Trustworthy AI” (the “AI Act”). Now, the AI Act is only a few steps away from the National Assembly’s final votes. If passed into law, the AI Act would be the first law to become a statutory foundation that comprehensively governs and regulates AI industry in Korea. Absent special circumstances, it is likely that the AI Act will be enacted and take effect within the first half of 2023.
While the AI Act bill is not the first AI-related bill, the bill serves as a master plan incorporating seven, previously fragmented legislations on AI. Full texts of the bill will likely be disclosed public after a full committee hearing at the National Assembly. Exact date(s) for the committee hearing remains to be seen.
To summarize, the AI Act is designed not only to support AI industry and relevant technology but also to protect users of AI-based services by ensuring trustworthiness of the AI systems through, for example, more stringent notice requirements for high-risk AI services and certification systems for AI trustworthiness. Major highlights of the bill are expected as follows.
The AI Act makes it clear that, as a general principle, AI regulations must allow anyone to develop new AI technology without having to obtain any government pre-approval.
The AI Act sets forth certain types of AI that are used in direct connection with human life and safety as “high-risk AI” and requires that such high-risk AI achieve a certain level of trustworthiness.
The AI Act provides support for innovative businesses in the AI industry.
The AI Act provides a statutory basis for establishing “ethical guidelines for AI.”
The AI Act sets forth a statutory basis for establishing (i) a “Basic Plan for AI,” which will likely serve as a policy roadmap for developing AI technology in Korea and (ii) an ”AI Committee” supervised by the Prime Minister.
Companies in AI businesses are advised to follow up further updates on the proposed legislation of the AI Act closely.