Legal Validity of Digital Signatures in Korea
As technology develops, digitalized signatures are widely used replacing more traditional means such as seals and wet signatures. Under the Korean laws, digitalized signatures are deemed legally binding and effective pursuant to the Digital Signature Act.
Article 3 of the Digital Signature Act provides that:
Article 3 (Effect, etc. of Digital Signature)
(1) In cases where a signature, signature and seal, or name and seal is, under other Acts and subordinate statutes, required to be affixed on a paper-based document or letter, it shall be deemed that such requirements are satisfied if there is a certified digital signature affixed on an electronic message.
(2) In cases where a certified digital signature is affixed on an electronic message, it shall be presumed that such a digital signature is the signature, signature and seal, or name and seal of the signer of the electronic message concerned and that there has been no alteration in the contents of such message since it was signed digitally.
(3) A digital signature other than a certified digital signature shall have such an effect of a signature, signature and seal, or name and seal, as is agreed between the parties concerned.
While the ‘certified digital signature’ in Article 3(2) above is the signature which has been effected by ways of the official public certified digital signatures widely used for financial or government use purposes, the ‘digital signature other than a certified digital signature’ in Article 3(3) above refers to other discretionary forms of digitalized signatures, other than the official public certified digital signature.
Therefore, as long as the parties concerned have a manifest mutual agreement, digital signatures are deemed binding and effective under the Korean laws.
On a side note, the certified digital signature, which has been adopted and used in Korea since the enactment of the Digital Signature Act in July, 1999, is expected to be discarded from December 2020. It is expected to be replaced with other more technology advanced authentication methods.