South Korea intends to distribute its upcoming central bank digital currency (CBDC) next year as part of a broader 22-month pilot test, local news outlet Korea Herald said Wednesday. 

The BOK intends to run the pilot tests until December 2021 with the distribution and circulation test being the final step of a three-phase CBDC program, the report said.

Of the first two phases: Phase 1 involved the research and design of a CBDC and ended in July, while Phase 2 is ongoing and involves seeking third-party consultation on the overall scope of the digital currency project.

The report noted the CBDC project utilizes blockchain technology to track all digital transactions. However, the BOK still maintains that such tests do not necessarily mean a CBDC will be launched as the ongoing project remains in a strict testing and assessment phase only.

Korea’s digital currency ambitions were restarted earlier this year after the BOK saw similar developments and increased CBDC research in countries like Japan and the US, an earlier report said. The move came even as a special cryptocurrency research team was dissolved in January 2019 by the Korean government.

Meanwhile, the Korean CBDC project follows in the footsteps of neighboring China. As per an announcement by the People’s Bank of China yesterday, over 1.1 billion yuan ($162 million) spread over three million individual settlements were completed in an ongoing pilot test of its own CBDC, officially the “Digital Currency, Electronic Payment.”

But Korea’s not willing to be left far behind.