By Uriel Peled, Co-Founder and Head of Strategic Partnerships, Orbs
South Korea is showing great potential as an emerging leader in the blockchain industry. With forward-thinking regulators , a savvy investor community and a culture of mobile payments mass adoption, the country seems ready to embrace blockchain technology for mainstream use.
During my last two trips to Seoul, I had the opportunity to see just how central the technology has become for South Korea's biggest corporate players. While most U.S. players are now tentatively experimenting and testing blockchain implementation, South Korea’s largest mobile payment applications are racing into the space — and that is what’s really moving the needle in the region.
Kakao is a very interesting player to follow as a pioneer of blockchain adoption. In addition to being South Korea’s top messaging app, it is also a conglomerate of mobile payments solutions, similar to WeChat in China.
Just imagine if your Apple Pay, Venmo, and Uber payments were all integrated with your WhatsApp. Well, that’s how significant Kakao’s proposition is. With over 50 million monthly active users, the company’s entrance into blockchain through its subsidiary Ground X is groundbreaking for Korea’s leadership in the field
Another example of a South Korean company pioneering blockchain is Terra , a stable coin protocol launched by the founder and former CEO of the TicketMonster, the largest e-commerce platform in South Korea. Terra is launching with an alliance of commerce platforms that has combined $15 billion in annual transaction volume and 30 million customers. The U.S. equivalent would be if Amazon were to launch a cryptocurrency for its payments - a real game-changer in the race toward mass adoption.
The ecosystem, of course, is an important foundation facilitating South Korea’s establishment as a blockchain hub. To build such an ecosystem, the government has taken a number of steps, including easing regulation around blockchain and crypto-based businesses and dedicating a significant portion of its $4.4 billion ‘Growth through Innovation’ investment program to blockchain and artificial intelligence.
In addition, Korean officials have been actively promoting blockchain, with each province eager to establish itself as a South-Korean equivalent of Zug’s so-called “Crypto Valley.” To this end, the Mayor of Seoul attended the latest BlockFesta conference; the governor of Jeju Province, which is where Kakao is headquartered, has formally proposed the designation of the island as a “special zone for blockchain and cryptocurrency” ; and the province of Gyeongsangbuk-do is even looking at issuing its own coin .
Finally, in a use case borrowed from Zug, considering issuing blockchain-based Gyeongbuk provincial government ID cards for employees.
To ensure continued innovation, the South Korean government is taking a holistic approach and investing in educational initiatives to make sure that industry growth will not be hindered by a bottleneck of blockchain engineers. In this positive environment, innovative industry leaders are pioneering blockchain integration and bringing the technology to their user bases - a move that has not yet been seen in any other country.
This inventive, dual-pronged approach is why Orbs recently opened an office in Seoul and why we are positive that South Korea will emerge as a world leader in blockchain.