Blockchain in Korea – A Complete Guide for 2020

The Blockchain boom of 2017-2018 in Korea is long over. Furthermore, the buzz around Blockchain and cryptocurrencies have died down in 2019. Therefore it is hard to predict what is in store for Blockchain in Korea for 2020? Before we look ahead, we need to understand why Korea was such a hotbed for cryptocurrencies in the first place. Therefore we will go into a complete breakdown regarding Blockchain in Korea. In addition, we will continue to update this article on a quarterly basis so please check back often.

Blockchain in KoreaThe 2017 Cryptocurrency Boom in Korea Explained

Koreans are not allowed to gamble in Korea. Therefore Koreans are not allowed to enter the half a dozen casinos around Seoul. There is only one location to the far east of Seoul where Koreans are legally allowed to gamble. Remember this as we see why Koreans were so fascinated with cryptocurrency back in 2017. 

Leading up to 2017 there was very little in terms of investment where Koreans could make large profits in a short amount of time. Add this to the rise in youth unemployment and a slow economy, you have many Koreans looking for a way out of their struggle. Furthermore, as Koreans started to notice the rise of Bitcoin in the 4th quarter of 2017, many started to invest without really knowing the technology behind Bitcoin. What they knew was that the price was going up and they needed to get in before it was too late. Therefore it is not shocking to hear that 30-40% of working men in Korea had invested in cryptocurrencies.

The Rise of Altcoins in South Korea

Altcoins in KoreaKorea quickly became one of the world’s largest markets for Bitcoin and Ethereum, the top 2 cryptocurrencies on the market. Furthermore, some of the top trending topics on Korean social media were on altcoins such as Litecoin, Ripple, EOS, and Monero. It got so crazy that Koreans were paying a premium for cryptocurrencies compared to the rest of the world. This premium was famously called “The Kimchi Premium.” 

This was also the time of the ICO boom in Korea. Many projects were able to raise millions of dollars in a short amount of time. Therefore, this lead to many new “Blockchain” companies coming up left and right. This lead to South Koreans getting involved in 33% of all cryptocurrency trading, despite having less than 1% of the world’s population. One of the main reasons for this was that Korean cryptocurrency exchanges had no limits for individuals to purchase cryptocurrency.

The Korean Government Cracks Down on Cryptocurrencies

As the boom was at a fever pitch, the Korean government stepped into a crackdown on cryptocurrencies. Remember early on Koreans not being able to gamble in Korea? This was the Korean government’s way of “protecting” their citizens. Therefore the Korean government looked at cryptocurrencies as unregulated gambling outlets. In addition in September of 2017, the Korean government made a strong push against ICOs in Korea. Furthermore, in December of 2017, they cracked down on anonymous trading accounts on Korean cryptocurrency exchanges. Add this to the drop in price starting in early 2018 and the Boom was over.

The 2018-2019 Blockchain Boom in Korea Explained

The Korean government has always been against cryptocurrencies. However, they are intrigued by Blockchain technology. Furthermore, they are interested in how Blockchain technology could bring service platforms to help everyday Koreans. Therefore, Blockchain projects in Korea like Ground X and ICON have started to cooperate with the Korean government to jointly develop Blockchain projects for the public sector. In addition, Seoul’s mayor Park Won-soon revealed his 5-year $150 million plan to turn Seoul into a Blockchain hub. Furthermore, the governor of Jeju Island created an economic zone to nurture Blockchain projects.

Seoul Mayor

“There’s no doubt Blockchain is the core technology of the 4th Industrial revolution, which will shape the future IT industry. In addition, I will make efforts to help Seoul become the center of a Blockchain industry ecosystem,” said Seoul Mayor, Park Won-soon.

South Korea Passes First Laws Regarding Cryptocurrency in 2020

A comprehensive cryptocurrency law was passed by The South Korean National Assembly. This will be used as the framework for future regulations and is a great step towards the legalization of cryptocurrencies in Korea. The vote was unanimous as many of the assembly members showed support in embracing this new innovative technology. The assembly passed an amendment to Korea’s financial regulators to develop rules around anti-money laundering and regulate the cryptocurrency industry. Therefore, this first law is a great step for the Korean Blockchain ecosystem. Now Blockchain startups and exchanges can transition into the law’s new regulations. In addition, because of the impact of the coronavirus on Korea’s economy, it seems Korean officials are doing their best to promote innovation around tech to help boost the economy moving forward.

The Support of Blockchain Technology by the Korean government

Korea loves technology and Blockchain is the technology of the future. The Korean government understands this. Furthermore, there is a large potential for mass adoption of Blockchain in industries like health, trading, IP rights, logistics, supply chain, real estate, and finance. Therefore they have made great efforts in Blockchain education to train future Korean entrepreneurs in the Blockchain industry.

The Blockchain Technology Validation Support in 2020

The Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Information and Communication Industry Promotion will launch their pilot program in 2020 called Blockchain Technology Validation Support in 2020. They will pick 9 Blockchain startups in Korea and give them $360,000 in funding. The Korean Blockchain startups will be selected based on these key factors:

  • Current performance
  • Potential of future performance
  • Feasibility of the technology
  • Solid business plan
  • Expected results
  • Job creation potential
  • Must offer services that can create economic and social value through Blockchain technology

Korean Government Agencies Supporting Blockchain Technology

  • Ministry of Science and Technology (ICT) – Will invest over $380 million over 6 years (2021-2026) into Blockchain Research and Development. They are looking to innovate public services such as facial recognition, tracking, and mobile personal identification by using AI and Blockchain. 
  • The Korea Internet Security Agency (KISA) – They support Blockchain-related projects through their $9 million Fund for 2020. Therefore, the maximum funding per project is $1.2 million. In addition, they will work with the Ministry of Science and Technology to launch pilot Blockchain projects in March of 2020.
  • The Ministry of Science and ICT – Invested $9 million to launch Blockchain pilot projects in the public sector. 
  • Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) – Will use Blockchain technology to digitally bid on defense contracts and to log the process of applying for and granting funding.
  • Korea Customs Service (KCS) – Launched the “Fourth Industrial Revolution and Smart Customs” project, with the aim of introducing AI, the Blockchain, and Big Data to back up Customs processes. 
  • National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA) – A government agency that offers programs to nurture Blockchain companies. In addition, they have a $5 million fund for Blockchain enterprises and startups.
  • Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute (KFTC) – This is an organization that overseas payment settlements. Furthermore, it aims to introduce its own Blockchain-enabled mobile ID solution.

Additional Government Agencies that Support Blockchain in Korea

  • The Korea Post – Will build a Blockchain-powered payment method incorporated in its postal service by partnering with Korean Blockchain company Coinplug and global IT company NHN. 
  • Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (PCFIR) – The PCFIR was set up in 2017 to advise on policies relating to new technologies such as Blockchain and help lay the groundwork for related new industries and services. They have stated that the Korean government should look into bringing in a licensing scheme or guidance for cryptocurrency exchanges in Korea.
  • Seoul Blockchain Support Center – A 2,014 square center that will lease office spaces for Blockchain startups. In addition, they offer customized accelerator services for Blockchain companies.
  • The Korean Financial Services Commission (FSC) – The FSC has partnered with the Seoul Metropolitan Government to invest $16 million in training digital finance experts for 4 years. The grant is to ensure educational opportunities for the next generation of fintech professionals in fields such as big data, cloud, and Blockchain.

Blockchain Projects for Government Agencies and Administrations in Korea

  • The National Police Agency – A platform for Blockchain-based digital evidence management.
  • The Rural Development Administration – A platform for Blockchain-based crop production and logistics management.
  • Ministry of Food and Drug Safety – A Blockchain-based welfare benefit management platform. They already have set up a national HACCP platform by using Blockchain technology. In addition, they will establish an imported food data management platform in 2020.
  • Gangwon Provincial Government – A Blockchain-based chronic disease management platform.
  • South Gyeongsang Province – A Blockchain-based platform for self-driving reliability enhancement in Sejong City.
  • Korea Expressway Corporation – A platform for Blockchain-based toll payment.
  • Military Manpower Administration – Will adopt a new biometric ID and authentication solution designed by Raonsesure, a top South Korea ICT security software company.

Corporations in Korea moving to the Blockchain in 2019

Do the corporations in Korea know something we don’t? Many corporations in Korea are looking into Blockchain. One of the main reasons for this is that the Korean government made an update to its tax law in 2019. Therefore, corporations that develop Blockchain technologies can deduct taxes from their R&D expenses up to 30%. This is a drastic increase from 5%.

Samsung Crypto WalletList of Korean Corporations Utilizing Blockchain Technology

  • LG U+ – Will bring a new Blockchain-based cross-border payment system. In addition, they have collaborated with mobile carriers in Japan and Taiwan. 
  • LG CNS – Looking to introduce a number of Blockchain projects through its Blockchain platform Monachain. 
  • Kakao – Created Klaytn, a global public Blockchain platform developed by Ground X (their Blockchain subsidiary). 
  • Naver – Line Corporation, a subsidiary of Naver introduced its own cryptocurrency called LINK.
  • SK Telecom – Will develop a Blockchain-based mobile identification solution. 
  • KT – Will integrate Blockchain technology with small-scale power transaction mediation, automated overseas roaming settlement, and point management systems. 
  • Samsung Electronics – Will create a user-friendly Blockchain environment for users to use Blockchain apps easily through the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10. In addition, Samsung Electronics plans to expand its Blockchain services to include health and identity authentication. The upcoming S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra will also support Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. They also created a secure processor that is dedicated to protecting the user’s PIN, password, and Blockchain private keys. 
  • Samsung SDS – Will work with the Seoul Metropolitan Government on establishing an Information Strategy Plan (ISP) for innovation in building Blockchain technology for the city of Seoul. In addition, they made an alliance with Syniverse (a communications solutions company) to develop a mobile payment platform that combines its Blockchain platform Nexledger and Synverse’s Blockchain solution Universal Commerce

Additional Korean Corporations Utilizing Blockchain Technology

  • Hyundai BS&C – Will develop enterprise Blockchain solutions. Furthermore, these solutions will integrate with the IoT ecosystem in Korea. 
  • Union Mobile – Launched its Blockchain project called ELYNET. It uses Blockchain technology to make telecommunications more efficient users who use a single carrier for telecom service. In addition, users will be able to use data communication services without roaming fees and contracts.
  • Korea Electric Power Corporation – Signed a contract with two power suppliers in Korea to establish a Blockchain-powered system for transacting renewable energy certificates.

List of Korean Banks Utilizing Blockchain Technology

  • KEB Hana Bank – They have partnered with Korea University to foster Blockchain-based technology such as Blockchain-based data sharing and development of Blockchain-based financial services and products.
  • Woori Bank – Working with Ground X in developing Blockchain financial services.
  • Shinhan Bank – Will implement Blockchain for speeding up the loan approval process. Furthermore, Blockchain will be used for verification of items required for credit lending. 
  • Bank of Korea – Will organize a task force dedicated to central bank digital currency (CBDC) research. In addition, the Bank of Korea will look for a Blockchain services provider to build a Blockchain bond system that would allow the distribution of bond records.
  • Nonghyup Bank – They have started to use Blockchain technology to authenticate the identity of their employees. It is a distributed ID Blockchain that is driven by an ID card system. It was created by partnering with SK Telecom.

Cryptocurrency Regulation in Korea (The Wild Wild East)

Regulations regarding cryptocurrencies are at a limbo at the moment. The National Assembly in Korea has proposed many cryptocurrency bills. Furthermore, many of these bills cover licensing requirements for cryptocurrency businesses in Korea, anti-money laundering requirements, consumer protection, cybersecurity requirements for cryptocurrency exchanges in Korea, and compensation for consumer losses. Therefore, with how slow the Korean government runs, no one really knows when these bills will be enacted into law in Korea. 

In late 2019, South Korea’s National Assembly national policy committee passed a bill that was designed to provide a legal basis for cryptocurrency in Korea. It was to bring regulatory clarity and transparency to the cryptocurrency market in Korea. The bill has not been approved by the judiciary committee. Therefore with so much uncertainty, below are a few reasons why the regulation of cryptocurrency in Korea is very clouded. 

Current Regulation of Cryptocurrency in Korea

  • There is no existing regulatory regime or statue that specifically regulates cryptocurrencies in Korea. 
  • The taxation of cryptocurrency is in development. 
  • There is no specific law that prohibits the registration of cryptocurrency-related investment funds.
  • Because the Korean government has stated that cryptocurrencies are not financial investment products, there are no licensing requirements for investment advisors on cryptocurrency investments. 
  • There are no laws and regulations on mining cryptocurrencies in Korea. 
  • There are no explicit border restrictions or obligations to declare cryptocurrency holdings. 
  • For overseas payments with cryptocurrencies, there are no reporting requirements to any Korean regulatory agency. 
  • Under the current law in South Korea, the Korean government cannot impose income taxes on an individual’s profits from transactions of cryptocurrency.

List of Promising Blockchain Projects in Korea

Blockchain in Korea TerraSince 2017, there have been hundreds of Blockchain startups that have sprung up in Korea. Many have failed, however, there are a few that still remain and look promising moving forward. In addition, for a full breakdown check out our article on the top Blockchain startups in Korea.

  • ICON – The ICON Foundation oversees the ICON project’s core activities which include the promotion and development of the ICON protocol. 
  • Terra – Terra works with e-commerce firms across Korea and Asia for their price-stable cryptocurrency that aims to power the next-generation payment network
  • Medibloc – A decentralized healthcare information ecosystem built on Blockchain Technology for patients, healthcare providers, and researchers. 
  • Blocko – A Blockchain firm in Korea that works on enterprise applications such as building business-focused Blockchain services.
  • Haechi Labs – Top Blockchain Audit experts.

List of Cryptocurrency Exchanges in Korea

For a full breakdown please check out our article on the top cryptocurrency exchanges in Korea.

List of Blockchain Meetups and Conferences in Korea for 2020

  • Hashnet Blockchain Conference 2020 – (2/18) – China-Korea Blockchain Project Conference. The event will introduce various Blockchain development projects in China and Korea. 
  • niTROn SUMMIT 2020 – (2/29) – This summit will give participants a full range of opportunities to present and let the investors to explore the most promising Blockchain projects. 
  • Korea Blockchain Week 2020 (6/15-6/21)- A week dedicated to a wide range of Blockchain activities, networking, investor forums, workshops, conferences, and meetups.

Blockchain in Korea – What to watch for in 2020

The Korean government, banks, corporations, and startups know that Blockchain will someday revolutionize many industries. Blockchain adoption continues to be the top hurdle and with such a new technology, it will take time for innovative entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Blockchain technology. Therefore, thanks to the strong Blockchain ecosystem in Korea, here are 10 things to watch for in 2020.  

1. Can Terra be the top stable-coin in Asia?

They already partnered with Sinsang Market, a company that links vendors at Seoul’s Dongdaemun fashion market with customers in Korea and elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, CHAI, a Korean mobile payment platform that is powered by Terra. This is because Terra has already partnered with over 25 e-commerce platforms all across Asia. 

2. Will Facebook Launch Libra in 2020?

Facebook is not super popular in Korea but it is growing. There are around 14 million users of Facebook in Korea. In addition, seeing how accepting Koreans were of Bitcoin in Korea, it is not crazy to think that Koreans will embrace Libra as well. 

3. Blockchain in Social Media.

There are many problems that social media platforms have not been able to solve. This includes privacy violations, data control, and fair distribution. Will a Korean Blockchain startup be able to create a revolutionary Blockchain Social Media platform? 

4. Which Korean bank will adopt Blockchain technology for traditional everyday banking operations?

Some of the top contenders include Shinhan Bank, Hana Bank, and Woori Bank. 

5. Which Korean Bank will create its own cryptocurrency?

This might be a lot more difficult because of the regulations in Korea regarding cryptocurrencies. Therefore, if a Korean bank creates its own cryptocurrency, they will be able to reduce the competitive advantage of standalone cryptocurrencies. 

6. Will Seoul be the first city to utilize distributed ledger technology?

Seoul has been very vocal in their support for Blockchain technologies. Furthermore, there are many agencies in the city of Seoul alone. Therefore, the implementation of Blockchain technologies for big data management will improve the functioning of all the agencies in Seoul. 

7. When will Seoul launch their S-Coin?

Seoul already announced its Blockchain points system where Seoul residents will get S-Coins for the use of public services. Therefore, some public services could be paying taxes, participating in public opinion polls, and volunteering. Furthermore, the public can redeem their coins for rewards.

8. The Game Rating and Administration Committee (GRAC)

The GRAC has not given a rating to a Blockchain game in Korea. This will hurt the Blockchain gaming industry in Korea because games that do not receive a GRAC rating cannot be distributed in Korea. 

9. AI startups in Korea will incorporate Blockchain and its ledger.

The distributed ledger will record all the decisions, data, and variables made by the A.I. 

10. Corporations and Universities in Korea will add Blockchain training programs for developing and managing Blockchain networks and protocols.

Yonsei University has already partnered with Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech) to develop an entire Blockchain campus with its own cryptocurrency.