Bithumb has secured its position as one of South Korea’s leading crypto-currency exchanges.
Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je
Bithumb has secured its position as one of South Korea’s leading crypto-currency exchanges. Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je

If the Asian blockchain market is a roller coaster, South Korea is riding at the front of the train.

The country has long been a leader in the mass adoption of digital trends including digitization of music, peer-to-peer music sharing, MMORPGs (mass multi-player online role-playing games), online gaming leagues, monetization of game content and social-media virtual goods such as avatars. It now leads Asia with blockchain and the country’s distributed ledger ecosystems has just been further enhanced with two more major developments.

Local media is reporting that South Korea’s SBI Savings Bank signed an MoU with Asian-based data finance group, DAYLI Intelligence. It aims to enhance the bank’s AI and blockchain technology and building out its FinTech capabilities.

The project, reportedly aimed at “machine learning” that will maximize efficiency and reduce costs, will be run on the South Korean ICON LoopChain blockchain platform and will use distributed ledgers, smart contract mechanisms and settlement, trading and Internet of Things (IoT) operations.

The ICON Network , which already includes financial institutions, insurance companies, hospitals, and universities across Korea, claims LoopChain will enable services such as automated insurance claiming, digital payments, smart vending machines in universities and inter-hospital data exchange.

The news comes as Bithumb, which is one of the largest South Korean crypto-currency exchanges, decided to reopen account registrations after a month-long freeze. Media reports indicated that Bithumb’s partner Nonghyup Bank had frozen accounts after a hack in June. Media reports had placed the hack at approximately US$31 million, while the company estimated a US$17 million loss.

South Korea has been busy over the past two decades boosting its high-tech infrastructure, with resulting high internet penetration rates, early-adopter culture and global brands eager to engage in tech. The country is also shifting from crypto speculation to blockchain development.

Reports indicate that the government is increasing its blockchain pilot budget for 2019 by US$9 million, in addition to an initial US$9 million fund for both 2018 and 2019. Areas of blockchain development include supply chain management, customs, voting, real estate, cross-border documentation and logistics.

Korea is “the holy land of crypto,” Simon Kim, chief executive of Hashed, a crypto fund based in the country, told Asia Times in July. “The global audience is watching this industry and talking about the mainstreaming of crypto – but it really is part of the mainstream in Korea. Kim added that “Korea is very future-oriented, Korean people do not hesitate to buy digital content, it is part of life, as many digital trends were proved by Korea.”