Photo: AFP

One million South Korean motorists are taking to the road without their driver’s licenses – at least not in the physical sense.

They have traded the traditional card for a blockchain-powered digital alternative used in conjunction with the PASS smartphone app, Cointelegraph reports.

This represents more than 3% of the entire driving population in South Korea, which sat at 32.6 million licensed drivers in 2019, according to Statista. This is the first authorized digital identification card to be used throughout South Korea and received approval by the nation’s Ministry of Science and ICT in September 2019.

The project was launched in May by the National Police Agency in partnership with the Korea Road Traffic Authority, and the country’s three major telecommunication providers: SK, KT and LG U+. By last month, 27 of South Korea’s driver’s license testing centers were using the PASS app to renew and reissue digital drivers licenses.

The legally recognized ID solution can also be used for identification and proof-of-age requirements, such as at convenience stores and retail chains selling cigarettes and alcohol. Users show their licence via a barcode or QR code on the app. Non-Korean residents receiving English versions of the licenses.

Other industries, including rental car and shared rides services, are also researching the ability to use these IDs as a replacement for face-to-face verification checks. 

South Korea is pro-blockchain

This week alone has seen South Korea announce multiple integrations of blockchain technology. Seongnam’s payment program will be expanded by issuing new digital gift certificateswhile beachgoers in Busan will be able to pay for services with bitcoin and Ethereum.

One of South Korea’s biggest banks KEB Hana Bank has partnered with the Korea Expressway Corporation to implement a blockchain-based toll system for the country’s highways.

Australia’s blockchain-based licenses

South Korea isn’t the only country to look at transitioning existing licenses to digital formats on blockchain. In late 2018, Australia’s NSW government announced the trial of Ethereum-based digital licenses which can replace physical ones.

Blockchain ID verification

Meanwhile, a Chinese state-run company is taking an innovative approach to ID verification.

A local branch of the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) – the nation’s electricity monopoly and the biggest utilities firm in the world – said that it has developed a blockchain technology-powered digital identity authentication system, Cryptonews reported.

The Anhui Province branch of the SGCC said it is set to create a “digital ID card” that makes use of blockchain technology to verify user information on networks and ensure security.

The system will see all of the SGCC’s Anhui offices share data on a blockchain network with the province’s electric power information and communication center, as well as a number of other power supply companies based in the province.

The firm said that its new solution would “boost the efficiency of identity authentication and avoid system unavailability problems that might be otherwise caused by core server failure.”

The SGCC’s Anhui branch added that blockchain technology would help create an attack-resistant system that enhanced the security of ID authentication processes and improved management efficiency.

The branch is the first SGCC to develop a blockchain technology-powered identity authentication solution, and said it has been working with private IT specialist firms and central SGCC organs on blockchain-related solutions since 2018.

Earlier this year, the SGCC stated that it was set to launch a blockchain “lab” – a specialist research unit that will seek to apply blockchain technology solutions to the monopoly’s business and internal operations.

The grid also operates its own mainnet and has this year been registering blockchain-related patents at a rapidly increasing rate.