Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Why Bitcoiners Should Be Paying More Attention to Korea

Why Bitcoiners Should Be Paying More Attention to Korea

Everyone has been busy watching the Bitcoin industry in Japan recently. But what of neighboring South Korea? Since introducing new crypto-friendly regulations in April, Japan has seen a flurry of big businesses accepting bitcoin and speculators jumping in to trade. It seems something very similar is going on just a few hours away.

Also read: Bitcoin Is Unseizable and That Will Make it Huge: Ari Paul

It’s been a while since we heard any major news out of Korea. However, glacing at the price on Korbit (one of the country’s largest exchanges) shows 1 BTC = 3.173 Korean won (KRW). That’s $2,840 USD. Compare that to Coinbase’s current (at press time) price of $2,487. Prices on Korea’s other big exchanges, like Coinone and Bithumb, are similar.

It appears Korea’s BTC price is the highest in the world right now. The country is also no stranger to Bitcoin, with a healthy startup/meetup scene that has met regularly for years. Seoul also hosted Inside Bitcoins conferences in December 2015 and 2016, plus Bitcoin presentations at the World Economic Forum in 2014.

OTC Exchange provider BitKan said they intend to make a drive into Korea soon as well, to promote their idea of P2P and off-exchange trading. If customers will pay such high prices on centralized exchanges, opportunities for individual traders must be even greater.

So what are conditions like “on the ground” over in Korea now?

Bitsonline spoke to Ali Beikverdi, founder and CEO of bitHolla, to get the latest on the ground. bitHolla is a Seoul-based company building an international payments platform to handle both crypto and fiat currencies.

Beikverdi describes bitHolla as “like Currencycloud for cryptocurrencies”. Currencycloud is an exchange engine that powers some of the largest money transfer services between 212 countries and 30 fiat currencies.

Interview: the Korea Bitcoin Scene in 2017

JS: Japan & Korea drove the bitcoin price up over the past month with high premiums. Japan has its new regulatory conditions to explain this. What about Korea? What’s the reason in your opinion?

AB: Korea has a law draft that is most likely going to be implemented in July which pretty much follows Japan so I would say they are quite similar in that regard. There is also a great infrastructure for Bitcoin in Korea which makes it very easy and accessible for new people.

JS: Is it just investors and hedge funds speculating?

AB: I would say mostly yes. The recent price increase definitely has a lot to do with speculation and east asians were trying to push the price high as much as they can. However there are also genuine use cases of Bitcoin such has remittance that has been quite attractive in Korea.

JS: Do people generally trust the large exchanges there?

AB: Yes. There hasn’t been a major hack in Korea and exchanges are seen similar to banks from people’s perspective.

JS: Have you seen any big changes for bitcoin in Korea over the past few years?

AB: Its becoming a very competitive scene. Many exchanges, many services and good ideas are being developed in Korea and there is also a good financial support from the VCs and financial institutions to support these projects. So definitely the space here is becoming more mature and competitive.

Korea Seoul

JS: Is there anything unique about the way people use bitcoin in Korea? Do many vendors accept it? (in the past it was online gamers & buyers of other digital products like chat stickers who used it most there, has that changed?)

AB: In 2014 there used to be more places accepting Bitcoin which sort of started to disappear with the high fees and delays in transactions. I think many Koreans find Bitcoin speculation interesting and since gambling is illegal for local Koreans in Korea, they find it quite amusing to gamble. People like to speculate over the price and do trading. Also due to the capital controls in Korea, remittance and money transfer is a great use case of Bitcoin among Koreans and we can see that by the number of businesses grow in the space in that regard.

JS: What is the community there like? Is it very business/entrepreneur focused? Do its members interact with each other much?

AB: We have the Seoul Bitcoin Meetup which is the largest meetup in Seoul. There are monthly sessions and many people participate. The community is very diverse. There are tech savvy people as well as investors and traders, and also people who like this technology because of its philosophy.

JS: Where did bitHolla get its inspiration from? (meaning, what gave you guys the idea to create the service?)

AB: We are co-organizers and active members of Seoul Bitcoin meetup and our company started from a community project for our members. The project organically grew and took more attention after we won the Inside Blockchain startup conference in 2015. It definitely is a very healthy and innovative community here with many entrepreneurs and people with great skills which could be used as an incubator and an accelerator for great ideas which basically was how we started.

Do all these conditions sound positive for Korea? Should we be paying more attention? Let’s hear your thoughts.


Images via Pixabay, Korbit

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