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THE INVESTOR
November 21, 2018
Big Reunion

Bithumb’s new chief hints at Hong Kong launch

  • PUBLISHED :October 15, 2018 - 11:34
  • UPDATED :October 16, 2018 - 01:01
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[THE INVESTOR] Bithumb, the nation’s largest crypto exchange, is expected to ramp up efforts for global expansion following last week’s surprise ownership change.

Its new chairman Kim Byung-gun, founder of BK Medical Group that operates plastic surgery clinics in Asia, on Oct. 13 hinted that the first destination will be Hong Kong.

“We plan to open crypto exchanges in some 10 countries around the world,” Kim, a renowned plastic surgeon, told in an interview with Maeil Economic Daily. “Hong Kong will be the first destination.”




BK Global Consortium, consisting of investors from Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK, on Oct. 12 announced it has acquired Bithumb for 400 billion won (US$352.31 million). The firm’s market value is estimated at about US$1 billion.

Bithumb plans to launch its own decentralized exchange this week that allows users to trade crypto assets in a peer-to-peer manner with full control over their funds. The exchange will charge a native fee embedded into the smart contract used by the platform.

While the firm focuses on its current centralized exchange business in Korea, the chairman said it would launch decentralized exchanges in its planned overseas expansion.

“Through this expansion strategy, we aim to become a futuristic financial organization in Asia,” he added.

The ownership change was largely unexpected but the market reacted positively. Bithumb’s transactions soared to recapture the world’s largest title over the weekend, according to market tracker CoinHills. As of 11 a.m. on Oct. 15, it was the third-largest exchange after BitFlyer and BitMex.

Korea’s top two exchanges Bithumb and Upbit used to top the global crypto trading market until early this year but their rankings tumbled amid the Korean government’s hardline policy imposing a ban on non-real-name transactions and trading by foreigners.

Amid persistent uncertainties, the new ownership may have sent a positive sign for investors. In the meantime, Upbit’s global ranking remained at 19th.

“I think it was a timely and a great decision for the Korean government to cool down the trading fever early this year. That fever may have helped exchanges earn more profits but more serious damages could have been caused,” he said. “Rather than asking the government to ease regulations, Bithumb will play a leading role in coming up with better safety measures.”

Kim started investing in crypto mining in the late 1990s. His returns are estimated to exceed 2 billion won. He is also a major shareholder of Korean blockchain firm Finger and Hugel, the botulinum toxin maker that was acquired by Bain Capital last year for about 500 million won.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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