[THE INVESTOR] Despite the nose-diving value of digital currencies in the past several months, crypto and blockchain industries still have growth potential and are worth paying attention to, according to experts at Chain Plus, a two-day conference being held in Seoul.
“The blockchain and crypto industries have faced challenges due to strict regulations, but there is still some room for growth,” said Charles Pyo, member of the Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, at a panel discussion on Jan. 23.
“There is little chance for Korea to become a leader in fields like artificial intelligence and autonomous cars, but it has some chance to become a crypto powerhouse,” he said, citing the volume of digital currencies traded in the won -- accounting for 6 percent, the fifth-largest global crypto transactions.
The crypto fever which lasted from late 2017 through early 2018 has cooled down rapidly after the value of major digital coins fell amid toughening regulations. The government has banned initial coin offerings since 2017, considered a major hurdle for fledgling startups, which have difficulties in receiving investments through traditional fundraising methods.
Some pointed out, however, that while Korea has strict regulations for ICOs, there are not too many regulations for blockchain technology itself.
“While there are some regulations for ICOs, when it comes to the blockchain, there are no regulations. It’s rather a lack of plans for fostering the technology,” said Jhun Ha-jin, chairman of Korea Blockchain Association’s self-regulatory committee.
Jhun and other experts at the conference said it is now time to nurture the emerging crypto and blockchain technologies in earnest, relaxing some regulations and supporting promising startups.
The conference featured government officials and experts from countries like Malta, Estonia and Singapore, known as crypto heavens, who shared how they are promoting cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
Singapore’s Fintech Association Chairman Chia Hock Lai said the local government allows companies to proceed with ICOs as long as they comply with the rules. As a result, there are many businesses propping up in different segments, including health care, services and energy.
Some of the speakers hailed the Korean government’s recent deregulation move, allowing emerging technologies to be tested and commercialized with some conditions first before relevant laws are established. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon is among the politicians who have vowed to promote blockchain.
“We will develop a Seoul citizen card based on blockchain, allowing various administrative services easier,” he said.
“This year will see the growth of blockchain industry. Seoul will lead innovative changes in administrative services and try to become a trigger for the development of the industry.”
By Park Ga-young and Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org) (email@example.com)