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Stories You May Have Missed from East Asia

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 4 min read

South Korea Yet to Decide if It Will Issue a Crypto Crackdown Crypto Apps Rising in Popularity Chinese Big Guns Make Blockchain Moves Japan’s Newest Cryptocurrency Exchange?

This is the blockchain and cryptocurrency news roundup from the East Asia in a week.

South Korea Yet to Decide if It Will Issue a Crypto Crackdown

South Korea’s government continues to hum and haw over its proposed cryptocurrency crackdown. Many had expected the country’s leaders to issue a complete shutdown of all of the country’s cryptocurrency exchanges following comments last week from South Korea’s Justice Minister, Park Sang-ki. The country has recently passed a law that requires all Korean users to use their real names and bank accounts when using Korea-based exchanges.

Park’s comments sent cryptocurrency prices crashing downwards in South Korea, where furious digital currency investors began petitioning President Moon Jae-in, urging him to reconsider his cryptocurrency policy.

One petition, which has already garnered just some 190,000 signatures, asks Moon “not to take away the dreams and happiness” of Korea’s crypto investors. It also complains that many ordinary Koreans currently struggling to pay their heating bills or saving to buy houses could have their hopes dashed by a China-style crackdown.

Under Korean law, should a petition accrue 200,000 signatures, the presidential office is obliged to produce an official response.

Opinion polls showed a dip in the president’s approval ratings in the wake of a potential crackdown, with another national poll finding that some 62% of Koreans described themselves as active cryptocurrency investors.

In the wake of the backlash, the government hedged its bets with a new statement on January 15, saying, “Closing exchanges is just one of many measures proposed by [Park and] the Ministry of Justice. We will not be issuing any immediate ban on cryptocurrency exchanges. However, we will be conducting a consultation and coordination process before we come to a final decision.”

The government hinted that legislation would be forthcoming, however, promising a “strong response” to “excessive virtual currency speculation and illegal activities,” but underlined its ongoing “support and nurture for blockchain research and investment.”

Crypto Apps Rising in Popularity

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that South Korean investors are increasingly turning to mobile technology to navigate their way through cryptocurrency markets. Some 2 million users now access mobile cryptocurrency apps, 14 times more than the amount of people who were using such apps in October last year.

The figures were revealed by App analyst Wiseapp, who also found that users spent an average of over 13 minutes per day on the top 10 Korean cryptocurrency apps.

Per Wiseapp, two of Korea’s top three fastest growing apps are related to cryptocurrency trading. Binance has amassed 1.6 million users as of the end of last week, a 44% increase on the week before, while its closest rival, Coinpan, experienced a 60% week-on-week growth rate, with a total of 1.4 million users. Two of the country’s top five free apps on the Google Play Store are also cryptocurrency-related.

Chinese Big Guns Make Blockchain Moves

Chinese internet Baidu giant has released a Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) offering on its global cloud platform. Baidu claims that the offering is customizable and provides asymmetric cryptography-powered security and business-ready packages, all developed on its own open platforms.

Baidu says it hopes its solutions can be used with cryptocurrency solutions, accountancy firms and insurance platforms – despite the fact that cryptocurrency exchanges remain banned on the Chinese mainland.

Sources have revealed that online shopping Alibaba is also on the verge of launching a blockchain offering of its own. Alibaba has already begun looking into a range of blockchain-related operations, including a charity donation pilot as part of its Ant Financial (formerly Alipay) operations and an international fake food-busting initiative.

Alibaba is also rumored to be on the verge of striking a deal with the TRON platform, which last year struck a deal with Singapore-based bike-sharing network oBike. The deal will see oBike develop its own blockchain-powered cryptocurrency this year, which its members can use to rent bicycles and pay for online content on the TRON platform.

Japan’s Newest Cryptocurrency Exchange?

Mercari, Japan’s answer to eBay, has lodged an application to become a cryptocurrency exchange platform with the country’s Financial Services Agency (FSA). The FSA last year approved 11 cryptocurrency exchanges, with a range of other companies now hoping to join their number.

Mercari also hopes to branch out into financial services with its Mel Pay operations, launched in November last year. The company has revelaed that it is now also mooting the development of new and far-ranging credit and loan operations.

Per a statement, Mercari claimed that it hoped to be recognized an official exchange within 2018, and said it would “develop financial services that make use of the Mercari customer base and transaction data.”

The number of businesses accepting virtual currencies is on the rise in Japan, with electronics retailer Bic Camera and travel agent H.I.S. recently joining their number.