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S Korean Internet Giant Doubles Down on Blockchain, Says ‘No’ to ICO

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South Korean internet company the Kakao Group is looking to double the size of its USD 90 million blockchain investment – and could sink a whopping USD 180 million into its forthcoming Klaytn blockchain platform, although a public token sale now looks unlikely.

Source: iStock/imaginima

Klaytn is the brainchild of Kakao’s Ground X subsidy, based in Tokyo. Earlier this week, Bloomberg quoted a Kakao official as claiming Ground X had raised USD 90 million “through a private coin offering,” with backing from venture companies such as IDG Capital, Cresendo Equity Partners and Translink Capital.

And per South Korean news outlet Sisa Journal, Kakao has confirmed it has opened another round of investment talks, and told the outlet the company is confident that it will reach its target of USD 180 million “by mid-March” – with plans to launch Klaytn in June this year.

To the chagrin of many crypto-enthusiasts, Kakao also told Sisa Journal, “We have no plans for an ICO [initial coin offering] going forward.”

The statement will come as a blow for the country’s crypto-community, many of whom were eagerly anticipating paradigm-shifting ICOs from both Kakao and its biggest rival, Naver – and could indicate that South Korean companies are indeed prepared to toe the line regarding the country’s recently upheld ICO ban.

The Kakao Group comprises the country’s most popular chat app, an Uber-like taxi service, stock trading apps, e-commerce operations, banking services and a major search engine. The company also owns around a 8% stake in Dunamu, the operator of Upbit, one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in Asia.

Per Bloomberg, Ground X will “aggressively hire” new employees this year, as it looks to add to a 65-person team. Kakao says 26 companies have already agreed deals to run their applications on the platform, with domestic gaming company Wemade and Chinese travel agency Zanadu already on board.