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This Is Why Telecoms Giant SK Aims to Launch a Cryptoasset ‘in 2022’

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 3 min read
Source: Adobe/pvl


SK Square, an offshoot of one of South Korea’s biggest chaebol conglomerates has announced plans to launch a cryptoasset before the year is out – and intends to link it to a whole host of the conglomerate’s business platforms.

The IT investment and fintech firm, which owns over a third of the nation’s first crypto exchange Korbit, was launched by the SK Group, which owns around a third of SK Square’s stock. Crucially, Hanguk Kyungjae reported, the token will operate in conjunction with the 11st online shopping mall – one of South Korea’s biggest.

Last year, 11st struck a partnership deal with Amazon.

In addition, the token will be usable on SK Planet platforms. SK Planet, another SK Group arm, is the operator of 11st, as well as the OKCashbag loyalty points network and the Syrup digital wallet.

SK’s flagship business line, SK Telecom (one of the two biggest telecoms providers in the country), will also make use of the coin in its new metaverse business operations.

An offshoot of another business giant – Hyundai – released a coin in Europe several years ago, but the token has found few domestic use scenarios thus far.

Coin offerings in all forms are currently strictly prohibited in South Korea, but this will not likely deter SK. The firm has multiple overseas subsidiaries in territories that do not prohibit token issuance. And the incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol – who will be sworn into power in May – has already indicated that he intends to “review” the law, with a view to nurturing the crypto sector.

Metaverse expansion could also see SK branch out into the gaming sphere: The media outlet suggested that play-to-earn (P2E) crypto video games could also be on the horizon for the firm – even though South Korean law currently effectively forbids this, too.

The firm is expected to leverage its Korbit connections – possibly using the exchange as a fiat on/off ramp. It will also appoint a new “blockchain task force” to oversee the coin’s launch.

An unnamed crypto industry insider was quoted as stating:

“What SK Square wants to do is not to make use of cryptocurrency in some of its services. It wants to grow its own crypto-powered market ecosystem.”

Meanwhile, another South Korean business giant is set to snap up a 20% stake in Korbit – the banking behemoth Shinhan. The latter has offered customers real name-verified banking services for several months and announced a “strategic investment” in Korbit back in January.

But now, Seoul Kyungjae reported, the firm has unveiled plans to step up its interest with a 20% stock purchase, which would make the bank’s parent company – the Shinhan Financial Group – the third-biggest behind the gaming giant Nexon and SK Square.

Nexon, which bought Korbit in 2017 and also owns Bitstamp, remains the South Korean crypto exchange’s majority owner.

The Shinhan deal has been finalized, the report said, although there are still some administrative details to be ironed out. The purchase price will total some USD 40m – USD 50m, investment banking sources explained.

All the conditions of an agreement in principle have been agreed, with a final contract reportedly ready for conclusion as early as next month.
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