South Korea poised for blockchain boom

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The cryptocurrency winter is getting frostier, but a blockchain spring may be around the corner in South Korea. Seoul's prudent approach to distributed ledger technology - less draconian than Beijing's but stricter than Tokyo's - just may represent the happy middle ground. A year ago, Seoul moved to ban anonymous virtual currency trading in a bid to quash crypto related crime, but stopped short of shutting down exchanges as China has done. Meanwhile, although Japan has also banned anonymous trading, it allows crypto to self-regulate, for better or worse.

Time will tell if Tokyo bet on the wrong horse with its crypto focus. In the meantime, South Korea is focusing on blockchain's applications for industry. In January, the South Korean government added blockchain to the list of research and development fields that can qualify for a tax credit. Analysts say that Seoul intends to attract investor interest in blockchain, which the government believes has wide applications that go beyond the finance sector.

In December 2018, South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and its Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning launched a pilot project to evaluate blockchain's applications in the nation's container shipping sector, where the government seeks to boost efficiency and transparency as well as allow real-time data sharing. The pilot will be conducted in the Port of Busan, the world's fifth busiest container port and South Korea's largest.

In a January report, Coin Telegraph points out that the South Korean government has high hopes for blockchain in a wide swath of industries, including real estate, voting, livestock record management, customs clearance and international e-document distribution. By 2022, the initiative is targeting 230 billion won (US$204 million) in investment.