The South Korean government looks set to invest heavily in blockchain technology-related projects in 2019 – but no change in cryptocurrency policy appears forthcoming.
Per a report from Kuki News, the Ministry of Science and ICT plans to pump some USD 18 million into blockchain-powered projects next year, after supporting blockchain initiatives to the tune of USD 10 million in 2018.
The report claims that the ministry plans to launch 12 blockchain-powered projects next year, and will also back three domestic startups with a combined USD 1.3 million in funding before the end of the year.
The ministry is also teaming up with the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the country’s biggest port, Busan, for a one-year pilot initiative whereby shipping authorities will use blockchain technology solutions as part of their import and export activities, allowing logistics companies and administrators to share information in real-time through a decentralized platform.
South Korea is hoping that it will be able to integrate blockchain technology in a wide range of its logistics and export activities – particularly the flagging shipping industry. The country is the sixth biggest export economy in the world, and Busan is the world’s fifth busiest cargo port, per figures released by the World Shipping Council.
Samsung SDS, the Samsung Group’s IT services arm, last year helped put together a blockchain consortium comprising the Korea Customs Service, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Hyundai Merchant Marine, IBM Korea and paperless trade provider Ktnet. The consortium claims it successfully conducted the world’s “first ever” blockchain-powered shipping transaction in late 2017 – an export shipment from a port in South Korea to a Chinese destination.
However, ministries appear keen to distance themselves from cryptocurrency-related policies, with the government still mulling whether or not to make changes to the country’s blanket initial coin offering (ICO) ban – despite pledging it would make its position known by the end of last month. FNNews reports that little real progress appears to have been made on the ICO issue thus far, and hints that the government is in no rush to make a decision.
Kuki News quotes a Ministry of Science and ICT official as saying, “We are responsible for the blockchain industry – the [regulatory] Financial Services Commission is responsible for cryptocurrencies. The two sectors must be considered as distinct from one another."