South Korean Telecoms Giant KT Is Reportedly Developing a Local Cryptocurrency

Francisco Memoria

The KT Corporation, a South Korean telecommunications giant, has reportedly been selected to develop a cryptocurrency that’s set to be used in the city of Gimpo in the country, in a test that could see it expand to other local governments.

According to ZDNet Korea, the cryptocurrency will be introduced in April of this year, after a pilot project is run next month. The cryptocurrency, called “K token,” is set to see 11 billion won ($9.7 million) worth of it get issued, and will be usable with local merchants.

The news outlet points out that to pay using the K token, uses will have to scan QR codes, and that merchants who accept payments in the cryptocurrency will be able to request a conversion to fiat that’ll be transferred to their bank accounts, without extra fees.

The head of the blockchain center and KT’s senior vice president Yeong-il Seo was quoted as saying (roughly translated):

Based on the differentiated technology and business competitiveness of the KT blockchain local currency platform, we will successfully carry out [a] local currency business in Gimpo City. The introduction of local currency will contribute to the revitalization of the regional economy.

The company is reportedly planning to expand its cryptocurrency project to other local governments that agree to it, based on its performance in Gimpo. Notably, the KT Corporation has last year ventured into the blockchain sector, as it launched a distributed ledger network that was to be applied to various areas, including ID verification, energy trading, and data roaming.

The move could be seen as a step forward for South Korea, a country that has banned initial coin offerings (ICOs), and that has revealed it’s planning on taxing the fundraising practice if it becomes legal again, as well as cryptocurrencies.

In the country, cryptocurrency exchanges are believed to be vulnerable to hacks, according to a report. This, as only some of the nation’s cryptoasset trading platforms cleared the government’s security checks.

Blockchain-Enabled Chinese Yuan Could Increase Governmental Oversight, Investor Argues

The Chinese government has been closely studying blockchain technology in order to determine whether the immutable distributed ledger can be used to streamline routine business processes.

However, Chinese authorities have expressed concerns regarding the use of cryptocurrencies in financing illicit activities and potentially disrupting the country’s $12 trillion economy by facilitating capital flight.

People’s Bank of China Considering Blockchain-Based Yuan

While China’s government has attempted to restrict transactions involving cryptocurrencies, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has reportedly been conducting research to determine the feasibility of launching a blockchain-based Chinese yuan (CNY) since 2014.

This, according to Dovey Wan, a founding partner at Primitive Ventures, a “market cycle agnostic” investment firm which has invested undisclosed amounts into various cryptoasset projects such as ZCash (ZEC) and DFINITY.

Wan, who earned her Masters in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon University, wrote in a blog post published on CoinDesk on May 17, 2019 that the digital yuan, or Renminbi (RMB), initiative may potentially allow the Chinese government to exercise greater control over the nation’s local and international economy.

M0 Versus M2

As explained by Wan, digital fiat currencies allow financial institutions to more effectively create credit flows which increase M2, the broad money supply. Meanwhile, blockchain-based digital currencies impact a base currency measure, referred to as M0.

Blockchain-enabled digital currencies could potentially allow central banks to “bypass commercial banks” in order to directly control money creation and supply channels. This would structurally centralize the central financial institution’s power and role in formulating monetary policy, Wan argued.

Chinese Government Will Most Likely Use Permissioned Network

According to Wan, the PBoC is looking at various types of network design for a digital, blockchain-powered RMB. She believes that it will most likely be a permissioned network in which the nodes will be managed by major Chinese financial institutions, including the PBoC.

This indicates that transactions involving a digital yuan would only be seen by Chinese banks, and not the nation’s citizens.

Blockchain-Powered Currencies Enable “Better Coordination Paradigm”

One of the main reasons for using blockchain technology, Wan noted, is to take advantage of “a better coordination paradigm” when compared to “traditional currency supply management, which is heavily dependent on bookkeeping,” Wan wrote.

Moreover, Wan thinks blockchain’s immutable nature and private-key cryptography can prohibit users from entering fraudulent transactions and also prevent users from counterfeiting currency notes.

A blockchain-based yuan could also assist the Chinese government in more carefully monitoring the spending history of the nation's residents. This would allow the government to "accurately assess creditworthiness" and detect illegal activities such as money laundering and tax evasion, Wan noted.