South Korea rides the Bitcoin thrill: Conglomerates announce plans for cryptocurrency exchanges, remittance platforms

For a country that prides itself as a launch pad for innovation, it had taken South Korea a little bit more time before getting on the cryptocurrency train. But now that it’s in on the action, there’s no turning back for the Asian country.

Many countries in Asia are already making strides in the Bitcoin industry. At the forefront is Japan, which has started recognizing cryptocurrencies as a method of payment. Now, South Korea is poised to follow suit after the government officially legalized international Bitcoin remittances, and will soon have a regulatory framework that will give digital currencies legal grounds in the country.

Kakao Talk-based cryptocurrency exchange

South Korea’s Bitcoin industry may have yet to be fully regulated, but the competition—particularly for cryptocurrency exchanges—is already heating up.

Mobile stock trading app Kakao Stock is the latest to announce that it will launch a cryptocurrency exchange for Bitcoin and ether. Kakao Stock is based on the popular smartphone messenger Kakao Talk, which is used by over 200 million users worldwide.

Kakao Stock provides real-time stock quotes and stock trading capabilities from within the messaging ecosystem. The app sends real-time stock quotes to users as well. The upcoming cryptocurrency exchange, which the company has been developing since June, is expected to operate in a similar manner. According to Etoday, the exchange will be offered through the app only and will handle currencies like Bitcoin and Ether.

Dongbu Group enters Bitcoin remittance market

Another South Korean company eyeing the nascent Bitcoin market is Dongbu Group.

The conglomerate, which produces industry, chemical, shipping, financial and insurance products, has partnered with Bitcoin remittance service provider Sentbe, via its Dongbu Savings Bank subsidiary, in a bid to enter the Bitcoin remittance market. The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding to explore “new business models based on new technology and expertise of the WSBI [World Savings and Retail Banking Institute] overseas affiliate network.”

The partnership comes in the heels of the South Korean government amending the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act. The amended law, which took effect on July 18, legalizes Bitcoin foreign exchange transfers for small sums.

Under the law, fintech companies wanting to provide Bitcoin foreign exchange transfers are required to register with the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) and must also comply with several financial requirements including a paid-in capital of about $1.77 million, and a debt-to-equity ratio of below 200%.

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