Japanese chat app giant Line forms South Korean blockchain subsidiary
Tokyo-based Line Plus Corp., a subsidiary of developer of free international calling and smartphone chat app maker Line Corp., announced Monday that it has launched its own blockchain subsidiary in South Korea called Unblock.
As reported by ZDNet, Unblock is Line’s first foray into digital ledger blockchain technology act as an educational and research lab for blockchain technology in South Korea. The company also said that it may produce its own virtual currency and act as its own exchange in the future, but it is too early to discuss details.
This announcement follows the reveal of Line Financial Corp., a follow-up to Line’s existing mobile payments unit Line Pay. Line Financial would add a place to exchange and transact virtual currencies, loans and insurance from within the Line app.
“The establishment of Unblock signals we are ready to invest in order to play a leading role in the blockchain industry,” a Line official said. “We are planning to recruit people with expertise in blockchain technologies, such as token economy design. We will speed up investment and strengthen research on the virtual currency market.”
Blockchain moves in the messaging app market have become a recent trend in the industry. South Korean messaging giant Kakao Corp. recently announced its own blockchain subsidiary in Japan dubbed Ground X. And Russian encrypted messaging service startup Telegram Messenger LLC announced $850 million raised during an initial coin offering at the end of March.
Although ICOs are a big source of money and cryptocurrency revenue, neither Line nor Kakao will be executing one because South Korea became one of the most recent countries to enact an outright ban on ICOs in September.
According to reports, Line Pay serves over 30 million users and has signed deals with over 30 banks across Japan. That means Unblock, as a subsidiary of Line, can work to link South Korean users to banking and payment infrastructure in Japan.
Japan was recently the world leader in cryptocurrency investments, according to a report from The Japan Times. Citing Coinhills.com, it said 56 percent of bitcoin investments were in yen in January. That dominance continues at 64 percent today even though Japan recently cracked down on bitcoin and virtual currency exchanges after a massive hack this month that caused $530 million in losses.
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