Kakao, sometimes romanized in press accounts as Cacao, has tentacled itself into every conceivable community platform: Kakaotalk chat application (app), Kakaomusic app, Kakaostyle mobile fashion service, Kakaopay e-wallet, Kakaobank, Kakao T taxi app, and those are just for starters.
The company’s penetration in South Korea is deep and growing, especially regarding cryptocurrency. Toward Fall of last year, these pages informed readers Kakaotalk had, through its inner-app Kakaostock, planned a cryptocurrency exchange to trade bitcoin and ether. The effort was to exploit the app’s 200 million worldwide users as well as its having gobbled up 95% of the domestic smartphone market.
Little more than a month later, the company announced launch of Upbit, with over 110 cryptocurrencies, making it the largest of its kind in South Korea. By December, “Kakao’s cryptocurrency exchange Upbit [claimed] to be the largest crypto exchange by volume in South Korea, one of the top three markets globally. Listing over 120 coins and leveraging Kakao Talk’s massive user base, Upbit currently facilitates an average daily trading volume of 5 trillion won,” News.Bitcoin.com reported.
아시아경제 Asian Economy, a Korean online news organization, reports the company isn’t letting up on its crypto business model. In fact, Kakao “will introduce a virtual currency payment system. It will be applied not only to its own platforms such as KakaoTalk, but also to more than 10,000 Kakaopay merchants.”
Huffington Post Korea quotes a Kakao official as saying, “We are discussing the introduction of a cryptographic business, including ICO, through subsidiaries,” and a more concrete announcement will be given on the 20th of this month. Its financial technology arm “has introduced a service to support virtual currency settlement in the first half of the year,” Asian Economy continued. Kakao is reportedly also considering its own proprietary coin, Kakao Coin, or something approximating. “When a consumer chooses to pay for a virtual currency,” merchant settlement will continue to be in won, but the crypto currency will be able to trade among all of Kakao’s platforms, from taxis to video games. It is unclear as to whether the latest platform will facilitate usage of other coins, such as bitcoin.
According to the Huffpo, “There is no reason not to enter the coin market for companies doing various content businesses like cacao,” an industry official is quoted as saying. “Instead of cash, you can use your coin to get payment data, and add it to your card company or payment agency. I do not have to pay a commission, so there are many advantages. The [coin] can attract overseas users, but the government has a negative view on ICO, so it should be more widespread whether it can be universally used in Korea.”
The company will reportedly smuggle it all under the subsidiary name of Kakao Blockchain, according to Money Today. The online source also indicates recent success of its global rival, Telegram, to raise hundreds of millions of dollars during an initial coin offering (ICO) has prompted Kakao to take a harder look at the investment opportunity. However, “ICO is illegal in Korea,” Money Today points out, “For this reason, it is estimated that the ICO will be conducted overseas in Singapore and Hong Kong.”