A leading South Korean plastic surgeon and investor has bought a $352 million stake in Bithumb, South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. The surgeon, Kim Byung-gun, leads BK Global Consortium and signed the deal with BTC Holding Co., which amounted to 50 percent and one share in the operator of Bithumb.
BK Global Consortium was already the fifth-largest shareholder of BTC Holding Co. before the new deal. According to a spokesperson from BK Global, the deal will be finalized in February 2019.
Reigniting the Crypto Craze in South Korea
During much of 2017 and early 2018, South Korea led the crypto markets. It’s estimated that during the second half of 2017, the Korean Won accounted for over 10% of all bitcoin trades. The Won was also the number one currency behind ethereum trades. Since 2018’s massive market downfall, many South Koreans have yet to return to trading.
Kim Byung-gun is betting that the crypto craze will return to his country with an even stronger force. Recently, the government announced that it would be releasing its stance on ICOs and other regulatory issues at the end of October. A positive position on ICOs and future cryptocurrency projects in South Korea will more than likely create excitement around the digital marketplace once again.
Many projects that are Korea-centric are not based in South Korea. Most are found in more tolerant countries such as Malta and Switzerland – countries that have a regulated framework that benefits crypto projects.
Although there is still uncertainty regarding the legality of ICOs, many large-scale corporations have been busy building their crypto exchanges to be at the forefront of blockchain development. Companies such as Samsung, Kakao, and Dayli Financial Group are backing crypto exchanges in South Korea.
Bithumb’s Recent Troubles
Bithumb is South Korea’s largest exchange and ranked as the third largest exchange in the world by daily traded volume. Aside from the market-wide slump, it was involved in recent troubles including a massive heist.
In June, Bithumb announced that it was hacked for an estimated $30 million. It was one of the largest heists in crypto history. Months before the break-in, a South Korean security firm was able to hack Bithumb to reveal many vulnerabilities in their security.
Most recently, ICOratings ranked the security of 100 crypto exchanges. Bithumb handles nearly $1 billion in daily traded volume, and yet it ranked 78/100 in the security report.
With Bithumb’s current track record, they will need to implement stricter security protocols to protect their users. Adoption of cryptocurrencies is unlikely while hackers are ransacking major exchanges. Without retail and institutional confidence, customers will eventually look elsewhere for an exchange that offers a guarantee of security.