South Korea’s Cryptocurrency Craze Spawns Side Industries


South Korea’s cryptocurrency mania is spreading to a host of other industries, as publishers, educational institutions and media rush to make real cash from the craze for virtual cash.  

Hagwons, South Korea’s ubiquitous private tutoring centers offering courses ranging from math to mushroom cultivation, now offer cryptocurrency as their newest subject.

A typical cryptocurrency course at a hagwon might cost between 500,000 and 800,000 won ($460-$736). A four-lesson course on blockchain and crypto-coins provided jointly by Hankyung Academy and specialist crypto-publication TokenPost, for example, is priced at 500,000 won.

Topics covered at the next Hankyung-TokenPost course include a basic introduction to blockchain and cryptocurrencies, chart analysis, how to distinguish real and fake cryptocurrencies, and theoretical and practical cryptocurrency mining.

Most past students were South Koreans in their 40 to 50s with a personal interest in cryptocurrency investment, according to course lecturer Seo Young-min, who is also a director of blockchain tech company Kchain.

Exclusive private lessons are available too. Website ICO offers private and 2:1 tutoring sessions on cryptocurrency. The payment, fittingly, needs to be in Ethereum — $1,000 worth, to be exact. “Cryptocurrency education itself is an investment,” ICO’s website claims.

Meanwhile, the country’s crypto-frenzy has spawned many new media outlets specializing in blockchain and cryptocurrency — Blockchain News, Block Media, and TokenPost, to name just a few.

TokenPost marketing manager Lee Shi-hyun told Korea Exposé he did not expect the recent plunge in coin values to inhibit the growth of new crypto-media.

According to Lee, the number of visitors to TokenPost almost doubled from 250,000 to 450,000 between December 2017 and January 2018.

“Some of our subscribers do invest in cryptocurrencies but many others are watching them out of interest in the technology, which is why our subscriber numbers keep rising,” he said.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency books are enjoying pride of place in major bookstores. Kyobo Book Centre, South Korea’s biggest book vendor, lists almost 100 Korean-language books on blockchain and cryptocurrency on its online catalogue.

But just how long South Korea’s crypto-side-industries will last is — like so much else in the crypto-world — a matter for speculation. Ominously, the average length of time spent by users on South Korean cryptocurrency exchange apps shrank by more than half — in conjunction with free-falling virtual currencies prices — from the second week of January to the first week of February, according to local data analytics firm Ideawear Inc. 

It might be worth waiting until things calm down a bit before you sign up for a crypto-course.


Cover image: Cryptocurrency books on sale at Kyobo Book Centre in central Seoul (Juwon Park/Korea Exposé)


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Juwon is a journalist at Korea Exposé covering all things business. She’s previously worked as a TV producer in Channel News Asia in Singapore and has interned for Bloomberg, AP and Google. Juwon is a proud owner of her dog Noah and a graduate of Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong.