Kakao hopes blockchain will fuel Asia expansion

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Kakao hopes blockchain will fuel Asia expansion

Kakao plans to beef up its overseas business with a focus on Asia on the back of a blockchain platform that the Korean chat app and on-demand service platform plans to roll out by the end of this year.

The KakaoTalk operator held a press conference on Tuesday to lay out its vision, the first since it appointed new co-CEOs - Yeo Min-soo, 48, former executive vice president of advertising, and Joh Su-yong, 44, former head of the Kakao Brand Center and chief creative officer - in January.

The new CEOs announced the era of Kakao 3.0.

“Kakao 1.0 was the phase in which we launched KakaoTalk to join the mobile trend faster than anyone else and Kakao 2.0 was when we went beyond being a messenger to expand incessantly into various sectors,” said Joh, speaking at a hotel in central Seoul. “During Kakao 3.0, we will seek growth opportunities through synergy and proactively challenge global business.”

Kakao announced earlier this month that it has established a subsidiary devoted to developing blockchain, named “Ground X,” in Japan and named Han Jason, former chief technology officer of FuturePlay, an early-stage high-tech start-up incubator, as CEO.

When Kakao’s existing services and content - music, webtoons, web novels, games and videos - are connected to its self-developed blockchain technology, Kakao will “have enormous power,” he noted.

“We have yet to see a platform that can process a vast amount of data rapidly,” said Joh. “The blockchain platform is what Kakao is supposed to proceed with.”

Kakao will pursue an open blockchain platform, inviting other players in Asia to join in order to help its international growth. Initial target markets will be Japan, China and some Southeast Asian countries.

“An open ecosystem is very meaningful to us,” he said. “We have begun talking with our partners in Asia who wish to build a blockchain economy.”

But the designer-turned top executive denied speculation that Kakao plans to launch an initial coin offering aimed at raising capital.

Asked about the controversial plan to charge for the taxi-hailing app Kakao T by the end of this month, Joh said the company is still in discussions with both the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and will make an announcement on detailed schedule and conditions.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]
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