In February 2022, South Korea seemed in a prime position to become East Asia’s leader in metaverse development – defined by the country’s science ministry as an immersive, online, 3D virtual world that provides social and personal experiences through digital avatars. Provides personalized experience. Enables the development of economic relations.
In the same year, the government of former President Moon Jae-in announced its Digital New Deal, committing US$46 billion to build a digital-based economy and creating approximately 1 million new jobs in the process.
While a relatively small portion of this, or US$170 million, was earmarked for the Metaverse investment, former Minister of Information and Communications Technology Lim Hyesuk described the Metaverse at the time as “an uncharted digital continent with indefinite potential”. Was. Was.
Technology-obsessed South Korea is home to one of the world’s largest online game markets. Image: Getty Images
Home to one of the world’s largest online game markets and global technology giants such as Samsung Electronics Co, the technology-obsessed country was looking at the bigger picture. The global metaverse industry is estimated to be worth US$142 billion at the end of this year, growing to more than US$1.5 trillion by the end of the decade, according to a report by online market data platform Research & Markets in January. Year.
Management consultants McKinsey & Company used the large number in a survey last year, estimating that the economic “impact” of the metaverse would reach US$5 trillion by 2030, a figure roughly the same size as Japan’s economy. . ,
Although predictions were put on hold, South Korea appeared to be on track to launch “Metaverse Seoul” in the capital Seoul in January this year, said to be the world’s first city-supported metaverse that provides public services.
However, South Korea’s Metaverse initiative is built on the current internet backbone, not the blockchain technology that underlies cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Those new technologies are considered by most companies in metaverse development to be necessary to enhance these virtual worlds in Web 3 or the proposed next evolution of the Internet.
Ultimately, people will not use the metaverse unless they find it as natural and convenient as real life.
Park Hye-jin, Seoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies
Furthermore, the public didn’t get the memo on the early explosion of metaverse-related enthusiasm in South Korea, with a government-affiliated survey published in April finding that only 4.2% of the population was engaged in metaverse services in 2022.
For Park Hee-jin, a metaverse technology expert at the Seoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies, the South Korean metaverse model has one fatal flaw: the lack of decentralized blockchain technologies such as cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).
“It is blockchain technology that enables the metaverse to embody things that are taken for granted in real life, such as personal liberty, personal property, and participation,” Park said. “Ultimately, people won’t use the metaverse unless they find it as natural and convenient as real life,” she said.
If South Korea faltered in the race to the metaverse in Asia — potentially giving China and Japan an opening — there’s still some heavy backing in the country’s technology giants like Samsung, LG Electronics, SK Innovation and Hyundai Mobis.
Stars in the K-pop industry followed, while local governments, such as Seoul in the example, began to explore the use of metaverse technologies to provide public services through virtual channels.
However, as Park points out, the involvement of some of the country’s biggest names failed to garner the support of the general public, who may have been attracted by the initial celebrity fanfare but largely stayed away from the locally developed Metaverse platform.
If I may compare it to real estate, the current metaverse model homes are
Noh Ki-tae, CEO of local metaverse startup Fitfuns
As the national media was hit with reports that Metaverse was more than “hype”, the Metaverse Seoul flagship platform also attracted criticism for its lack of both utility and content. In April, it had 8,212 visitors, while Seoul has a population of over 9.4 million.
Noh Ki-tae, CEO of local metaverse startup FitFuns, which specializes in building platforms for the financial sector, also sees a lot of hype around the industry.
“The government has made a lot of investments [in the metaverse]said Noh, whose company developed the Shinhan Bank Metaverse of South Korea under the name Shinnamon.
“The way I see it, they [the government] We weren’t investing in an industry they understood and wanted to grow, but rather thought it would make a good keyword and have a lot of buzz around it,” he said, adding the companies resulted in a “metaverse”. Adding words. Makes a business plan to win money.
Elsewhere, Zepto Metaverse, built by South Korean internet giant Naver, claims to be the largest metaverse platform in Asia, with monthly active users set to reach 20 million in 2022, including celebrities such as Blackpink and brands such as Gucci and Nike. Are included. There is support.
Image: Blackpink’s Instagram account
However, the company said that 95% of its users are outside South Korea, suggesting that locals are yet to make purchases.
Noh at Fitfuns says that the Zepeto Metaverse has an actual bank, convenience store and Seoul city office, but you can’t take care of any administrative work at the city office, send any money to your accounts, make purchases Can’t even exchange that bag of chips for your real self at the convenience store.
“If I may compare it to real estate, the current metaverse is model homes,” he said.
web 3 key
Metaverse expert Park reiterated that South Korean projects need to start adopting Web3, or the next phase of the internet built around decentralized blockchain technologies and NFTs.
Park again argues that the Web 3 generation of digital citizens is focused on issues of ownership, with the right to participate in the governance of an entity emerging as a key requirement for participation in the metaverse.
This model rejects so-called “Web 2.0” models based on top-down governance, such as Meta, formerly Facebook, founded and led by Mark Zuckerberg. These models face criticism for taking ownership of users’ digital assets and activities.
US President Donald Trump was removed from Twitter in January 2021. Image: Getty Images
Park cited the rejection of former US President Donald Trump from social media platform Twitter in January 2021 as an example of top-down decision-making in a Web 2.0 world.
“When Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter, who really made that decision? I personally don’t like Trump, but why is a small group of individuals making the decisions for everyone on Twitter? Park said.
Using decentralized blockchain technologies, such as cryptocurrencies, NFTs and The DAO, Park argues that users of the metaverse can claim their digital asset rights and collectively establish how their portion of the metaverse is governed.
Can it happen?
While waiting for the development of the blockchain-based metaverse, there are many regulatory hurdles in South Korea.
Local legislators are still debating whether the Metaverse should be classified as an online game. Classification as a sport would be detrimental as the country imposes strict regulations on video games – including an outright ban on those based on blockchain technology.
Udum CEO Lee Yu-bin said, “Some have argued that game industry laws should be enforced, but the Metaverse itself is a virtual “society” and there is no way to control or enable it as a game. .I Must Not Be Seen., which describes itself as a company making education more enjoyable through Metaverse technology.
“Users will be included in the metaverse when the rules are in place and it is safe, fun and interactive,” said Lee, whose company is developing educational content and platforms using augmented reality technology.
Several proposals to promote and regulate the metaverse industry await decisions from the National Assembly, the country’s legislature. Image: Getty Images
Metaverse ethics and behavior is another issue among all developers as well as in South Korea. There have been several cases of sexual exploitation against minors on existing local platforms. The country has made policies on the ethical guidelines for the Metaverse world.
Several proposals to promote and regulate the metaverse industry await decisions from the National Assembly, the country’s legislature. But progress has been slow and none of the bills proposed during a plenary session last month got past the discussion stage.
However, there is some optimism that progress may accelerate now that regional economic rivals China and Japan are turning their attention to metaverse projects.
Still, Noah at Fitfuns says a lot of work needs to be done.
“For Metaverse to grow, the platform needs to connect with many offline companies and create a virtual economic system that actually works,” he said.
“There has to be some intermediary network for everyone, something transparent and decentralized, and that is blockchain. So blockchain and the metaverse need to go hand in hand.”
Park at the Seoul School of Integrated Sciences and Technologies remains optimistic.
“The metaverse is part of an inevitable wave of change called Web 3. It is all about how humans can live in a more productive, transparent, free and democratic world in the digital world.