The Korea Herald


Korean companies jump onto NFT bandwagon

The mix of digital assets and metaverse ecosystem infuses energy into fledgling blockchain marketplace based on nonfungible tokens

By Yang Sung-jin

Published : July 26, 2021 - 18:10

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A growing number of South Korean companies are rushing to join the fledgling digital blockchain market based on nonfungible tokens, as artists, museums and diverse digital asset holders are exploring the potential of the new segment.

An NFT, a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, is gaining popularity as a way for people and companies to use the blockchain technology to buy and sell the ownership of digital assets, ranging from works of art to games and videos.

Korean companies with a rich archive of digital assets and blockchain technology providers are keen to get a piece of the action as steadily increasing NFT deals are expected to drive up demand for solutions.

CJ OliveNetworks said Monday it has agreed to work with Lambda256, a unit of Dunamu, to enter the NFT market together and cooperate in related business and technology. Dunamu is running Upbit, a Korean crypto exchange.

Under the partnership, CJ OliveNetworks said it would put together its digital transformation technology in the broadcast media field with Lambda256’s blockchain NFT service platform.

“We are pleased to cooperate with Lambda256, which has strength in blockchain technology and know-how in NFT business,” said Cha In-hyuk, CEO of CJ OliveNetworks.

The two companies said they would work together to apply a range of NFT solutions including the generation of large-scale media data, issuance, distribution and tracking to accelerate NFT transactions.

In addition, CJ OliveNetworks said it would offer services including verification for NFT intellectual property with artificial intelligence solutions developed by its digital transformation research center.

CJ OliveNetworks said it would issue NFTs of intellectual property for media artworks it holds and also push for a distribution business in a bid to step into the NFT ecosystem where first movers are yet to set the standards for copyright, ownership and intellectual property applications.

To that end, Park Jae-hyun, CEO of Lambda256, said the company will help introduce CJ OliveNetwork’s technology both at home and abroad.

Also on Monday, a Korean blockchain firm Coinplug said it has inked a business partnership with Belivvr, which offers an extended reality platform. Under the contract, Belivvr’s NFT-based content will be distributed and sold on Coinplug’s NFT market.

As a showcase, the two firms unveiled a virtual exhibition titled “V.SPACE,” featuring a gallery of artworks by webtoon and illustration artists who belong to Belivvr and direct links to an online auction site for bidding.

Belivvr, which launched its webtoon platform in 2017, has been making inroads into the metaverse ecosystem in order to take advantage of the latest digital technologies that allow users to interact with each other through digital avatars and navigate a virtual reality world.

Coinplug launched a beta version of NFT platform Metapie on July 20 and is now offering NFTs for digital art, sports and other categories.

Uhr Joon-sun, CEO of Coinplug, said, “The deal with Belivvr is expected to generate collaboration effects between NFT business and the metaverse industry.”

Belivvr said the NFT art market focused on the ownership of artworks will offer fresh opportunities for webtoon artists. Currently, the rights of popular webtoon stories are actively sold for movie and TV adaptations, while the commercial transactions of original webtoon artworks are limited to a small number of enthusiasts.

Although the NFT market is still in its infancy, players in the blockchain sector are taking steps to enter the segment by establishing marketplaces and demonstrating transactions to help the sector take off faster.

Korbit, a major Korean blockchain exchange, set up the country’s first NFT market in March. Starting from July 21, Korbit is selling a limited number of NFTs based on tvN’s hit drama series “Vincenzo.”

“We are looking at the sector to see how NFTs get converged with metaverse,” a Korbit official said. “As more people get to know NFTs, a new market is likely to take shape in the near future.”

It seems inevitable that the growth of the NFT business will hinge on the expansion of the metaverse ecosystem, as it is possible to attach ownership on all the digital assets that users create in the virtual world.

Mobile giant Kakao is also interested in the NFT business. In May, Kakao’s blockchain technology affiliate Ground X launched a solution that allows people to easily issue NFTs. It also introduced a digital asset wallet designed to display and distribute digital content in NFT format.

In the entertainment sector, singer Se7en released an English edition of a new song “Mona Lisa” as an NFT. The track will be sold through the New Economy Movement, or NEM, ecosystem with a dual-layer blockchain.

More local NFT marketplaces are expected to pop up to meet the demand from artists and agencies home to a library of music and multimedia content.

In the art sector, Kansong Art and Culture Foundation made headlines last Thursday after it announced plans to tokenize Hunminjeongeum Haerye, National Treasure No. 70, in a bid to raise operation funds.

Hunminjeongeum Haerye, if turned into an NFT, would become the first national treasure to be traded on a blockchain platform. The book from the Joseon era (1392-1910) is a guide to Hangeul, the Korean writing system, created by King Sejong.