Our weekly roundup of news from East Asia curates the industry’s most important developments.
South Korea invests another $51M in metaverse tech
South Korea’s plans for metaverse domination are gathering pace. A March 8 document prepared by the Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the National IT Industry Promotion Agency and the Korea Radio Promotion Association, says the three entities will invest a total of 27.7 billion Korean won ($21 million) in metaverse projects across 13 sectors such as healthcare, tourism and education. One example use case is about telemedicine in the metaverse:
“Establish a virtual counseling space and provide mental health recovery and promotion services through expert psychological counseling, healing contents, and community activities.”
The same day, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT also announced the creation of a 40 billion Korean won ($30 million) metaverse fund to be operated by local investment management companies. It cited the need to incubate domestic metaverse-related companies to become big enough to compete with global companies through the expansion of business areas and scale.
Mt. Gox’s final deadline for claims
Mt. Gox creditors have until April 6 to complete registration to receive repayment, trustees of the bankrupt Japanese cryptocurrency exchange announced on March 9. Mt. Gox was the biggest Bitcoin exchange in the world when it filed for bankruptcy in 2014, after discovering that 850,000 of its customers’ Bitcoin (BTC) had been stolen via discreet hacks and siphoning over a number of years. The exchange has since recovered around 200,000 BTC. The funds have been held in trust for the creditors, with 162,106 BTC ($3.49 billion) sitting in wallet addresses tracked by Token Unlock.
Over the years, the trustees, attorney Nobuaki Kobayashi and the Japanese Bankruptcy Courts have repeatedly extended the deadline for registration, likely due to the sheer volume of affected users located all around the world and the manual processing needed for every individual involved during such a legal procedure.
Everyone appears well and truly tired of the nine-year-long bankruptcy process and just wants their money back (or to move on to the next case in the judicial backlog). Kobayashi wrote that anyone who misses the deadline is out of luck:
“Please note that, in the interest of making the repayments to rehabilitation creditors as early as possible, unless there are unavoidable reasons, further extension of the Deadline will be difficult.
From one perspective the enforcing hodling could have been a blessing in disguise for some, as Bitcoin was worth around $580 at the time of Mt. Gox’s collapse but is now worth more than $20K. Many users will likely see positive “returns on investment,” even accounting for the fact that the repayment is only a fractional recovery.
Tencent to shutdown NFT app
An in-app message posted on Chinese internet giant Tencent’s NFT platform Huanhe states that users will have until June 30 to file for a refund before the app goes permanently offline. Dubbed “the first digital collectibles App in China,” Huanhe launched in August 2021 and featured both traditional and modern Chinese concept art, video, audio, photos and 3D models. However, Tencent halted all activity on the app on July 1.
Though the company did not explicitly state its reasons, some users have speculated that NFT sales volumes did not meet expectations. The app also didn’t offer a secondary market where users could buy and sell collectibles, nor a feature that allowed users to gift their NFTs to others. On Tencent’s official app store, Huanhe has recorded 134,000 downloads since its inception.
Thai government sacrifices $1 billion to enhance crypto industry
Thailand’s cabinet has approved a plan to waive corporate income tax and value-added tax for companies that issue digital tokens for investment, according to a March 7 Reuters report. The decision incentivizes companies to raise capital using investment tokens in addition to more traditional methods such as debentures.
The Thai government estimates that there will be around 128 billion Thai baht ($3.71 billion) worth of investment token offerings over the next two years and the new measures will see it forgo around $1 billion in tax revenue. Cryptocurrencies have gained popularity in Thailand since the Securities Exchange Commission began regulating digital assets. Still, the country’s central bank and other regulators have banned the use of digital assets as a means of payment.
Canaan’s Bitcoin ASIC sales fall
On March 7, Chinese Bitcoin mining equipment manufacturer Canaan reported its fourth quarter and full-year 2022 financial results. During the final quarter of 2022, Canaan brought in 391.9 million yuan ($56.8 million) in sales, representing a decrease of 59.9% from the previous quarter. The firm attributed the decrease to the ongoing crypto winter.
For the full year, Canaan’s revenues decreased from 4.986 billion yuan ($715 million) in 2021 to 4.378 billion yuan ($635 million) in 2022.
Going forward, the company expects its total installed mining computing power to be around 5 exahash per second (EH/s) by the end of this quarter. In context, the Bitcoin network currently has a hash rate of around 250 EH/s, an all-time high.
Canaan has also established strategic partnerships with two data center companies, which are expected to provide stable and cost-effective hosting solutions for the company’s expanding mining business. For the first quarter of this year, Canaan projects its total net revenues to slightly improve to 450 million yuan ($65 million) but cites continued challenging business conditions.