South Korea’s OK Financial Group – one of the nation’s biggest moneylenders and savings banking services providers – has unveiled plans to create a cryptoasset. The company will become one of a growing cohort of firms that are hoping to launch tokens, and this appears to indicate that the days of the nationwide ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs) may be numbered.
The ban was put into place in 2017 and has forced the likes of Kakao and Hyundai Group companies to launch coins through their overseas affiliates. President Yoon Seok-yul, however, has indicated that he is prepared to lift the ban.
OK Financial Group could also choose to launch its coin abroad, should legislation unpicking the ban not roll out in time. The company said that its coin would be ready by the end of this year, reported Seoul Kyungjae.
The media outlet reported that the company will issue the coin via its OK Investment Partners (OKIP) subsidiary, and will mark a “first” for the so-called “secondary” financial industry. The company has invited blockchain companies to submit partnership proposals, and it will hear bids from firms willing to develop what it will name the OK Coin.
The company could be followed into the ICO and crypto market by scores of other domestic financial industry players, some of whom are planning their own moves. The media outlet pointed to the example of the banking giant Woori, which had hoped to release its own coin before shelving the plans when the ban was imposed.
Nevertheless, the media outlet added that rival savings banks and “other group companies in the secondary financial sector” have become “nervous” due to OK’s “rapid entry” into the crypto sphere and “are exploring business possibilities” accordingly.
The Sangsangin Savings Bank has added “blockchain-based cryptoasset trading and brokerage business” and non-fungible token (NFT) “production and brokerage/sales” to its business avenue list at its most recent general shareholders’ meeting. And the Japanese financial giant SBI Group, which operates a number of South Korean subsidiaries (including a savings bank) also appears increasingly keen on the sector. Pepper Savings Bank, another OK rival, has also appointed a leading blockchain industry official to its management team.
Furthermore, the media outlet added, OK Financial Group has “jumped into the NFT market.”
The OKIP project will also see the company “directly issue NFTs.” The OK Financial Group also operates a professional volleyball team, which earlier this year became the first pro club to release a range of NFTs. Its first range was distributed for free.
OK Financial Group has recently been placed on the regulatory Fair Trade Commission’s (FTC) corporate watch list. The list comprises firms that may need to be classified as conglomerates. As previously reported, Dunamu – the operator of the Upbit crypto exchange – this year became the first South Korean crypto company to be classified as a conglomerate under the FTC’s rules.
Such classification is something of a two-edged sword. The FTC and other financial regulators subject conglomerates to much tighter regulation than ordinary companies. But among members of the public, conglomerate classification can be a positive thing, boosting brand images and increasing trust levels.
OK Financial Group’s total asset worth, per 2021 figures, was USD 4.1 billion. It has a total of 15 subsidiary firms and is the nation’s leading private money-lending company, the Korea Times reported in May.