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North Korea Greets The Crypto Industry With An International Conference

North Korea Plans “Korean International Blockchain Conference”

It is common knowledge that the reach of the cryptocurrency industry spans from the northernmost tip of Canada, right to the heart of South Africa. And although crypto has roots in nearly every country, nation, and region, many would fail to believe that crypto has garnered adoption in North Korea, which has become known for its nature as a so-called ‘hermit kingdom.’

However, the Asian country has apparently adopted cryptocurrencies in stride, recently revealing that it would be hosting a blockchain and crypto-centric conference. According to the Straits Times, a Singapore-based news outlet, North Korea plans to host a Pyongyang-based (NK Capital) conference regarding cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in October of this year.

Citing South Korean outlet Yonhap, Straits Times reported noted that the conference, named the “Korean International Blockchain Conference,” would be held over a two-day period starting on October the 1st. RFA, yet another news agency, reported that following the full length of the conference, North Korea intends to bring world-renowned blockchain and cryptocurrencies experts into the same room to meet with NK business executives.

It was added that this meeting, set to occur on October 3rd, will not be one-sided, with North Korea reportedly intending to show its prowess in the field of decentralized ledger technologies.

Skepticism & Confusion

While the country, headed by Kim Jong-Un, seems to have high hopes for this conference, some critics remain skeptical about the possibility that this conference will see success. The original report breaking this topic made no mention of any solid logistics, which is worrisome, to say the least.

It is unclear who is going to speak at the conference, or how the country’s travel bans will be dealt with. These factors only go to show that North Korea may not be ready to host such a conference.

Others seem to be critical of the country’s ‘prowess’ in crypto and related technological advancements. As per a recent report from Yonhap, the aforementioned South Korean news outlet, North Korea has tried mining cryptocurrencies but has subsequently failed. Citing a report from South Korea’s Development Bank, North Korea tried to mine Bitcoin sometime between May and July of last year but were met with little success.

The report alludes to the fact that North Korea intended to garner cryptocurrency holdings to bypass sanctions placed on the country, likely to further build its nuclear arsenal that is widely touted as North Korea’s greatest achievement.

Some believe that the local government has ulterior motives for hosting this conference. As reported by Ethereum World News previously, a North Korea-based hacker group, dubbed “Lazarus,” have “successfully compromised several banks and infiltrated a number of global cryptocurrency exchanges and fintech companies.” While it hasn’t been confirmed, some speculate that the seemingly crypto-focused Lazarus group has ties to the government. Taking this into account, some believe that many the conference is just any medium for North Korea to gather the knowledge it needs to bypass sanctions even further.

So only time will tell if this conference will pan out as it is supposed to.

By Bjørn Christian Tørrissen - Own work by uploader, http://bjornfree.com/kim/, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
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Bitcoin – It’s Big in Japan

While the Asian market accounts for a large portion of the cryptocurrency market, not all of the countries in the East have been as receptive to the burgeoning market. However, the situation is totally different in Japan thanks to a soft approach from government and much higher adoption.

Japan continues to lead the way in the East with its approach and as such, there is a higher interest from the citizens, including from the self-proclaimed ‘Miss Bitcoin.’

Miss Bitcoin

Mai Fujimoto, aka Miss Bitcoin on her social media platforms, figure-heads an attitude that seems to be crowing in the Land of the Rising Sun. She boasts how all of her disposable income is deposited straight into Bitcoin.

“I convert all my disposable income into cryptocurrency,” the 32-year-old told AFP. “I’ve been doing this for nearly a year now. I convert all my savings into cryptocurrency instead of putting them in a bank.”

Why the hype in Japan?

The attitude in places like China and even Korea is one of the people battling against the regulators. There is huge interest in these two nations from the citizens, but regulators have put their foot down.

China’s ban on ICOs, and then exchanges, set a huge precedent in terms of the hard-nosed approach to digital currencies.

Korea also recently started taking steps towards its own style of the ban on digital currencies, however, despite that, there is still massive interest.

Japan also set its own precedent in the understanding of Bitcoin as back in April it was announced that Bitcoin was accepted as legal tender, instantly showing a positive approach from the government.

Japan also benefited greatly from China’s ban as many companies and investors crossed the Sea of Japan to set up shop on the Island.

Adoption

Japan was also the pioneer in terms of Bitcoin adoption as about six months ago there was a boom in businesses trying to integrate Bitcoin payment systems. Even salaries are starting to be paid partly in Bitcoin. A well-known commentator on the crypto-business in Japan Koji Higashi said:

“The involvement of big companies, the sense of security derived from government approval and media exposure really brought in a whole new group of people to the market.”

A good alternative

Bitcoin also comes at a great time for the investment-savvy Japanese as ultra-low interest rates from the deflation-battling central bank that has left investors scratching their heads for places to find returns on their cash.

However, some are suggesting that it is more hype and mania than savvy investing.

Higashi adds:

“Everyone else is doing it now and I heard they are making a lot of money. I have to get on it now. That’s a very Japanese way of thinking. To be honest, I am not sure if people are buying into Bitcoin based on rational decision-making. It feels more of a short-term irrational mania to me.”

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IOTA Interview: “Trust Systems Are Absolutely Pivotal” Today

IOTA, the digital network designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) has recently seen a massive increase in the value of their cryptocurrency, MIOTA. According to CoinMarketCap, the company has moved from 9th to 4th in largest market cap, displacing long standing 4th place holder Ripple.

In order to understand what caused this massive explosion in value, Cointelegraph caught up with Dominik Schiener and David Sønstebø, co-founders at IOTA in order to get their take on what has precipitated recent events.

Cointelegraph: The massive rise of MIOTA over the past weeks must have been encouraging. What precipitated the price explosion, in your opinion?

IOTA: IOTA has been under intensive development for over two years and has not spent any money on marketing. In this time our focus was on making this next generation distributed ledger technology a reality. In this period we refused exchanges listing IOTA in order to ensure everything was working properly before it went to market.

This explains why IOTA is now getting a lot of attention seemingly out of nowhere. People have been following the project for a long time and then they are finally able to enter. The listing in Korea at Coinone coupled with the launch of the Data Marketplace and subsequent media coverage lead to further validation that IOTA is cementing itself as a leading cryptocurrency and distributed ledger protocol.

We believe this was the threshold breaking moment for a lot of fence sitters who have been observing IOTA from a distance.

CT: What specifically is the recent partnership with Microsoft and Fujitsu all about?

IOTA: Microsoft is one of the cloud solution providers with their Azure platform. Fujitsu, Samsung ARTIK,  Accenture and many others are participants in the Data Marketplace exploring the concept of trading secure and immutable data on a decentralized ledger. These are the first steps towards an open flow of data in IoT to realize the vision of Big Data.

CT: How is your platform Tangle different than traditional Blockchain?

IOTA: The short version is that IOTA goes beyond Blockchain in getting rid of fees, scaling limitations and centralization issues. It does this by making validation an intrinsic property of using the protocol. When you issue a transaction in IOTA you also validate two previous ones, which again reference their own two respective transactions and so on, building this Directed Acyclic Graph which we call a Tangle.

This means that users are also validators, which allows us to get rid of miners, which again gets rid of the fees and centralization that occurs in Blockchain architecture. Since everyone is validating two transactions for each transaction or data transmission they broadcast to the network, it means that the amount of validations i.e. transactions per second grows together with the activity on the ledger. In short: the more activity, the more validation.

CT: How do you see trust systems changing in the future?

IOTA: Trusted systems are absolutely pivotal in an age where decisions are automated and can act globally in an instant. We believe that data integrity, which you get for free in IOTA, is a main component of this. Beyond that we are working on IDentity of Things (IDoT) which will make it easier to secure components and develop reputation systems for intrusion detection and malware protection etc.

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Litecoin Lifted on Korean ICO promise

When the Bitcoin market corrects it is usually good news for altcoins. Much of the profit taking from Bitcoin’s record high of $18,300 yesterday will be ploughed back into altcoins which have been suffering at the expense of the daddy of crypto. Altcoins were up across the board during the Asian trading session this morning, unlike forex cryptos can be traded at the weekend. One clear leader in the upward race was Litecoin which was up almost 60% at the time of writing.

Litecoin is often referred to as the silver to Bitcoin’s gold. It is far more stable and has a much faster transaction speeds. It has shown steady increases from $40 to $60 from June through to mid-November and none of the wild price swings and spikes that other altcoins have. Towards the end of November things started to move faster for Litecoin as it broke key resistance areas and traded up to around $95 where it has been for the past two weeks. Today the dragon awoke and Litecoin has shot up to record highs of over $160.

Litecoin is traded heavily in South Korea where exchanges handle over 25% of the global trade. News that the Korean government is planning to allow ICOs in the near future may have influenced this latest price action. According to Chosun, a mainstream news publication, the South Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance, Financial Services Commission, Ministry of Justice, Fair Trade Commission, and Financial Supervisory Commission, have formed a task force to prepare a number of regulatory frameworks for organizations and investors in the cryptocurrency industry.

There will be heavier regulations on trading but with the promise of regulated ICOs for institutional investors. A spokesperson told local media “Currently, the task force is considering imposing stricter regulations for investor and consumer protection within the cryptocurrency market. In regards to ICOs, the government will likely impose regulations to enable institutional investors to invest in ICOs.”

Regulation and acceptance of ICOs will legitimize the market somewhat and provide some much needed stabilization to some pretty wild price swings. However conflicting stories of ICO bans in South Korea have caused further confusion.

It seems that the South Korean government wants to follow countries such as Japan which has embraced crypto currencies but has made efforts to protect traders from scams and fraudulent ICOs. “The South Korean government has no other choice but to follow the regulatory frameworks and trends established by other leading governments. While there certainly exists a negative reputation attached to the cryptocurrencies, the government’s stance is to allow what has to be allowed, for the benefit of the South Korean market.”

At the time of writing Litecoin was continuing to surge and was trading at an all-time high of $164.

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Samsung Wins Public Sector Blockchain Contract For Korean Gov’t

Samsung SDS has announced a lucrative agreement with the Korean government to create a new Blockchain technology-based platform for welfare, public safety and transportation by 2022. The hope is to increase transparency for the government services.  

While the nation has banned ICOs, they have been embracing Blockchain technology. The need for technological change has become increasingly clear, as the world becomes technologically interconnected. Hong Won-Pyo, CEO of Samsung SDS said:

“Samsung SDS’ Blockchain technology and consulting capabilities will contribute to Seoul’s leap as a top-rate global city.”

Blockchain for public sector

The nascent technology has become a basis for new government systems to create a combination of security and transparency. Because Blockchain technology presents a systematic approach to creating and controlling data, governments are rushing to utilize it for solutions.

Samsung SDS has already commercialized its Nexledger platform and applied it to the Samsung Card. The company has also suggested that the platform will be a viable solution for shipping logistics and has tested those capabilities as well.

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Korea’s Hyosung Now Supports Bitcoin At ATMs, Will Soon Add Ethereum

Korean ATM manufacturing giant Hyosung has announced it will now offer Bitcoin buying support through a partnership with Just Cash.

The Missouri-based mobile company, which offers mobile-based solutions for customers to obtain cash from ATMs, will now allow any Hyosung ATM client to access Bitcoin.

While official statements are yet to appear regarding motivation for the move, the ATM compatibility upgrade is already available.

Hyosung describes the option “as a great way to introduce customers to the world of cryptocurrencies” as Bitcoin enjoys increasing popularity and reputation among non-technical consumers worldwide.

Bitcoin purchases will produce a paper receipt with a public and private key, with funds accessible via scanning a QR code.

In future, Just Cash will add Bitcoin selling, as well as support for other cryptocurrencies, with Ethereum first in line.

Just.cash

Bitcoin ATMs have developed thick and fast this year, with a spotlight on the US where several operators are vying for supremacy in what is still a market at the start of its journey.

At the same time, often outlandish growth predictions by ATM businesses jar with the still low patronage by Bitcoin users.

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Italians Defy SegWit2x Fork as Deadline Nears, Bitcoin Volatility Due

Expert group BHB Network has released its formal opposition to the SegWit2x hard fork on behalf of the Italian Bitcoin community.

In a blog post Tuesday, a widened selection of local businesses and private entities “reaffirmed” its stance, originally presented at a recent Bitcoin Milan Meetup.

These include several other Italian meetups from the still relatively unknown part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Like its bigger counterparts in Korea and South America, however, Italy’s naysayers produced strongly-worded criticism of all Bitcoin hard forks.

“With the present document, other important members of the Italian Bitcoin community decided to share the same position, reaffirming their complete opposition to every attempt to change the Bitcoin protocol in a rushed, irresponsible and contentious way, political in its nature and without any technological motivation.”

Despite the increasingly polarized community stance on SegWit2x, the new chain’s futures have so far managed to avoid the fate of fellow fork Bitcoin Gold, which immediately sank to a fraction of its initial value.

At press time, 2x futures traded around $1,200, up 15 percent in line with Bitcoin’s price surge taking it over $6,500. Bitcoin Gold futures, on the other hand, are still circling $150.

2x is still slated to cause price volatility on the Core chain this month, with analyst Tone Vays predicting a temporary downturn as far back as $5,000 before corrections upwards.

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ICO Ban in Japan – a ‘Definite Possibility’

It seems as if the world of cryptocurrency has essentially moved on without China, after they decided to excuse themselves from the race with a ban on ICOs and exchanges. This has led to other countries in Asia taking up the mantle, such as Korea and Japan.

Japan has long been one of the champion states of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, labeling the biggest one, Bitcoin, legal tender earlier in the year. However, despite this friendly approach, those within Japan say an ICO ban could still be coming.

Life after China

The Asian cryptomarket has long been the dominate one, from mining to trade volume, but since China decided to set a hardline precedent, interest in the county has died down.

However, the interest in cryptocurrency itself has not died, in fact, it reached new highs last week. In the Asian market, there has been an appreciation of interest as other countries near to China have picked up the additional flow of cryptocurrency.

South Korea swiftly followed China’s lead in planning to ban initial coin offerings – to the heavy opposition of local entrepreneurs – while Taiwan has warmed up to them instead.

Japan, as one of the early investors with its recognition of Bitcoin, has picked up a huge stake in the market, now trading about 63 percent of the world’s Bitcoin.

Not quite the liberal safe haven

Many in Asia see Japan as the liberal safe haven for cryptocurrency, but Koji Higashi, cofounder of digital token wallet IndieSquare and an outspoken figure in Japan’s cryptocurrency scene, would not be so daring.

Japan is still a risk-averse country, and one that is also strongly conservative in nature. Higashi says he still sees an ICO crackdown as a “definite possibility”. He said:

“Japan’s not really ICO-friendly. Regulators are just more tentative. They’re just trying to figure out if it’s going to be good or bad. It doesn’t mean they won’t start regulating more heavily in the future when problems start emerging.”

However, Higashi is also not dooming ICOs in Japan before they have stood a fair trial. He is optimistic that if ICOs come out looking good through the trials they face, then Japan will be leading the way.

“If ICOs turn out to be a really revolutionary concept … then Japan will have a head start and attract a lot of ICO projects.”

That’s already beginning to happen as companies worldwide are moving their projects to Switzerland and Japan, which would help those countries earn tax revenue.

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Bitcoin Price Booming but Global Demand Takes Hit From Regulations

Digital currencies, especially Bitcoin as it reaches a new all time high, are stronger than ever – this in the face of governmental regulation and hardline crackdowns.

However, although Bitcoin’s price seems unaffected by the control that Russia and China is trying to wrest from the decentralized digital currency ecosystem, trading volume and global demand has taken a hit.

Sudden shifts

Looking at a graph of the Bitcoin price it would be hard to find an influence of major factors such as the Chinese ban on exchanges, and the recent Russian ban on access to exchanges.

However, looking at a graph that illustrates the share of trading by currency, there are some noticeable swings. These swings indicate the high volatility that comes with cryptocurrencies, more than just in price.

Chart

From the graph above, the Chinese yuan was competing with Bitcoin for the share of trading, but as regulation in China started to gain traction in the early part of this year, Bitcoin quickly took over as it boomed.

Recent regulations have seen the yuan shrink further as others, like Korea and the US, take larger shares.

Reaction to China ban

Bitcoin trading against the Chinese yuan used to account for most of the volume. That changed early this year when regulators started to clamp down on digital currency exchanges. Japan’s yen took over as the biggest trading pair, as regulators there took the opposite approach, adopting digital-friendly rules.

Bitcoin

In the case of Ethereum, the Korean won has become prevalent, as rules that limit access to more traditional assets are driving Korean investors to mine and trade the second-biggest cryptocurrency. As for trading in a wider group of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin takes the place of fiat currencies as the biggest trading pair.

Ethereum

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Korea’s Biggest Bitcoin Meetup Publicly Condemns SegWit2x

Members of the Seoul Bitcoin Meetup have released a formal statement opposing November’s SegWit2x Bitcoin hard fork.

A copy of the open letter uploaded to Medium Thursday confirms the “staunch opposition” of the group, the largest in South Korea, with 1600 members.

“We are confident that BTC, the legacy chain, will not only survive this fork, but continue to flourish as the dominant Bitcoin network,” its introduction states.

“The purpose of this letter is simply to minimize the damage that gets done this November. We urge you, the signatories of the NYA, to reconsider and withdraw your support.”

The community is the latest part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem to adopt a formal stance on SegWit2x, which is causing increasing divisions among supporters and detractors.

The Meetup identifies four “main concerns” with the planned hard fork of Bitcoin, due to come into being Nov. 18.

Summarized, these are:

  • “The manner in which the agreement was made goes against the very ethos of Bitcoin[;]
  • Segwit2x incurs a large risk, but wastes most of the opportunities afforded by a properly planned and executed hard fork[;]
  • The developers and supporters of Segwit2x have proceeded in a needlessly careless manner which compounds the risks involved[;]
  • Replay protection is being handled in an unacceptably irresponsible manner.”

“We will be advising our local community to avoid using the services of companies that support the NYA, and seek out alternatives instead,” the letter concludes.

The same day, major mining pool F2Pool stopped signalling SegWit2x in line with plans previously announced which would end the practice at its next server reboot.

The Meetup commended F2Pool for the move, along with four other industry players which have taken an opposing position on the fork.