Japanese chat giant Line announced on Monday that they would be launching a blockchain subsidiary based in South Korea. This announcement comes just a few months after Line announced that they would be launching a subsidiary that would provide a platform for people to exchange cryptocurrencies.
The new blockchain subsidiary, called Unblock, will conduct blockchain market research and provide guidance to Korean virtual currency companies looking to expand into Japan and Southeast Asia.
According to an announcement from Line Plus, Unblock will also begin to research creating its own cryptocurrency and launching a “token economy.”
Line’s largest rival, Kakao, recently announced that they will be launching a blockchain startup later this year called Ground X, with similar aims to that of Unblock’s. Kakao’s platform will be built with the goal of allowing other projects to be built upon its blockchain, not unlike that of Ethereum’s. Kakao’s executives made it clear that they had no intentions of launching a cryptocurrency through an ICO.
Line is not the first messaging company to start the process of holding an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). A notable ICO that occurred recently was held by the Russia-based Telegram, who raised $1.7 billion in their initial offering. Much like Line and Kakao, Telegram is also developing a blockchain “ecosystem,” but the details surrounding this project remain unclear. If Line’s ICO is nearly as successful as Telegram’s, the process would stand to be highly lucrative.
Asia has been a hotbed for blockchain and cryptocurrency innovation over the past several years, and the bulk of the innovation can be found in South Korea and Japan. Recently, South Korea temporarily banned ICO’s while the country’s law makers develop a framework for regulation. Although ICO’s have been banned, South Korea vowed to take all efforts possible to foster blockchain innovation.
Line, Kakao, and Telegram have been the first messaging and communication companies to create blockchain based subsidiaries, and it is unclear whether US based messaging companies, like the Facebook owned WhatsApp, will follow suit.