• “I’m very much keen to believe that Korea is positioned to become one of the biggest metaverse players,” said Alex Salnikov, co-founder and head of product at Rarible
  • “I think on a national level they are playing into their strengths,”Garrette David, Co-founder of Atomic Form, said to Blockworks

South Korea is looking to push itself to the forefront of the metaverse, according to a road map shared by the country’s Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Some market players believe that crypto-focused gaming is its ticket to become a global leader in this space, and Seoul is a hotbed of gaming activity. 

The country is currently the 12th largest metaverse market, but plans to jump seven places to hit the fifth largest by 2026, it said. The plan is a part of its Digital New Deal 2.0 initiative to respond to disruptive innovation, emerging new technologies and be prepared for the future.

The metaverse is an uncharted digital new continent with infinite potential, where anyone can achieve their dreams, Minister Lim Hyesook expressed in a translated statement.

“In particular, [the] metaverse will become a place where the youth can take up more challenges, grow and leap forward [to] a greater world.”

The country said the metaverse has the potential to create 1.5 million jobs not related to the physical world and plans to produce over 40,000 experts in the space to push the country into the top of the global metaverse market. 

“I think on a national level they are playing into their strengths,” Garrette David, Co-founder of Atomic Form, said to Blockworks. 

“From a blockchain perspective, it’s super cool because we see El Salvador interested in Bitcoin as a currency. And we see Korea really interested in the metaverse, which is more a way to change consumerism and interface with digital objects rather than hoard stores of value. So it’s really cool to see how different geographies are embracing Web3 in ways that are special to them,” David added. 

The Web3 and metaverse-focused startup Atomic Form has a lot of interest and investors from South Korea like Animoca Brands, Nonce, Samsung Next and some DAOs from the Korean art scene, David said. 

Korea is geared toward gaming 

The metaverse is a virtual world often coupled with NFTs, play-to-earn or crypto gaming and blockchain-based communities, as it often combines digital realities with online experiences like Axie Infinity. South Korea is known for its early adoption of new technologies like cryptocurrencies or play-to-earn gaming and has one of the biggest gaming industries in the world. 

“Several years ago South Korea became one of the key markets for cryptocurrency itself when other people were skeptical about it,” Alex Salnikov, co-founder and head of product at Rarible, said to Blockworks. 

The country has a very vibrant gaming community with a lot of secondary markets, which made it very susceptible to the whole idea that “magic internet money” like cryptocurrencies, can go into their games, Salnikov said. 

“I’m very much keen to believe that Korea is positioned to become one of the biggest metaverse players,” Salnikov noted. 

Last month, Kihyun Jung, the country director for Korea at Meta, formerly known as Facebook, shared a similar sentiment. Jung said the country was one of the best environments for the metaverse to thrive in due to its receptivity and penetration rate for virtual reality devices like Oculus Quest. The country has also said that Seoul will become the first major city to enter the virtual reality realm by 2023. 

In general, the overall gaming market in South Korea is projected to be valued at $18.3 billion this year, according to data from Statista. While this accounts for the whole industry and not just metaverse-related games, this number has been steadily growing since 2007, showing South Korea’s presence in gaming is strong year-over-year. 

“There’s such a strong gaming culture in South Korea and their distribution channels are a lot more centralized there,” Andrew Campbell, a program lead for Esports and content creator programs at Sky Mavis (the company that develops Axie Infinity), told Blockworks. 

“I think that will set the precedent for companies that do distribution in South Korea to figure out what this interface looks like and distribute it and run with it, which might give confidence to other regulatory bodies or give them the framework to look at it in motion,” he added. 

But as with many new technologies and ideas, building can take time. “Building is slow in this space, and part of the reason why it’s slow is security matters so much,” Campbell said. 

“So you have to build everything with quality in mind first. You can’t compromise or shift things early,” Campbell added. 

Blockworks’ Reporter Morgan Chittum contributed to this article.

  • Jacquelyn Melinek is a New York-based reporter covering funding, decentralized finance (DeFi) and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). She previously reported on energy markets for S&P Global Platts and Bloomberg News and is published in over 65 news outlets. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Media and Journalism. Contact Jacquelyn via email at [email protected]