Hi all. With the decentralization of the Polkadot ecosystem through the W3F Decentralized Futures Program, we believe this is the perfect opportunity to aggressively pursue market entry efforts on behalf of Polkadot in South Korea, a market that is critical for the adoption and expansion of Polkadot in broader Asia. We would like to present an overview of our upcoming proposal to strengthen Polkadot’s localization, brand, and awareness in Korea.
1. Market overview
High adoption rates
- As of 2020, over 58% of South Korean companies were actively exploring blockchain applications. All major publicly traded conglomerates have been exploring blockchain as a technology to enable their existing business lines, across Gaming, Financial Services, Entertainment, and others.
- At a retail level, South Koreans have shown a significant interest in cryptocurrencies, with a large percentage of the population engaging in crypto trading. A 2021 survey indicated that nearly 41% of South Korean workers had invested in cryptocurrencies (an estimated 14M people).
Top three global trading volume
- Upbit, one of South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, reported a daily trading volume of over $11 billion in 2021, highlighting the immense scale of crypto trading in the country.
- As of 2021, South Korea was one of the top three markets in the world for Bitcoin trading. The daily trading volume on South Korean crypto exchanges frequently surpassed $9 billion.
Supportive government initiatives and regulations
- The South Korean government has been supportive of blockchain technology, viewing it as a key driver for what they term “the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. It has launched various initiatives, including significant investments in blockchain projects, to encourage the development and adoption of the technology across various industries.
- The South Korean government announced its commitment to science and technology development in January 2024, with a planned investment exceeding 5.8 trillion won (US$4.3 billion) to enhance the global competitiveness of Korea and to advance technological prowess and foster innovation.
Diverse applications across industries
- Blockchain technology in South Korea is being applied in a wide range of fields, from finance and logistics to entertainment and public administration.
- Entertainment and gaming: South Korea’s entertainment industry, particularly gaming, has integrated blockchain to create new types of user experiences. Blockchain is used for digital asset management, enabling players to own and trade virtual items securely across different platforms and games.
Leading corporates and startups
- A high number of publicly traded South Korean companies, including major conglomerates like Samsung and LG, are actively involved in blockchain research and development. The country is also home to a vibrant startup ecosystem, with numerous builders focused on blockchain innovation.
- Samsung has integrated blockchain platforms (e.g. Samsung Blockchain Wallet) into its flagship products, which has been available on its smartphones since 2019.
- SK Telecom, Korea’s leading mobile operator, announced in November 2023 a new collaboration with Aptos and Atomrigs Lab to develop its web3 wallet service, T wallet.
- Most of the largest South Korean gaming companies (e.g. WeMade, Com2Us, NetMarble) have dedicated blockchain teams and have launched or are launching blockchain-based games or platforms. Our team has relationships with all of them.
Investor sentiment and market trends
- Despite the bear market, Korean retail investors have shown resilience, with a significant number of young investors actively participating in crypto trading.
- For many years, there has been a premium on the price of digital assets traded on Korean exchanges versus the global crypto markets, called the “kimchi premium”. This has in large part been due to KRW capital controls around currency export.
- Significant institutional investors are participating in the market. South Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS), the world’s third-largest pension fund by assets, disclosed this year that it purchased about $20M in Coinbase shares.
Educational and research focus
- Many South Korean universities have introduced specialized courses and degree programs focused on blockchain technology and web3. These programs often cover a range of topics including the technical aspects of blockchain, its applications in various industries, cryptography, and the economic and legal implications of digital currencies. Leading universities like Seoul National University, Korea University, and KAIST are notable examples that offer such courses.
International collaborations and influence
- South Korean companies and technologies often have a significant impact on global blockchain trends and developments.
- The popularity of South Korean culture, including K-pop and K-dramas, has opened avenues for blockchain applications in the entertainment industry, influencing trends across Asia. Blockchain-based platforms for content distribution, fan engagement, and intellectual property management developed in South Korea are being observed and emulated in other Asian markets.
2. Problem statement
Despite its rapid historic growth in other regions and huge potential, the Polkadot ecosystem’s presence in South Korea remains limited in comparison to other major blockchain ecosystems, with Polkadot struggling to attract both end-users, builders, and partners.
In South Korea, the community’s awareness of the Polkadot ecosystem is relatively low. For example, out of an estimated 14 million+ crypto users in Korea, only 2,000 showed some interest by joining the Online Polkadot Korea Meetup keynote by Gavin Wood (hosted in 2021). The actual engagement rate of builders and the broader community is even lower than this figure would suggest. This is due to a shortage of available materials about Polkadot written in Korean as well as a lack of marketing and communication activities revolving around Polkadot. While Korea is a fairly open market in some ways, it still requires significant localization - market participants will not engage a brand that does not have an identity and documentation and marketing they can understand in their native language. As a result, developers, end-users, and corporate and government entities are unfamiliar with Polkadot, Substrate, or the broader ecosystem.
Additionally, major L1s and competitors of Polkadot have already entered the Korean market to varying degrees, including Ethereum, Solana, NEAR, Avalanche, Aptos, Sui, as well as L2s like Polygon, Arbitrium, and Optimism. Their efforts range from partnering with local players for market entry across various functions, to setting up small local teams that are conducting marketing, education, community, and BD efforts with established crypto native and web2 companies. Some of these players have had a sector agnostic strategy, while others have focused on specific verticals like gaming (e.g. Aptos) and have made meaningful headway with local partners. While all of these competitors have started work in Korea, none of them has won the market yet, so there is still time for Polkadot to catch up and capture a significant share of builder and broader ecosystem mindshare.
There is therefore an urgent need for general market entry initiatives involving localization, marketing, education, and communication campaigns around Polkadot, as well as general growth efforts in Korea. A failure to act and catch up with our competition will yield the Korean market to them, resulting in the Polkadot ecosystem missing out on a huge potential user base for accelerated growth, as well as a market that often leads and influences broader Asia.
3. Solution and scope of work
We propose a focused market entry effort in South Korea, by partnering with leading local partners that have been operating in the Korean market for years. These partners operate across multiple categories, ranging from marketing (crypto native and non-crypto native), PR, social, developer education (web2 and web3), community growth, partnerships, media, government, corporate, and others. Each of these partners has taken years of relationship development to establish as viable groups that we can trust and work with to meaningfully enter Polkadot into Korea. They are ready to be activated as soon as we are able to fund these partnerships and execute our strategy.
The types of partners we may engage with initially might focus on the following areas:
- Crypto native marketing
- Web2 marketing
- Crypto native PR
- Crypto native social marketing
- Web2 + web3 media
- Ecosystem deep dives + research content
- Retail community growth
- Developer community growth
- Investor community growth
- Corporate partner growth
- Government partner growth
- Developer education
- Validator communities
- Crypto exchanges
- NFT communities
- Gaming communities
- Entertainment (e.g. K-pop) communities
- Crypto native infrastructure
4. Market entry strategy
In order to successfully enter Polkadot into the Korean market, there are a set of areas upon which we can focus our initial efforts. Generally, these are areas that can be considered fundamental building blocks to entering the Korean market, and may need to be developed first before other full fledged market development initiatives like setting up a growth pipeline. The following list is not exhaustive, and is meant to be demonstrative of areas that we can work on developing. These may include the following (in no particular order):
1. General marketing / brand awareness:
- Polkadot has generally not had any brand awareness in the Korean market in the last few years. There may have been some hype around DOT when the whitepaper was released a few years ago, but without any dedicated efforts in Korea since then this has faded. In order to do anything meaningful in Korea, we need to establish a baseline amount of market awareness of the Polkadot brand by general retail users, builders, devs, corporates, government, and others. Therefore, developing and deploying a localized marketing campaign to raise awareness of the Polkadot brand in Korea is critical. This campaign will need to be tailored to the cultural nuances of Korea.
2. Social marketing / community growth:
- South Koreans are influenced by social marketing, making it crucial to engage and educate the community.
- Efforts may include establishing a presence on Korean social media, engaging in discussions on social channels, and fostering a sense of community among Polkadot enthusiasts.
3. Research content for education of partners:
- Non-crypto native entities in Korea need education from trusted sources.
- Efforts may include creating in-depth research content on Polkadot’s tech stack, ecosystem, and value for web2 and web3 communities, disseminating it to prepare future partners, and relying on trusted third-party entities to help us reach these parties.
4. Preparation for partnerships:
- There are various potential partners that we can engage with in South Korea. Each of these will require a dedicated effort to develop a thesis on how they can collaborate with Polkadot, and initial BD efforts on the ground to start the process of understanding their primary needs and other requirements. While actual partnerships with players that are not market entry related is beyond the scope of this proposal, some amount of market development may be executed to prepare for future possible engagements.
5. Localization of technical content:
- Korean devs will not engage with Polkadot and build on our tech stack if they don’t have Polkadot documentation that they can rely on in Korean. To date, the vast majority of documentation on Polkadot has been released in English.
- Thus translating technical documentation and resources into Korean is vital for Korean developers.
6. Education of developers - meetups and content:
- Developers are a core constituent in the effort to enter Korea. They have historically and unfortunately been neglected by Parity and the broader Polkadot community. In order to engage with this community, we will need to provide education on the basics of Polkadot and our ecosystem and engagement via various channels.
- We may do this by organizing developer meetups, creating technical content in Korean, and supporting local developer communities.
7. Localization of marketing announcements and ecosystem news:
- The broader Korean community will not engage with Polkadot if they don’t have general updates and information presented to them in Korean, on Korean native channels.
- Translating marketing announcements and news into Korean and tailoring content to the South Korean audience are essential for broader community engagement.
8. Population of Korean native search engines results:
- Koreans tend to use search engines like Naver with Korean language searches instead of English searches. Until recently, the Polkadot search results on Korean search engines were almost non-existent. With our work last year with a local marketing agency this has changed for the better, however there is still significant work that needs to be done to make sure that when someone searches for Polkadot on a Korean search engine, meaningful results appear instead of garbage content.
- Optimizing online content for Korean language searches and utilizing SEO techniques for Korean search engines are necessary to improve visibility.
9. Education of retail via web2 media:
- Retail is another core constituent in South Korea that is very important to our entry of the country, especially as relating to Polkadot in the Korean public crypto markets.
- Collaborating with South Korean web2 media outlets to educate the public about Polkadot is essential. Creating simplified educational content for retail users can change their behavior over time.
10. Education of investors:
- Conducting investor education campaigns and addressing common investor questions and concerns are crucial for informing South Korean investors.
11. Education of corporates:
- Providing educational resources for South Korean corporations interested in blockchain adoption and showcasing Polkadot benefits are essential to engage web2 corporates.
12. Education of government entities:
- Engaging with South Korean government agencies and advocating for favorable blockchain policies are important for long-term adoption of Polkadot in Korea.
13. Education of crypto native players:
- The crypto native community in South Korea will be critical to capture for wider engagement across various other communities. They exert a significant amount of influence across those other target communities, and although Polkadot has not really been on their radar for some years, we feel that it is possible to change this. With the decline of Terra and more recently Klatyn, and lackluster execution by other major ecosystems like Polygon, there is an opportunity for Polkadot to take market share and establish our ecosystem as one of choice in Korea if we execute the right strategy.
14. Creation of a point of contact entity for the Korean community:
- Thus far, Korean users, builders, corporates, and other players have never had an official point of contact into the Polkadot ecosystem. The de facto representatives of our ecosystem for the last 4 years have been William and a few other individuals, given their history of doing work in Korea. With this new entity, we will finally be able to provide a single point of contact for the Korean community to interface with Polkadot. Without this, it has been exceedingly difficult to gain any meaningful traction in Korea. Going forward, we will finally be able to develop the market and expand our brand and technology into this critical web3 market in Asia.
15. Building trust and credibility over time:
- Adoption of technologies at the user, builder, ecosystem, corporate, government, and really all levels of the Korean society requires a greater degree of trust than in many other countries. Without a history of market presence and building in the country, it is exceedingly difficult to do anything meaningful. Our team will also contribute to this effort by building institutional level trust in the Polkadot brand name, which has never existed in Korean society before. Once we are able to build this trust and credibility up with the help of local partners, then many other things may be possible that have been off limits historically. For example, building partnerships with large corporates to onboard large numbers of non crypto native users into Polkadot, and partnering with government entities to access equally as large populations of potential non crypto native users are just two of the opportunities that we might be able to access once we have built up some amount of trust in our name brand locally.
5. Prior work
The team has already done a significant amount of work in the Korean market on behalf of our ecosystem. This team understands the Korean crypto market, the business culture, and has an extremely large and robust network amongst investors, web3 organizations, and corporates. This team has worked closely together on Korean initiatives, and they are part of a very small group of people in the ecosystem that have the experience required to execute this mandate in this market.
Korea is a tier 1 market that we are largely not represented in, and our competitors are at the relatively early stages of entering and gaining share in. It’s a market we cannot afford to ignore anymore or we will simply end up giving it away to Solana, Avalanche, etc. We have already been able to accomplish some high value things in Korea, simply by pushing initiatives as individuals on our own out of our passion for this market. Some examples of initiatives we have successfully executed include:
Marketing building blocks with a local marketing partner
In 2023, we worked with a local crypto native market entry / marketing agency based in Seoul. They have done market entry work for various projects for years across the following ecosystems: Ethereum (e.g. Sandbox, Gelato), Solana (e.g. the L1, Raydium), DyDx, Stacks, Filecoin, Boba, Mina, Crypto.com, Avalanche, and dozens of others. They work closely with various parties that the team knows well, and are well regarded in the Korean ecosystem as a market entry partner for foreign ecosystems. Last year, we were able to engage them as a partner to help us with some marketing efforts in Korea.
Some of the things they accomplished for us include content localization / translation to Korean (e.g. blogs, announcements), community building and management in Korea via social channels (e.g. Kakao, Telegram), community event promotion (e.g. AMAs), official blog building and management (e.g. Medium, Naver, and other Korea-specific platforms), SEO management, native content creation (e.g. intros, guides), and viral content marketing. We were very happy with their results. They were able to successfully publish valuable pieces of content across all of these channels over a three month trial period.
Korea Blockchain Week 2023
Korea Blockchain Week is the largest crypto focused conference in Korea, and one of the premier web3 events in Asia. It happens once every year, and draws a variety of attendees, including builders, investors, government officials, retail, and corporate. It has great media coverage, and is supported by major crypto ecosystems including Solana (title sponsor of 2022), Polygon, Binance, Avalanche, etc. Circle was the title sponsor in 2023. KBW represents a great opportunity for us to build our brand awareness in Korea.
Some numbers demonstrating the impact of this event:
- 70k+ attendees expected for the entire week (40% oversea)
- 8k+ attendees expected for the main event
- 3.5M social media posts about KBW
- 150+ media company coverage (ie. NYT, Bloomberg)
- 100+ side events throughout the week
Our team supported Parity’s sponsorship of KBW at every point in the process, from educating the Parity Marketing team on the importance of the Korean market, to managing the process of securing a sponsorship proposal from the CEO of the organizer of KBW, to advising the Parity Marketing team throughout the process of negotiating the sponsorship package on various details relating to speaker slots, event access, side event operations, Seoul specific locations, etc. Ultimately, hosted the Parity team on the ground in Seoul, and facilitated a very successful experience at KBW, and during the week in Seoul, the team was able to set up 100+ meetings with local companies on the ground.
Polkadot Korea Hackathon 2023
The HackaDOT hackathon, held from April 5 to June 9 2023, was not only a local Seoul event but a significant catalyst for fostering impact within the broader Polkadot and Substrate ecosystem in Korea. All of us on the team were all contributors to this effort.
Key participant metrics include:
- Number of registered teams: A total of 64 teams registered for the hackathon, demonstrating the significant interest and participation in the event.
- Number of submitted projects: Among the registered teams, 11 teams successfully completed their projects and submitted them for evaluation.
- Demo day presentations: The top 8 teams were selected from the submissions to present their projects on Demo Day.
- Selected outstanding teams: From the Demo Day presentations, 3 outstanding teams were recognized for their exceptional achievements and awarded for their contributions.
- Participant count: The hackathon witnessed a participation count of 68 individuals, including participants, judges, and organizers.
- After party attendance: Following the Demo Day, an after party was organized, which saw an impressive turnout of 258 individuals.
The core team includes William Croisettier, Hoon Kim, and Eric Wang, plus a set of advisors. William, Hoon, and Eric have worked in the Polkadot ecosystem for a combined 9.5 years, can reasonably be considered experts in the space, and are three of a very small set of people in the Polkadot ecosystem with deep expertise on the Korean market.
William has worked for Parity for almost 2.5 years, where he has been leading the Institutional Relations (VC) team. His focus was on evangelizing Polkadot to a global crypto native VC community of 300+ VC firms, and advising the Polkadot ecosystem of builders on early stage venture issues including fundraising. He has worked with 150+ Polkadot/Substrate builders directly as an advisor and mentor on anything related to early stage Venture Capital. He also contributed directly to expanding the ecosystem of builders as a first point of contact. In total, William has 8 years of VC experience and 8 years of crypto native experience across multiple ecosystems including Polkadot and others (e.g. Ethereum, R3 Corda, Terra, Cardano). William has also worked in Asia for the last 6 years, with a specific focus on Korea and Japan markets. William is typically on the ground in South Korea 6-9 months out of the year.
Hoon has been part of the Polkadot developer ecosystem for the last 4 years since late 2019 and has been one of the first creators and contributors of the Astar Network since it was called Plasm Network. He formerly worked as the CTO of Astar Foundation and has also been an active member of the Polkadot technical roundtable. Hoon was born in South Korea and finished his bachelor’s degree in business administration in Japan, where he joined the Astar project during its conception. He is based in Munich, Germany, and founded a new company called Team STEP, which focuses on creating various platforms and solutions utilizing Astar Network and Polkadot at a technical level to bring new use cases of blockchain technology for the average users. On top of this, he is also building the Astar Governance system and focusing on making the Astar Network decentralized so that companies like Team STEP and other partners can contribute and utilize the network without needing a central foundation. Thanks to his background, Hoon understands the technical intricacies of Polkadot and blockchain technology while understanding the business aspects of the industry. Furthermore, Hoon is ethnically Korean and has been part of the Korean culture for a long time, giving him a deeper understanding of the market and cultural nuances.
Eric brings his deep experience in BD, partnerships, and various L1/L2 ecosystems to this initiative. Eric had worked at Parity for over 3 years, where he oversaw Ecosystem Growth as the Ecosystem Growth Lead and then Head of Strategic Growth Projects. His focus was leading a team to bring crypto-native builders into the ecosystem to build parachains, applications, infrastructure and tooling. He also launched core Parity initiatives such as the Substrate Builders Program. His team brought hundreds of projects to the ecosystem under his leadership. Subsequently, Eric was a Founding Partner of one of the leading crypto funds in Korea, ROK Capital, which was a co-host of Korea Blockchain Week in 2022. At ROK Capital, he was in charge of Venture Capital investments. Eric has also been an advisor to projects like Equilibrium, Moonbeam and Injective Protocol. Currently, Eric is the Head of BD for an interoperability project built on the Polkadot SDK called Analog. Analog also allows for Polkadot parachains to connect with blockchains outside of the Polkadot ecosystem.
In summary, initiatives relating to Polkadot’s localization, brand awareness, and education for a variety of communities in South Korea have historically been sorely lacking and are extremely important for our ecosystem’s success in that region, and we believe we have a great opportunity through the DF program to tackle this problem. We welcome any feedback, comments and suggestions on our proposal overview!
Regards, William, Hoon, and Eric