Now in its fifth year, Korea Blockchain Week 2022 (KBW 2022) has grown from 4,000 attendees to more than 8,700 people (42% of which are foreigners) — plus 130 influential speakers in the blockchain industry. At this year’s event, three or four conferences took place simultaneously at venues across Seoul — including the Grand InterContinential Seoul Parnas Hotel, DDP, Some Sevit and Jamsil Sports Complex — transforming KBW 2022 into a platform and public forum dedicated to the theme of blockchain.
Coinciding with the main event, IMPACT, there were a total of 97 registered events throughout the week, including KBW Official Hackerhouse, Seoul Connect, Adoption: KBW Institution Day, Impact NFT Gallery and BlockParty. And now, building on this success, KBW is looking to become one of the world’s top three blockchain events. As Seon-ik Jeon, CEO of FactBlock, an organizer of KBW 2022, explains: “Since the opening of the blockchain scene in 2018, ‘crypto’ and ‘Korea’ were searched together the most. ‘Blockchain’ was the next popular word searched with ‘Korea.’ If the search is kept at this rate, I thought I could organize a global event based on this theme, so I organized and hosted KBW.”
For Jeon, the idea for KBW first started around 2017, when he was in Tokyo, a place where credit cards aren’t even popular yet people were making payments with bitcoins. “I believed that the blockchain industry would become mainstream,” he adds. “I thought that it would be possible to share information transparently and place Korea at the center of the Asian market by holding conferences and events with global leaders as it was before the blockchain market opened in Korea.”
He met with blockchain founders who were performing Asian marketing activities in Japan to collect information on the blockchain industry, and debuted KBW the next summer. They spend a year inviting popular speakers that the audience and community want to see, but unlike other types of conferences, they don’t pay the speakers to attend — it was all voluntary (they do, however, cover standard hotel rooms and return flight tickets for keynote speakers).
“If you have a good agenda, you can invite good speakers,” Jeon says. “The greater the number of audience an event has, the greater the chances that the speaker feels encouraged to give a better speech. In order to attract a large number of people, you must be able to offer great value constantly. By doing so, a virtuous circle of content can be created.”
The first year was the most demanding in terms of speakers, but once they invited Nick Szabo and David Chaum — the duo who laid out the foundation for today’s blockchain — the second year, they earned the attention of tech-based founders and 1% of the global blockchain industry. “It was also important that Korea became a popular destination, a hip country—I feel that people’s perceptions changed a lot since 2018 [when South Korea actively opened its doors to blockchain],” he adds.
In 2018, the country was undergoing social issues and the “philosophy of blockchain was degraded.” Jeon created FactBlock as a way to mitigate the damage and create a venue for knowledge and information exchange by inviting experts to Korea. “FactBlock, a blockchain community builder, is a product of such efforts,” he explains. “To put it simply, KBW and FactBlock share the objective of expanding the base of the blockchain industry through a healthy community.”
One of the highlight’s of this year’s event was the opening speech by Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, titled “Post Merge: Next Step for Ethereum,” in which Buterin predicted, “the scalability of blockchain will be significantly improved after an update to proof-of-stake(Pos) scheduled in September…which will make the payments using cryptocurrencies more prevalent within two to three years.”
Other speakers included Henry Chang, CEO of Wemade, who showcased his vision to create an open blockchain gaming platform, which he aims to be the top of its kind in three years, and Sam Seo, the director of the Klaytn Foundation, an organisation focusing on blockchain games to build an environment that can incorporate blockchain into the metaverse.
The goal now is to grow the event to 10,000 participants and use international events like this one to place more global attention on Korea and show how the country attracts and curates quality events and world-class speakers.“What we had to do first was to create MICE that could garner attention and evoke a keyword associated with ‘Korea.’ In fact, there aren’t many words associated with Korea generating a lot of searches—that’s why each and every event is equally important,” he explains in an interview following the success of this year’s event.
“For instance, imagine you make a plan that allows a participant to attend a single MICE event in Korea and go back to their country. In such cases, you can invite foreign speakers but not a foreign audience. That’s why we added the concept of ‘week’ to the event so that the audience can fully enjoy Korea for a week, and, luckily, I think the concept of KBW resonated with the audience from the beginning.”