Say what you will about the October 30th seminars for the Seoul International Digital Festival (SIDiF) – that the seminar rooms were oddly small, that the venue was inexplicably difficult to find, that some of the events were conspicuously under-attended. For the teams of the ICON projects that participated, however, the festival was a welcome chance to not only introduce their services, but also to educate the public about the revolutionary potential of blockchain technology.

It was a great opportunity since I not only got to introduce my project, but also learn about other services,” said Sangbum Kim, the CEO of LEVEL, a decentralized media project. Kim presented his project at one of the festival’s seminars. “I’d be grateful if more of these opportunities were created in the future.”

Blockchain helping to digitize Seoul

Marking its second year, SIDiF focuses on the way digital technology is changing the Korean capital of Seoul. This year’s festival adopted the slogan “We Digitialize Seoul.” Though this slogan might not make it immediately apparent, SIDiF’s 2018 edition focused on exploring problems impacting the city – as identified by the city’s residents themselves – and sharing examples of digital innovation from Korea and overseas.

Taking place over five days in three different neighborhoods and encompassing conferences, competitions, hands-on programs and other items, SIDiF is a sprawling affair.

On Tuesday, however, ICON and a few of its DApps participated in two seminars and a panel discussion at the iconic Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP).

ICON also got to demonstrate three blockchain-based services it developed for Seoul Metropolitan Government, namely, a digital ID card, a voting system and an online payment system. Those who took part in the demo also got to take home some ICON swag, including a very fashionable ICON eco bag – in ICON teal blue, of course.

‘Blockchain and Social Innovation’

The first seminar was held in what seemed to be an intentionally hidden conference room that we’ll politely call “cozy”,  on the second floor of the DDP’s Design Lab. I must mention that this room felt larger for the lack of attendants. The seminar focused on how blockchain technology is promoting social innovation.

ICON Foundation council member JH Kim kicked off the seminar with an introduction of the ICON platform, explaining to the small but eager audience its guiding principle of interoperability. He was followed by Joon Hong, the CEO of the decentralized advertising ecosystem weBloc, who likewise introduced his platform to the attendants, illustrating how it aimed to transform an online advertising industry currently plagued by high costs, needless middlemen and a de-incentivized reward structure. The last speaker was Michael Baeg, the CEO of STAYGE, the ICON-based platform for the entertainment industry. Baeg addressed how his team hoped to rectify the injustices of the entertainment industry, an industry where young artists get paid little, if at all, and fans are little more than consumers.

Several of the attendees asked questions after the presentation. In particular, one participant wanted to know how blockchain technology might help traditional markets and small neighborhood shops. JH Kim noted that local governments could use blockchain technology to help merchants rationalize their supply chains and tokenize traditional markets.

“The people attending are ordinary citizens, not just people with a keen interest in blockchain, and they’ve brought an interest in the different services offered by Seoul. It’s good that they got to listen to explanations of the strengths and value of blockchain,” said weBloc’s Joon Hong after the seminar. It would have been nice if the seminar rooms had been larger. And it seemed that participants had some difficulty finding the location.”

Nonetheless, he added, “I think Seoul should host many of these conferences in the future.”

‘Blockchain and Lifestyle’

The second seminar, held in the same seminar room as the first, focused on how blockchain enriches lifestyles.

The first presenter was Sukmin Park, the CEO of DiscoverX, an ICON-based travel DApp striving to break the big online booking sites’ stranglehold on the online travel sector, freeing hoteliers from paying huge commissions in the process. Alex Oh, an advisor for MECA Coin, then shared his team’s neon-drenched vision of a crypto casino, one built on the kind of trust only a smart contract could provide. Sangbum Kim, CEO of LEVEL, finished the seminar by introducing his project, a blockchain-based media network linking one-person media such as bloggers, creatives and freelancers with editors who curate and publish content.

Camping. Romance. Music. ICON.

The second seminar was immediately followed by the Digital Romance Camping Talk Concert. No, we did not make that name up. That’s what it was called.

The venue for the event resembled not so much a campsite as it did the lounge of some tech company’s campus, complete with low, plush couches. Attendees expecting s’mores roasting over a campfire were to be sorely disappointed. 

The event itself was not a concert per se, though it did feature some sets by busking sensation Live Yubin. The “concert” was, in fact, an informal panel discussion led by former TV announcer Kim Bumsoo. ICON Foundation’s JH Kim was a panelist, as were Kim Hyeon-seong, director of the Digital Society Innovation Center, and Mexican-born TV personality Christian Burgos.

The discussion focused on how technologies like blockchain could make life better in the city of Seoul in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In particular, JH Kim noted that regulatory reform in regards to blockchain in Korea could benefit Seoul, pointing to the role blockchain firms have had in turning the small Swiss town of Zug into a center of crypto commerce.