December has been a big month for central bank digital currency (CBDC).

Last week news broke that the Bank of China would conduct a real-world test of CBDC in the cities of Shenzhen and Suzhou by the end of the year.

In this trial, the Bank of China will issue CBDC and supply it to commercial banks. The commercial banks, in turn, will supply it to individuals. The test program will mark the world’s first real-world adoption of a CBDC, and comes following several years of research by Chinese authorities.

China isn’t alone in its interest in CBDCs. At the beginning of December, France’s central bank confirmed it would launch a trial CBDC for financial institutions in the first quarter of 2020. Sweden is also planning to trial test a CBDC.

Even the head of the Bank of International Settlements is warning central banks to “embrace the revolution under way in digital money to ensure they remain at the heart of the global payments system,” reports Bloomberg.

And then last week, it emerged that the Bank of Korea is hiring a PhD-level cryptocurrency expert to research the design and operation of a payment system using distributed ledger technology, leading to speculation that Seoul is moving to issue a CBDC, too.

The Bank of Korea is denying this, however. Korea’s central bank has taken a cautious approach to CBDCs, pointing to — among other things — similar caution on the part of financial authorities in the United States and Japan.

In the Korean-language blockchain news website The BChain, a bank official is quoted as saying the hire aims to bolster the central bank’s researcher pool. The official explained that the bank has no plans to issue a CBDC, nor was the hire predicated on a CBDC issue.

The official added, however, that innovating payment systems could involve several things, and that a CBDC could be an option.

Also in the Korean blockchain space…

  • Binance US Opens Door to South Korean Blockchain ICON (ICX)
    (By Jessica Bell, Minable, Dec. 12)
    Just in case you missed it. The listing on the major exchange is testament to the progress ICON and ICONLOOP have made towards mass adoption.
  • Terra Launches Mobile Payment Service ‘MemePay’ in Mongolia (Korean)
    (By BlockchainToday, Dec. 13)
    Korean blockchain company Terra’s blockchain-based P2P mobile payment service “MemePay” can be used to make stablecoin payments in participating Mongolian taxis, gas stations and department stores. And taxi drivers that receive points from customers can spend them at gas stations like cash. Terra is working with local partner MemeChat, Mongolia’s leading messaging app.
  • This Year Proved Asia Is Ahead in Crypto-Blockchain Adoption
    (By Michael Ou, Coindesk, Dec. 12)
    Michael Ou, CEO of blockchain security company CoolBitX, writes that Asia has been leading the world in blockchain adoption. The reason? Well, there are many, but the big one is that “[i]Investors in China, Japan, and South Korea are being driven into crypto markets by global and regional trade wars, currency devaluation, and tight government control of individual assets.”
  • Prosecutors Ask for 7 Years for UPBit Chairman Song Chi-hyeong (Korean)
    (TokenPost, Dec. 15)
    Prosecutors in Seoul are asking a judge to give the chairman of one of Korea’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges seven years in prison and KRW 1 billion in fines. They’ve asked for three- and four-year sentences against two other executives, too. The UPBit officials are charged with making millions through fraudulent transactions.