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South Korea students dive into virtual coins, even as regulators crack down

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

A university student, a member of a club studying cryptocurrencies, attends a meeting at a university in Seoul, South Korea, December 20, 2017. Picture taken on December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL (Reuters) – Hackers have stolen millions, lawmakers are pushing for new taxes and regulations, and a leading financial official has called them a “Ponzi scheme”.

But that hasn’t cooled a frenzy for bitcoin and other virtual currencies that is gripping young investors in South Korea.

On a recent weeknight at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, more than a dozen students crammed into a classroom to share tips on investing in so-called cryptocurrencies, which have driven tales of fantastic returns for savvy investors.

The group sat in rapt silence – broken only by a sudden shout of “there was just a big jump!” from someone monitoring his virtual currencies – as one student gave a presentation on how to read financial data and predict future trends.

“I no longer want to become a math teacher,” said 23-year-old Eoh Kyong-hoon, who founded the club, Cryptofactor. “I’ve studied this industry for more than 10 hours a day over months, and I became pretty sure that this is my future.”

Driven in part by a dismal economic outlook – including an unemployment rate almost three times the national average – young South Koreans are flocking to virtual currencies despite the risks and warnings from officials, analysts say.

It’s a trend that has caught the eye of South Korean leaders and regulators, who announced new measures this week to regulate speculation in cryptocurrency trading within the country.

Concerns about security and thefts of cryptocurrencies by hackers have also been rising. A South Korean cryptocurrency exchange recently shut down and filed for bankruptcy after being hacked for the second time this year.

“Young people and students are rushing into virtual currency trading to earn huge profits in just a short period of time,” Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon said in November. “It is time for the government to take action as it could lead to serious pathological phenomena if left unchecked.”

Eoh said the talk of more regulation had not dented his plans, especially after making what he said was a 20-fold gain on his investments over the past six months.

He said that many students were bringing laptops to class to track the movements of their investments and participate in actual trading. “Even when professors are giving lectures right in front of them,” he said.

Younger investors have especially gravitated toward so-called “altcoins”, or virtual currencies other than bitcoin, which often trade at much lower values, analysts say.

“Since young people are more mobile-friendly, they can actually make more out of altcoin investments as long as they are able to discriminate gems from pebbles,” said Kim Jin-hwa, one of the leaders of the Korea Blockchain Industry Association, an association of 14 virtual currency exchanges.

Iota, one of the fast-gaining altcoins, was traded at $0.82 in late November, but now stands at $3.89, a gain of 374.4 percent, according to Coinmarketcap.com. Energo (TSL), another type of altcoin, gained 400 percent during the same period.

Some young investors say they don’t sleep until after 2 a.m., when there is a lull in the cryptocurrency markets as investors in places like South Korea and Japan log off.

Members of the club say they call each other to make important decisions together, and see information sharing as key to navigating the volatile cryptocurrency markets.

“I literally knew nothing about cryptocurrencies or the economy,” said Lee Ji-woo, a 22-year-old sports industry major. “Everyone here has taught me a lot.”

It’s now emboldened her to dream of a different future.

“I can have two jobs maybe, one as an athlete and another as an investor,” she said.

Intense competition for jobs in South Korea is likely helping to drive interest in virtual currencies among young South Koreans, especially as they see others reaping big gains, said Shin Dong-hwa, head of the Korea Blockchain Exchange.

“Whenever they go onto social network services, they are easily exposed to so many examples of young people around their age earning huge money,” he said.

But some in South Korea’s financial establishment say those hopes may be unfounded.

Kim Yong-beom, vice chairman of the Financial Services Commission, said Monday that the only reason prices were going up was because each investor expected the next buyer down the line to pay a higher price. “That really is a Ponzi scheme,” he said.

Others say students seem more focused on ways to get rich quick rather than on the underlying financial or technological values of digital currency.

“There’s no way to measure their true value yet but students are just going for them, believing that they can earn a big fortune in just a snap,” said Yun Chang-hyun, economics professor at the University of Seoul.

Members of Cryptofactor, however, say they founded the club because of a lack of dedicated cryptocurrency classes on campus and see their efforts as a way to move beyond speculation to informed investing.

“I realised that I was actually speculating rather than investing before I came to this club,” said Kim Myung-jae, a 19-year-old fine arts student, adding that she was especially attracted to altcoins.

“Now that I fully discuss which one to invest in with the members, I‘m actually looking at the true value.”

Additional reporting by Yuna Park, Cynthia Kim; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Philip McClellan

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Mixed waste shipment returns to South Korea

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Monday, January 14th, 2019

Containers of mixed waste materials shipped from South Korea to the Philippines
Containers of mixed waste materials shipped from South Korea to the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – The initial 51 containers of mixed waste materials were already shipped back to Pyeongtaek City in South Korea on Sunday (January 13) after it was deferred from its original schedule on January 9.

Members of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) facilitated the return of the shipments which arrived in the country in October 2018 via Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

According to Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) port collector John Simon, the containers are expected to arrive South Korea between January 19 and 20.

Meanwhile, the BOC targets to finish at the soonest possible time the return of the remaining trash shipment which were dumped at Barangay Sta. Cruz in the town of Tagoloan.

“Ibinigay na natin ang re-exportation documents. They are now obligated to send it back to South Korea,” Simon said.

“Ito ang pinakamabilis na proseso sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas after 15 days. The last time that we talked with the Korean government, it was the 28th of December. So 15 days after, wala na. Tanggal na dito,” he further noted.

However, the Ecowaste Coaltion argued that the issue must not end with the return of the trash shipment to South Korea.

The group stressed that the investigation should push through to find out how the said garbage shipments entered the country so that authorities can eventually pin those responsible for the it.

According to Aileen Lucero, the group’s national coordinator, it is also high time to revise the law and totally ban the importation of waste materials.

“Ang isang magandang magiging epekto nyan, kung meron tayong ban ng import ng waste yung sa atin na basura yun na ang ire-recycle at sabi nga tataas ang employment,” Lucero said.

The UNTV News and Rescue team, meanwhile, sought the side of the shipment’s consignee Verde Soko.

However, the staff present on site refused to grant media interview. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Raymond Octubre)

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Return of waste shipment to S. Korea deferred to January 13

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

FILE PHOTO: The mixed waste materials from South Korea

MANILA, Philippines – The supposed shipment of mixed waste materials back to its origin in South Korea did not push through on the scheduled date Wednesday (January 9).

According to Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) port collector John Simon, the arrival of the cargo ship on which the garbage-filled containers will be loaded has been reset to Saturday (January 13).

Both the governments of the Philippines and South Korea shouldered the shipping expenses for the return of the waste shipment to Pyeongcheck from where it originated.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still investigating the consignee of the shipment Verde Soko Philippines.

Simon assured that the government will do the best it can to pursue those responsible for the illegal shipment.

“Ang Bureau of Customs bilang law enforcement agency ay ipatutupad ang batas, ang batas ay bawal sa ating ang ganyang klaseng kargamento kaya tayo ay may kapangyarihan para sila at paalisin sa bayan natin.” Simon said. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)

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51 garbage-filled containers to return to South Korea on Jan. 9

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Tons of garbage from South Korea

MANILA, Philippines – The South Korean government has agreed to take back the 6,500 tons of mixed waste materials shipped to the Philippines in July and October last year.

Aillen Lucero, the national coordinator of the Ecowaste Coalition said all 51 garbage-filled containers currently located in Tagoloa, Misamis Oriental will be shipped back to their origin in Pyeongtaek City in South Korea on January 9.

“Sinisimulan na ang pagre-repack ng mga nakakalat na basura sa Brgy. Sta. Cruz at ito ang sinasabi nila na isang buwan lang binibigay ng provincial government para pagkatapos ng shipment ng 51 containers isusunod na ang nakakalat na nasa Brgy Sta Cruz,” Lucero said.

According to Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) Port Collector John Simon, investigation by South Korean authorities revealed that the shipper, Green Veko Company, falsified the needed documents to allow the entry of the illegal shipment.

The shipper also did not pay the necessary taxes and duties which violated Philippine regulations,

 “Iyon pong Green Soko ay missing in action. Bigla syang Nawala. They are being investigated now by the Interpol kung anong grupo itong gumawa ng nagpapadala ng basura sa ibat ibang bansa,” Simon noted.

The shipment’s consignee, Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation is also being investigated.

The MICT said if not for the interception of the 51 containers, the Philippines would have received another 81 containers of trash from the same shipper and consignee.

Meanwhile, the garbage shipment from Canada still remains on Philippines soil since their arrival in 2013.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has already created a technical working group who will review the possibilities of returning the shipment to its source country.

“Sana ang Canada mahiya din kayo. Kunin ninyo na ang mga basura ninyo dito sa Pilipinas at ibalik na sa sender, sa Canada ang mga basura,” Lucero said. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)

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