Dunamu looks to global NFT market for growth

By Lee Min-hyung mhlee@koreatimes.co.kr



The Korea Times Co.



BUSAN — Dunamu, the operator of the nation’s dominant crypto exchange platform, Upbit, has identified the worldwide non-fungible token (NFT) industry as its next big growth area amid the rise of the “fandom economy,” CEO Lee Sirgoo said, Thursday, on the sidelines of this year’s Upbit Developer Conference (UDC) in Busan. “We have tried multiple businesses — such as custody and digital wallet services — but faced difficulties expanding into non-crypto trading sectors,” Lee told reporters during a press conference. “But we need to keep finding new revenue areas, and have high hopes of turning a new joint venture — set up with Korea’s top entertainment firm, HYBE — into our next major growth driver.” Dunamu and HYBE, the Seoulbased music label managing K-pop superstar group BTS, established the joint venture, named Levvels, recently in the United States, and plan to launch an NFT-trading platform targeting the fans of HYBE’s artists. When asked about the firm’s earnings fall caused by the crypto market doldrums, Lee remained confident in its potential to rebound. Dunamu reported an earnings surprise last year when its operating profit surpassed 3.2 trillion won, up 3,676 percent from the previous year. But the figure fell to 556.1 billion won in the first half of this year, down 69.7 percent from a year earlier, on freezing crypto market sentiment. “2021 was very unusual, and the market was extremely overheated then,” Lee said. “The economy has now entered a downturn phase, and it is natural for the prices of cryptocurrencies to fall in line with the economic conditions. But we have an unwavering belief that the market, in itself, will keep growing.” It remains unclear when exactly the company will be able to achieve a major earnings turnaround, but Dunamu is not planning to stay still until that time comes, the CEO stressed, adding that the company will keep seeking out new opportunities in overseas markets. “We hope to generate tangible outcomes by selling NFTs featured with global artists,” he said. Lee pledged to continue enhancing company transparency, security and customer protection, as part of its strategy to differentiate itself from its rivals. “We believe customers have supported us, as we have not been mired in any scandals in the three areas,” he said. “Now is the right time for us to give back to the society, as we have grown massively in size for the past few years. Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) is the talk of the town in any industry, so we are stepping up our efforts on improving our activities there.” The company has been engaged in a series of activities to fulfill its ESG requirements. For instance, it recently shared its social drive to create more than 10,000 jobs nationwide by investing 500 billion won over the next five years. “We used to donate money for young people facing financial difficulties, but realized that we need more longer-term plans to help them stand on their own feet,” Lee said.