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The Shortage of Web3 Developers in Korea

EP1 A Dive into the Abyss

The scarcity of Web3 developers in Korea isn't merely a market anomaly; it's a symptom of a deeper, more philosophical ailment rooted within the society. So, what lies beneath this phenomenon?

Why Web3 Developers are Jumping Ship

Over the tragic span of two and a half years, I've had the displeasure of cycling through four companies due to the volatile nature of Web3, crossing paths with a myriad of developers along the way. It's disheartening, really, to hear stories, as depicted in those charts, of developers with exceptional domain knowledge deciding to abandon the blockchain battlefield.

Today, let's unravel why Korea is running low on Web3 developers and why the collaboration among them remains a pipe dream. The tales of departure boil down to two main reasons:

  1. They wanted to solve problems, but it's unclear what issues Web3 is actually tackling.

  2. Web3 promises rapid salary growth and promotions for juniors. However, junior developers often hit a ceiling in terms of systematic growth within Web3 companies.

Putting aside the shady and scammy facets of the Web3 industry, which are universally acknowledged, let's delve into these two points through the lens of Korean societal norms.

"I Wanted to Solve Problems, But What Are We Solving Here?"

First, we need to address what the average Korean developer perceives as a "problem" and reconsider the philosophical quandaries that gave rise to blockchain and Bitcoin. To cut to the chase, the Korean society places a higher value on the convenience of central authority than on solving “centralization problems” and enhancing “individual rights”that blockchain aims to address. The issues Korean developers wish to tackle are fundamentally different from those focused on by blockchain.

Convenience Over Privacy

Seoul, possibly the city with the world's densest CCTV network, places public benefit and collective sacrifice over individual privacy and value. This societal stance is evident in the pervasive acceptance of surveillance, from ubiquitous security cameras to vehicle black boxes recording every moment on the road.

While European blockchain builders I've met despise Worldcoin, it seems less controversial in Korea. The nation's comfort with state-managed personal identification and surveillance illustrates a collective indifference towards the privacy invasions that blockchain seeks to mitigate.

460,000 personal information records were hacked and leaked from Coupang, South Korea's top shopping platform.

Blockchain's mission to protect individual liberty from the middleman contrasts sharply with Korea's acceptance of personal data exploitation for convenience in services. The prerequisite of managing a blockchain wallet and seed phrase introduces a significant UX barrier, overshadowing the potential benefits of participating in permissionless, decentralized services.

In the digital wilderness of Korea, developers find themselves at a crossroads, untouched by the allure of "Permissionless" and "Decentralization." It's a reflection of a society that never quite put the individual and freedom in the spotlight. With no philosophical foundation to stand on, the discomfort of self-custody in Web3 feels like an unnecessary burden. This disconnection spirals into a realm where the very services they create seem nothing more than a pump & dump gamble, sinking them deeper into a chasm of skepticism towards Web3.

Unhappy Yet well settled Korean Society

The true essence of blockchain and crypto shines not in times of peace but in the throes of crisis. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Bitcoin soared from $38,000 to $44,000, a beacon in a black swan event that threaten our sense of security.

Korea, perched precariously amidst nuclear threats from the North, the ever-contentious China to its left, war-torn Russia above, and a right-wing Japan, seems like it should be on constant alert. Yet, to the people living in Korea, it feels surprisingly safe—a nation lulled into a sense of security, perhaps too accustomed to living in the shadow of danger. The primary concern isn't geopolitical strife but the mundane: the everyday struggle to make ends meet, far overshadowing any external threats.

The Shadow of State-led Growth

Since the 1960s, Korea has witnessed an impressive era of economic growth, driven by a government-led strategy that concentrated on specific sectors like export industries such as heavy chemical industries. This approach involved financial repression, high import barriers, and guarantees of monopolies. Despite numerous adverse effects, this centralized leadership's growth was celebrated worldwide as the "Miracle on the Han River," buoying the nation's morale. This period of rapid expansion, led by the authoritarian figure Park Chung-hee, despite his flaws, garnered nostalgic support from the older generations, propelling his daughter, Park Geun-hye, to become Korea's first female president—though her tenure ended in impeachment due to corruption and misconduct.

The government's economic strategy, however, led to significant side effects: overinvestment in heavy industries, economic concentration in conglomerates, inflation, and suppression of worker’s rights. Additionally, a risk-sharing system between the government and the private sector emerged, leading to widespread insolvency in businesses and financial institutions, eventually spiraling into an economic crisis. This scenario fostered an overconfidence in government capabilities among politicians, bureaucrats, and the general populace, posing a significant obstacle to establishing a market economy order.

Investment-Failed Young People in Their 20s and 30s Flock to the Rehabilitation Court

An extension of this belief in government problem-solving materialized in the form of personal bankruptcy laws, which were adjusted as more individuals went bankrupt from debt-financed cryptocurrency investments, effectively making the government cover the debts incurred from failed crypto investments. Initially, the legal proceedings for personal rehabilitation included the principal amount invested in cryptocurrencies as part of the debtor's assets, and proceedings were only initiated if debts exceeded assets. However, from July 2022, guidelines were introduced to exclude loans used for cryptocurrency investments from the debt calculation. For example, if someone borrowed 10 million won for crypto investments and lost 9 million won, only the remaining 1 million won would be considered as debt. This guideline, controversially applied only in Seoul, essentially created a legal loophole for residents investing in cryptocurrencies with borrowed money and failing to repay without consequences (currently discontinued).

Increase in personal bankruptcies among people in their 20s.

Korea tends to adopt a makeshift approach to legislation, crafting laws to temporarily alleviate situations as they arise, similar to the aforementioned law. Such administrative missteps perpetuate the societal perception of blockchain and cryptocurrencies as mere gambling and speculative tools, with the government seen as the solver of problems created by these technologies. This approach, neglecting the technical nuances and potential of blockchain, hinders the in-depth discussion and development of blockchain technology within Korea, painting a complex picture of a society grappling with the rapid evolution of digital finance and its implications on traditional economic structures and societal norms.

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Today, we've traversed through the societal atmosphere and system of Korea, where the collective takes precedence over the individual. This prioritization has sculpted a philosophical foundation—or lack thereof—making it challenging for developers to resonate with the issues blockchain seeks to address. My musings have laid bare how societal values shape the disconnect between developers and the blockchain's mission. In the next installment, I intend to delve into the blockchain scene in Korea, a realm where developers find it tough to envision systematic growth.

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#korea blockchain market#korea market insight#web3#web3 developer#web3 korea#asia blockchain market
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