The Metaverse! If you follow tech news, you’ve probably seen it pop up here and there. You may have seen Facebook’s plans to create “the future of the mobile internet”, or visions of virtual online gaming. In many of these cases, it is far from reality just yet. In South Korea, however, things are a little different. We are starting to slowly see aspects of the metaverse merge with everyday life.
What is the Metaverse
First – what is the metaverse? Created from “meta”, meaning beyond, and “verse”, from universe. In sum, it is a shared, 3D virtual space that is seen by some as the future of the internet. You can already access it in the form of a virtual world where you create an avatar as a digital representation of yourself.
But the metaverse is not limited to online entertainment. The South Korean government believes the metaverse will speed up the digital transformation in industries such as healthcare, education, and retail. This past July, the Korean government allocated 9.3 trillion KRW toward the digital transformation of society.
The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) also launched a Metaverse Alliance, which now has more than 400 members. Its members include major banks, entertainment companies, and telecommunications companies. The metaverse alliance aims to implement related technologies in six main sectors: medicine, manufacturing, education, and retail.
Pandemic Driver of the metaverse
The pandemic has been a driver of the progression of the metaverse in Korea. With people working and learning from home, the demand for digitized workspaces has grown. Some companies have shifted to virtual offices that allow workers to interact in a similar way that they would in the office, but at home. Additionally, some upscale academies have begun offering courses on the platform.
In fact, Seoul City launched digital science courses for students during lockdowns in August of 2021. They were available through the metaverse platform Gather Town. Since then, whenever classes go online Gether Town is the platform of choice.
Another metaverse platform that has taken off during the pandemic is Naver’s Zepeto. Currently, they stand at 20 million active users. And, let me tell you – this platform is extremely impressive. It’s set to give Microsoft and Facebook (Meta) a run for their money.
Creators can design their own worlds and avatar items that they can sell to other users – for real money. In particular, the worlds are absolutely stunning. You can ski among the northern lights, explore the pyramids, or join friends in an escape room. Then, there is an Instagram-like platform within Zepeto where influencers post about their adventures. Some companies have even begun advertising on the platform. Disney recently made a Little Mermaid-inspired world to promote Disney Plus in Korea. And, Gucci’s recent exhibition at the DDP was also available to view on the platform.
To read more about Zepeto Click Here.
Going forward, digitization is expected to expand even further. It will become part of everyday life.
Investment in innovation
Investors have been quick to join the hype. Major asset management firms like Samsung and KB have created metaverse funds that invest in global stocks such as Facebook, PayPal, Square, and Naver.
Even politicians have made use of the metaverse. Ahead of Korea’s 2022 presidential election, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates launched a virtual campaign.
With its strong technical capacity and well-educated workforce, South Korea sees itself as well-positioned to become a leader in metaverse innovation. Do you think the future of the Metaverse is in Korea?