In late June, Japan’s LINE chat application announced that they would be creating their own cryptocurrency exchange titled BITBOX. Alongside thirty initial cryptocurrencies, the exchange site will be available in 15 different languages. However, Japanese is not one of those languages – nor will Japanese investors be allowed to participate on the exchange. This is apparently due to Japanese regulatory concerns, and a similar situation also prevents those in the U.S. from using BITBOX.
Although initially developed by a Korean company, LINE is the dominant chat app in Japan. Alongside basic chat features, they also offer an entire suite of products that allow video calling, social games and even ride sharing. Although virtually unknown outside of Asia, their 2016 IPO was the largest in the tech sector for that year.
The BITBOX Exchange
LINE has been working closely with Japanese regulators to determine the exact route to take with the BITBOX exchange. While this means that Japanese investors will not be involved, initially, it does mean that the framework is present for this functionality to be added in the future. Languages supported include Korean and English, and currencies include most major coins – Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin among others.
BITBOX will not offer any fiat functionality, due in part to the major legal hurdles associated with doing so. LINE’s experience with providing user friendly, high functionality apps will doubtlessly aide them in creating their exchange. Many of the older exchanges suffer from assuming their users are highly tech literate. More recent exchanges like Binance and Kucoin have worked to solve this issue, and profited from the decision.
Japan’s Regulatory Environment
While Japan remains a global hub of tech development and cryptocurrency specifically, recent actions have stymied attempts to expand the industry. Partially due to the Coincheck NEM hack earlier this year, Japan’s government has cracked down on unregulated exchanges and actively sought company representatives. Ostensibly in an attempt to reign in fraud and graft, these actions are perceived by the community is stifling.
Binance, formerly headquartered in Japan, recently vacated the country for more favorable conditions in Malta. Other exchanges were forced to suspend operations for months at a time, or submit to direct governmental monitoring. South Korea and China have both suffered from similar crackdowns and survived, so it may only be a matter of time before Japan finds a compromise between regulation and operation.
Article By: Adam Stone