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Elaine Ramirez

Seoul, Korea, South
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About Elaine
I'm Elaine Ramirez, a prose journalist and editor based in Seoul, South Korea.

I cofounded a web magazine in Chile and directed a print magazine in South Korea. I've written and edited for newspapers and magazines in New York, Santiago and Seoul. I currently cover Korea's politics, economics and tech startup scene. Will travel for work.

From Seoul, I've written for The Guardian, The Diplomat, The Korea Herald, Groove Korea, Tech in Asia and Mashable Asia.

Interests: editorial direction/team project management, copy editing, long-form analysis, magazine/story packages

Topics: economics, welfare, development, social issues, entrepreneurship, startups, weird tech, sustainability, green tech
English Spanish Korean
Feature Stories Content Writing Research
Business Politics Current Affairs

'Pacman' Gobbled NFT Sales With Blur

04 Dec 2023  |  www.coindesk.com
OpenSea's dominance in the NFT marketplace has significantly declined from over 75% to around 20% as of late 2022, with Blur emerging as a major competitor. Blur, focusing on high-volume traders and offering robust analytics, facilitated $301 million in trades shortly after its launch. By February 2023, Blur overtook OpenSea in market dominance. The pseudonymous cofounder of Blur, known as Pacman, revealed his identity as Tieshun Roquerre, a 24-year-old software engineer and founder of Namebase. Despite OpenSea's continued popularity among art-focused and new NFT users, Blur now commands 76% of the trading volume.

5 Years After the $500K Ethereum Wager Between Joe Lubin and Jimmy Song, Who Won?

05 Oct 2023  |  markets.businessinsider.com
Five years after a $500,000 wager between Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin and Bitcoin maximalist Jimmy Song, the outcome remains ambiguous. The bet hinged on whether five Ethereum-based decentralized applications (dapps) would achieve significant user traction by May 2023. Data from blockchain firms Artemis and Nansen suggest that five dapps met the criteria, but there is debate over whether these qualify as true dapps. The results highlight the early stage of the industry and the ongoing rivalry between Ethereum and Bitcoin. Despite the uncertainty, the wager underscores the evolving landscape of decentralized applications and blockchain technology.

The LG V20 is a safe, dependable upgrade, after the failure of modular G5 smartphone

01 Oct 2023  |  Mashable
With the Samsung Galaxy Note7's market exit, LG aims to fill the gap with its new flagship V20, especially in South Korea where it has seen strong sales. The V20, a high-end, sleek upgrade from the failed modular G5, focuses on content creation features for the U.S. market. LG hopes the V20 will restore positive brand perception and market share, emphasizing high-quality design and performance, including advanced audio and video capabilities, and the latest Android Nougat OS.

Navigating Asia's start-up landscape: Opportunities and challenges for foreign entrepreneurs

05 Apr 2023  |  www.koreaherald.com
The article discusses the varying conditions for foreign entrepreneurs looking to establish start-ups in different Asian countries. It highlights the growth of entrepreneurship in Asia and the mobility of younger entrepreneurs, as mentioned by Peter Wall, cofounder of Hubud in Bali. The article provides insights into the advantages and challenges in countries like Singapore, South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. Factors such as market size, infrastructure, legal barriers, cultural differences, government support, and local competition are examined. Specific conditions for setting up a business, such as capital requirements, visa processes, and employment conditions for foreigners, are detailed for each country. The article is written by Sang Youn-joo and Elaine Ramirez for The Korea Herald and is part of a series on foreigners working in Korea's technology start-up ecosystem.

Bitcoin City: El Salvador’s Dreams for Utopia on Hold

25 Mar 2022  |  www.coindesk.com
El Salvador's ambitious plan to create Bitcoin City in La Unión, featuring zero taxes and powered by geothermal energy, faces skepticism due to previous issues with the country's bitcoin wallet rollout and delays in bitcoin bond issuance. While some locals see potential economic benefits, others are uncertain about the project's feasibility. The government plans to issue a $1 billion bitcoin-backed bond to fund the city's development, but geopolitical factors have caused delays. Despite a high acceptance rate of bitcoin in La Unión, actual usage remains low, with many businesses reporting no significant impact from bitcoin transactions.

Why South Korea's Gaming Giants Are Storming Into Cryptocurrencies

30 May 2018  |  Forbes
South Korea's leading gaming companies, including Nexon, Netmarble, Yello Mobile, NHN Entertainment, and Smilegate, are increasingly investing in blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies to create new business models and revenue streams. These companies are exploring various applications of blockchain, from in-game currencies to potential ICOs, despite the country's slower blockchain development compared to other nations. Key figures in the industry, such as Bang Jun-hyuk of Netmarble, are driving these initiatives, while academic and market experts provide insights into the potential and challenges of these technologies.

Clear Bottles, Banned Bags Drive South Korea’s Waste Plan

16 May 2018  |  news.bloomberglaw.com
South Korea is enhancing its recycling capabilities and moving away from plastic bags and hard-to-recycle plastic bottles following China's ban on certain recyclables. Supermarket chains are phasing out excess plastic packaging, and the government is encouraging more voluntary agreements with retailers. Additionally, there is a push for companies to use clear PET bottles instead of colored ones, as they are easier to recycle. Coca-Cola Korea's Sprite, known for its green bottles, is implicated in this change.

South Korea's Crypto Headlines Are Full Of Fake News -- CoinDesk Wants To Bring Clarity

27 Apr 2018  |  Forbes
CoinDesk, in partnership with South Korean news company The Hankyoreh, launched CoinDesk Korea to combat fake news in the cryptocurrency industry. The collaboration aims to provide legitimate news and increase understanding of the market, which has been plagued by scams and misinformation. The Hankyoreh's commitment to democracy resonates with the decentralized nature of blockchain. CoinDesk's CEO Kevin Worth emphasizes the importance of overcoming language barriers to access news. Editor Yoo Shinjae of CoinDesk Korea highlights the need for serious discussion and responsible journalism to build trust and make the market safer.

How Coinone Is Harnessing South Korea's Cryptocurrency Fever

10 Apr 2018  |  Forbes
Coinone, a major South Korean crypto exchange led by CEO Cha Myunghun, has grown rapidly amid the country's cryptocurrency boom. As a Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia honoree, Cha emphasizes the importance of responsible trading and education in the industry. Despite regulatory challenges and market volatility, Coinone has set high technological standards and is expanding its services, including remittances and international exchange. Cha also aims to foster a progressive work culture within the company.

30 Under 30 Asia 2018: Social Renaissance Underscores South Korea's Honorees

26 Mar 2018  |  Forbes
South Korea's 30 Under 30 Asia 2018 honorees reflect a social renaissance driven by progressive youth challenging conservative norms. Highlighted figures include John Woong-hee Lee, founder of One Life One Tech, who emphasizes social responsibility in business, and artist Heezy Hang, who uses his art to advocate for LGBTQ rights. The trio behind Instinctus promotes reproductive health and challenges taboos around contraception. The article underscores the impact of South Korea's candlelight revolution and the ongoing #MeToo movement, showcasing the country's potential for socially-driven entrepreneurship.

In The Race For 5G, South Korea Shows Off Its Tech Prowess At The Winter Olympics

23 Feb 2018  |  Forbes
South Korea demonstrated its technological advancements in 5G at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, with applications such as a LED-lit dove of peace and immersive broadcasting. The country aims to lead in future technologies, with 5G being the core infrastructure for autonomous vehicles, IoT, and virtual/augmented reality. Local telecom giant KT plans to deploy 5G nationwide by late 2019, and the technology is expected to revolutionize various industries, including transportation and e-commerce. Challenges remain in creating a global standard, but South Korea is poised to announce its 5G spectrum, allowing KT to begin infrastructure rollout.

Here's The Only Place At The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Where You Can Pay With Crypto

09 Feb 2018  |  Forbes
At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, a ski rental shop near the Olympic Plaza is the first venue in the host city to accept cryptocurrency, specifically Ethereum, as payment. Despite language barriers, the shop uses Google Translate and the local payment platform Coinduck to facilitate transactions. South Korea is currently embroiled in debates over cryptocurrency regulation, with anonymous transactions banned and discussions ongoing about ICOs. Coinduck, launched by Chain Partners, is optimistic about the future of crypto payments and is working to onboard more vendors. Although no crypto transactions have occurred at the ski shop yet, Coinduck is prepared to handle the volatility of Ethereum by instantly converting it to Korean won.

Why South Korea Is Banning All Foreigners From Trading Cryptocurrency

23 Jan 2018  |  Forbes
South Korea's financial regulators, led by the Financial Services Commission, are implementing sweeping cryptocurrency regulations to curb speculative overheating and illegal activity. These measures include banning foreigners and minors from opening new cryptocurrency accounts and banning anonymous trading on domestic exchanges, effective January 30. The regulations aim to tackle money laundering and related crimes, with the government expressing concern over market manipulation and illegal fund injections. Existing foreign investors will be allowed to withdraw assets but cannot make new deposits. The Korea Blockchain Association and its member exchanges are aligning with the new regulations, which also require real-name verification for trading. The government's approach seeks to balance the potential of blockchain technologies with the need to control risky behaviors such as hacking and fraud.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race In South Korea's Startup Scene

03 Jan 2018  |  Forbes
South Korea's startup scene is experiencing steady growth, driven by government support and the emergence of high-quality startups. Notable companies like Viva Republica and Woowa Bros. have made significant strides, while sectors such as AI, blockchain, and fintech are gaining momentum. The government, under President Moon Jae-in, continues to foster the ecosystem through initiatives and substantial funding. Despite challenges in the cryptocurrency sector, blockchain technology shows promise, with several startups and major companies embracing it. The overall sentiment towards the startup environment is positive, with a focus on sustainable growth and innovation.

5 Times Cryptocurrencies Rocked South Korea In 2017

19 Dec 2017  |  Forbes
In 2017, South Korea experienced significant volatility and regulatory developments in the cryptocurrency market. Key events included the country's first ICOs, the rise of the Kimchi Premium, major companies like Samsung SDS and Nexon entering the blockchain space, and the government's increasing regulatory actions against ICOs and cryptocurrency exchanges. Despite regulatory uncertainties, the local blockchain scene remained active, with the Korea Blockchain Association pledging self-regulations. The government's stance on cryptocurrencies and ICOs remains cautious, with potential for stricter regulations in 2018 to prevent fraud and speculation.

Smart Speakers Flood South Korea, But Are The Country's Tech Giants Too Late To The Game?

29 Nov 2017  |  Forbes
South Korea's tech giants, including Samsung and LG, are late entrants to the smart speaker market, facing challenges such as language barriers and risk aversion. Despite the country's tech-savvy population and high smartphone ownership, the adoption of smart speakers remains uncertain. Telecom companies like SK and KT were the first to launch smart speakers, but their strategies may hinder rapid development. In contrast, internet companies Kakao and Naver are seen as strong competitors due to their comprehensive AI platforms and extensive consumer services. The future of smart speakers in South Korea will depend on content and how it enhances daily life.

South Korea's SparkLabs Launches $100M Fund To Power Blockchain Startups Worldwide

18 Oct 2017  |  Forbes
SparkLabs Group, South Korea's first startup accelerator, has launched SparkChain Capital, a $100 million fund dedicated to blockchain and cryptocurrency innovations. The fund, led by Joyce Kim, aims to support early-stage startups and build long-lasting technological platforms. SparkLabs has previously invested in blockchain startups such as Blocko and Sentbe in South Korea, and Cyrex in Stockholm. The fund plans to invest in entrepreneurs and teams, with a focus on due diligence and long-term collaboration. SparkChain Capital is also planning an ICO and intends to integrate blockchain software to streamline its operations.

An ICO Ban In Japan Is Still A 'Definite Possibility'

15 Oct 2017  |  Forbes
Japan, an early adopter of Bitcoin as legal tender, faces uncertainty regarding its stance on initial coin offerings (ICOs). Despite its significant influence in the cryptocurrency market, Japan's conservative industries and cautious regulators may still impose a ban on ICOs. Koji Higashi, cofounder of IndieSquare, highlights the potential risks and benefits of ICOs, noting the possibility of scams and the need for regulation. While Japan's regulators have been gradually learning about the technology since the Mt. Gox hack, the future of ICOs in Japan remains uncertain. The article also mentions the involvement of big banks in launching the J Coin and retailers like Bic Camera accepting Bitcoin.

China's Crypto Crackdown Won't Slow Down Asia, Says Ethereum Creator Vitalik Buterin

27 Sep 2017  |  Forbes
China's recent stringent regulations on initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency exchanges are unlikely to impact the broader Asian market, according to Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin. While China may continue to tighten its grip, other countries like Singapore, Thailand, and Japan are adopting more permissive approaches. Buterin emphasizes the importance of flexibility in early-stage regulations to combat bad actors without stifling innovation. Despite regulatory challenges, the cryptocurrency market in Asia remains robust, with significant fundraising activities in South Korea and Singapore. Buterin predicts that Ethereum will eventually match Visa in scale, though security and scalability remain critical challenges. He advocates for continued research and improvements in blockchain technology to ensure secure and scalable solutions.

Duolingo Is Launching A Korean Course To Cash In On Asia's Booming Language Market

07 Sep 2017  |  Forbes
Duolingo has launched a Korean course for English learners, with plans to introduce Mandarin Chinese by the end of the year. The company is focusing on the high demand for Asian languages, driven by cultural phenomena like K-pop and K-dramas. Duolingo's approach to language learning, which emphasizes conversational phrases over rote memorization, has proven successful, particularly with its Japanese course. The company is adapting its methods to meet the unique needs of Asian markets, including technical adaptations for non-Roman alphabets and localized content. Duolingo's revenue model includes ads, in-app purchases, and English certification tests, and it recently received $25 million in funding to support new initiatives.

These South Korean Entrepreneurs Are Leading The Charge Against Climate Change

Crazy For Cryptocurrency: Why South Koreans Are Risking It All On Ethereum

02 Aug 2017  |  Forbes
South Koreans are heavily investing in cryptocurrencies, particularly Ethereum, driven by limited local investment options and a high-risk appetite. The market is characterized by significant volatility and high trade volumes, often influenced by media hype and local fintech developments. Despite the enthusiasm, experts warn of potential risks and regulatory challenges. The involvement of major companies like Samsung SDS and the push for more investment-friendly regulations under President Moon Jae-in's administration are expected to shape the future of the market.

South Korea's First Autonomous Car Drives Like A Mom

22 Jun 2017  |  Forbes
South Korea's first autonomous car, SNUver, developed by Seoul National University, has begun testing on urban roads in Seoul. The car, aimed at Level 4 autonomy, has been upgraded to better navigate the aggressive driving conditions of the city. The project, led by Professor Seo Seung-woo, has seen significant progress despite initial skepticism in Korea. The team plans to continue testing and improving the technology, with future applications in mass transit and on-demand delivery. Hyundai Motor and Naver are also involved in autonomous vehicle testing, with the Korean government supporting the development of this technology.

Why Entrepreneurs Come To South Korea - And Why They Don't

25 May 2017  |  Forbes
South Korea's government initiated a 'creative economy drive' in 2012 to foster a startup scene, leveraging its high internet speeds and smartphone penetration, and corporations like Samsung and Hyundai. Despite these advantages, foreign entrepreneurs face language and cultural barriers, and the tech industry lacks diversity. The government has introduced programs like the K-Startup Grand Challenge to attract foreign startups, offering incentives such as free flights and office space. While some entrepreneurs find value in these programs, others criticize the bureaucratic processes and stringent labor laws. The article discusses the mixed reactions to these initiatives and the challenges of entering and scaling up in the Korean market. It also highlights the potential of Korea's IT infrastructure and trend-conscious society for testing new products and services.

How This Entrepreneur Is Helping South Koreans Pick Their Next President

07 May 2017  |  Forbes
South Koreans are preparing for a landmark election to replace the impeached president Park Geun-hye. Entrepreneur Rebekah Kang and her team, known for their activism through ParkGeunHack, have developed NudePresident, an online quiz to help voters make informed decisions based on candidates' policies. The tool has gained significant traction among millennials, reflecting a growing political engagement. Despite challenges in product stickiness and monetization, Kang aims to continue using technology to promote democratic values and keep elected officials accountable.

Korea’s start-up community breathes sigh of relief with new crowdfunding act

01 Aug 2016  |  www.koreaherald.com
The article discusses the approval of the crowdfunding act in Korea, which is expected to significantly aid start-ups by allowing equity-based crowdfunding. This method enables individuals to invest in start-ups through online brokerage sites. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning anticipates a substantial growth in the Korean crowdfunding industry. Despite the optimism, there are concerns about investment restrictions and the effectiveness of Korean platforms compared to established ones like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Zikto, a Seoul-based wearable device-maker, has successfully raised funds on Kickstarter and expresses skepticism about switching to a local platform. The article also touches on the global rise of equity crowdfunding and contrasts it with reward-based crowdfunding. It highlights the government's role in protecting investors and fostering a healthy crowdfunding ecosystem, while also noting the potential downsides of excessive government intervention. Industry experts emphasize the importance of crowdfunding for attracting venture capital and the challenges Korean start-ups face in a globally competitive market.


The digital nomad: lonely, white, male?

History of Uber's rise, fall and lukewarm comeback in Seoul.

Infographic and analysis of South Korea's funding scene. Despite many of the local venture capital firms starting from scratch within the past few years, Korea already has the third-biggest funding ecosystem in Asia, behind China and India, thanks mostly to overseas investors eyeing the local red ocean.

Want your phone battery to last a week? This startup may have the key.

The definitive guide to who's who in South Korea's startup scene in winter 2016.


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