Growing up, I heard many stories of Korea — but these were the stories told from the perspective of a young soldier, my grandfather, who fought his way across the peninsula after landing at Incheon on the 15th of September, 1950. As a child, I remember him sitting in his chair and rubbing ointment into his frostbitten feet — a very clear reminder of the fighting in engagements during that first hard winter, but nothing compared to what many Koreans heroically endured. Like many decedents of the men and women who lived through that tumultuous period of history, I am disconnected from the war and its causes. However, what I have kept from the long conversations with my grandfather is a fascination with Korea. Stepping off the plane at the Incheon International Airport with Wit “BloodyEwE” Sumathavanit, it occurred to me that I was, in some small way, walking in my grandfather’s footsteps.
For months, I have worked with some amazing members of the XPChain team in Korea, Japan, and all around the world. When I had the opportunity to come visit for a few days of working meetings, I was delighted. Upon landing, we very quickly met up with Haley “Satoshigame” Kim, Sangsu “Kellan” Lee, and Eddy “veNeficus” Park for burgers in Gangnam. As I have built a reputation in the XPChain community as being the “burgers and beer” guy, the first step was burgers with Satoshigame before heading on over to the brand new XPChain office smack dab in the middle of the district popularized by Psy’s “Gangnam Style” single of a few years back. I found the district itself to be beautiful, with small shop-lined streets that people could stroll down and little traffic. The weather was beautiful, the sky was blue, and I was surrounded by the beauty of Korean culture.
Reaching the XPChain Korea headquarters, I met with “Arnold” Cho and Eugene “ArtWide” Kim and toured their office space. In all of my years traveling, I have never experienced a ritual quite like the Korean ritual of gosa, which is a ceremony to bring prosperity and ward off misfortune for a new business. Traditionally, this ceremony is performed with a pig’s head, however, as Satoshigame pointed out, that is pretty icky sometimes, so instead we had a pig’s head made out of cake with buttercream frosting. Gleefully, we crammed its ears, nose, and collar with dollars, won, baht, and even a Trezor. Having lived in Thailand for nearly a decade, I am used to traditions being somewhat confusing and different to me, but the gosa stood out to me as a fascinating example of Korea’s rich cultural past.
Dinner that night was Korean barbecue and kimchi. Much to the amusement of our hosts, I could actually use chopsticks (and actually prefer the Korean metal versions) and have an inborn love for spicy food. We finished off the evening with some soju bombs. I have seen pictures of people on the internet sprawled over park benches and slumped in chairs as a result of soju, and having hung out and had a bit of it, I can entirely see how that would be possible — it is deceptively smooth and doesn’t FEEL like it has a lot of alcohol in it. When you drink bourbon or tequila, you know you are drinking alcohol…but when you drink soju, it’s a bit like having a slightly off Capri Sun with the same impact as a rock hammer to the temple.
The following morning, we met back at the office and dove straight into a solid day of brainstorming. The beauty of working with the XPChain team is that unlike many other projects I have advised and worked on, they have the capacity to develop nearly anything that can be dreamed up. While Satoshigame did most of the talking for the Korean team, we bounced ideas back and forth, pushing one another to refine ideas through iteration after iteration of whiteboards covered with scribbles, diagrams, tables, and flowcharts. One of the nice things about being in the middle of an innovation age is that nearly everyone is ready to dream and create. The nice thing about having a team of experienced developers is that they are willing to stop the ideation process from running too far ahead of development. I cannot express how nice it is to have developers with a true understanding of the blockchain and the technologies we are using on hand to assist and refine XPChain.
We then went to lunch, where we had “Army Base Stew (budae jjigae)” I had been completely unaware that such a dish existed, but Satoshigame, the de facto translator for the group explained that the origins of the soup date back to the time of the Korean War, when large quantities of US Army rations made their way to the Korean population, who, in their infinite inventiveness, turned greasy spam and sausages into a delicious savory dish with spring onions, ramen, and a delicious deep red miso paste. Mixed together, this all becomes a savory and spicy stew that could easily become my comfort food of choice on a cold winter evening…not that we get those in Bangkok, but you know…if it was ever cold, that would do it. Budae jjigae is a poignant reminder of the truth behind the words of the unfortunately late but indisputably great Anthony Bourdain, that “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”
For dinner that night, we met some members of the shared eXPeriencePoints (XP) and XPChain Community who have followed me since the days I was helping with marketing with XP for Chimaek — chicken and beer. We talked about the critical components that XPChain needs as a community-focused effort. Together we determined that critical components of transparency and willingness to work with local populations would be factors that would have a large impact on the long-term success of the project. This is something I have known for some time, which is what initially led me to meet with the Japanese and Korean Discord groups, and one of the main reasons I am so sensitive to their concerns. While I am only an adviser in the XPChain team, I shall always endeavor to promote these values to the greatest extent possible. These members also proposed several innovations and community-driven applications that we will attempt to integrate into the XPChain ecosystem in the future. The heart of any community coin is its community — XPChain has a commitment to listen to our community and do whatever we can to serve them. Without our community, XPChain is nothing but code and hardware, and every single member of the XPChain teams spread throughout the world is aware of this unalterable fact.
On the last day we were in Korea, we were able to sit down and have a skype demo of a beautiful Twitch bot made by MakeSeven (@MakeSeven#0653 on Discord or http://www.jeff-spencer.com/). I funded the development of this as I believe it will be excellent for digital currencies in general, but has special applications for eXPeriencePoints, XPChain, and many other projects. After a waiting period, it should be released under the MIT Open Source License so that any blockchain project can build this functionality into their cryptocurrency. The demo was absolutely beautiful and XPChain looks forward to releasing this for our community with some modifications to make it fit better with the Korean and Japanese user base. We also assembled a large meeting between the XPChain Korea and XPChain Japanese teams to discuss the integration of some new tech ideas and the practicality of integrating them with the XPChain Blockchain.
While we had to leave Korea to continue on with our journeys, I know that I will return soon to walk the beautiful streets, eat the amazing foods, and hang out with the even more amazing XPChain Korea team. Blockchain and digital assets are making waves into the future, but the most important part of this emerging new technology is the family of like-minded individuals that can come together and cooperate and build something bigger and better. Crypto is about family and community, and I am honored to call everyone from the XPChain community my friends and family.