In a blatant pitch for the tech-savvy youth vote, South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party (DPK) is to issue non-fungible tokens (NFTs) for electoral fundraising purposes in what it claims is a political world first.
Digital images of Lee Jae-myung, the ruling party’s presidential candidate, will be sent to supporters who donate money to his campaign from this month. The party says that these NFTs, which feature Lee’s photos and details of his policies, will serve as a kind of bond so holders can freely exchange the assets with others.
Digital Assets to be Taxed … But Not Just Yet
The party was quick to confirm that South Korea’s National Election Commission had quietly decreed last month that fundraising using NFTs does not violate the Political Funds Act or the Public Official Election Act. And while the South Korean Financial Services Commission said in November that NFTs would not be regulated, it has since backpedalled by announcing the digital assets would be taxed from January 2022.
But in a convenient loophole for candidate Lee and the DPK, the implementation of the new tax has been delayed a year because of flaws noted by party scrutinisers.
Lee Declares His Support For Gaming NFTs
As part of his efforts to win over Korean Millennials and Gen Zs, candidate Lee openly supports the gaming industry’s use of NFTs. In an interview last month with a gaming YouTuber, Lee said that Korea should lead the global trend of integrating games with virtual assets and NFTs. Failing to do so, he added, would be tantamount to isolationism.
As the young generation[s] are interested in emerging technologies, including virtual assets, NFTs and the metaverse, this type of fundraising could appeal to them. If we deny what actually exists, it will be similar to an isolationist foreign policy.Lee Jae-myung, presidential candidate, Korean Democratic Party
Party officials claim that if Lee’s initiative is successful, he will become the world’s first politician to issue NFTs to help finance a presidential bid. The NFTs, representing political memorabilia, could also hold future value and serve as an investment for donors. Donated digital monies will be converted into Korean won through a crypto exchange and then deposited into the campaign’s account.
Trump, Snowden Challenge Korea’s ‘World First’
As for the DPK’s claim of a political world first, former US first lady Melania Trump may have beaten Korea to the punch with last month’s launch of her own NFT platform. Its first offering was a tokenised watercolour of husband (and former president) Donald Trump’s eyes.
But as long ago as April last year, whistleblower Edward Snowden sold an NFT to help raise funds for the Freedom of the Press Foundation. That would certainly fit the description of a political act.
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