Professors Dong Hoon Lee (director of the Blockchain Security Research Center) and Ik Rae Jeong of the Korea University Graduate School of Cybersecurity
On May 1, 2018 the Blockchain Security Research Center was established with the aim of studying blockchain security. Today, five professors from the Graduate School of Cybersecurity, including its director Dong Hoon Lee, are conducting research at the Center.
“The Blockchain Security Research Center was established when we signed a partnership deal with Ripple in May last year. Ripple is a company that facilitates rapid digital payments between banks, mainly using blockchain technology,” explains Director Lee. “While you can transfer money quickly within a country, sending money to another country usually takes several days. However, if you use blockchain to transfer money between countries, you can reduce the period required from days to a few seconds. This is possible because blockchain enables money to be sent in bitcoin (BTC), the cryptocurrency unit, without the need to calculate foreign exchange rates. This is a simple example of how blockchain can be used to make digital payments, and Ripple offers such blockchain-related services.”
Ripple provides instant global payment services, as Director Lee says. With a number of branches in major cities across the world, including San Francisco and London, it has over 100 financial institutions as clients.
“In June 2018, Ripple announced its plan to establish a long-term partnership with top universities around the world through the University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI), and Korea University submitted its UBRI proposal as one of the steps it took when establishing its blockchain center. The purpose of the partnership is to support globally prestigious universities in conducting academic research, developing various applications using blockchain technologies, and studying consensus algorithms. As Ripple guarantees our autonomy in conducting research, the fund is a kind of research grant for the Graduate School of Cybersecurity. Signing a partnership deal with Ripple is like having a powerful engine that enables us to do incredibly ambitious research.”
Taking a giant step forward by signing a partnership agreement with Ripple
In 2018, Ripple selected 33 universities in 14 countries for its UBRI, including MIT, Princeton, and UC Berkley. Among them, Korea University was the only Korean university, which signifies that KU’s research achievements to this point were held in high esteem. In 2019, about one year after its initial selection, KU received additional funding of millions of dollars from Ripple to perform a follow-up project under the terms of the partnership agreement.
Eric van Miltenburg, the SVP of Global Operations at Ripple, anticipated that ‘universities would lead blockchain-related technological innovations and serve as a stepping stone’, while nurturing talented people who will go on to work for blockchain businesses. His comment sheds light on the research performance that the Blockchain Center will be able to display, and the outcomes it will achieve.
“Korea University established the first Graduate School of Cybersecurity in the world, which published a number of highly-regarded theses in the 2000s, attesting to its research capabilities. Forging a partnership with Ripple and receiving millions of dollars for research purposes is another milestone that the Graduate School has reached, displaying its capabilities to the world. Meanwhile, we are operating several of Ripple's consensus algorithm servers, which is another testament to the status of the Graduate School as a respected institution in the field of information security,” says Director Lee.
“Receiving financial support from a respected global firm and doing creative research with these financial resources have substantially motivated young researchers at KU, probably more than receiving support from the Korean government or companies. We plan to develop practical blockchain security technologies by studying new types of algorithm and by focusing on the issues of privacy and security in relation to blockchain. We hope that ultimately our research center will grow into a platform that various companies and public institutions use in employing blockchain technologies in the provision of their services.”
Director Lee stresses, “We should not be myopic in conceiving of the current use of blockchain as if it were the gospel for the next generation.” He reveals his ambition that the Blockchain Center will continue to develop technologies based on the concept of ‘openness’ whose results will be used to fund new projects, which will in turn generate further profits and thus help make the Center a growth platform. It will continue to push the boundaries of blockchain into the areas of insurance, energy, the arts, and so on, in terms of registering ownership or property rights in addition to enabling more efficient financial transactions, as described above. As blockchain is comprised of a peer to peer (P2P) public transaction ledger which operates without intermediaries and through which every process is publicly disclosed, security programs to protect privacy are essential for the success of the technology.
KU will continue to focus its efforts on developing technologies and launching services that can reconcile the contradictory imperatives of openness and privacy, a task which the Graduate School of Cybersecurity has identified as crucial.