South Korea on Thursday unveiled a long-term road map to foster its metaverse industry, with the aim of becoming the world’s fifth-largest market in the next five years.

Under the plan, South Korea will foster at least 220 metaverse companies with sales volumes of more than 5 billion won ($4.2 million) and create a “metaverse academy” this year to nurture 40,000 local experts by 2026, the ICT and Science Ministry said.

“Metaverse is a digital ‘New World’ with infinite possibilities,” Yonhap News Agency quoted Science and ICT Minister Lim Hye-sook as saying, noting that the government will work closely with the industry and relevant ministries.

The metaverse refers to a shared virtual space in which users interact with each other through digital avatars and experience virtual reality (VR) world.

Such platforms have grown in popularity over recent years as people shifted their activities online amid the pandemic.

South Korea also plans to build an online Korean language institute on metaverse platforms for foreigners and to kick off several projects to apply metaverse technology in tourism, medicine, and arts, including in K-pop.

To boost further growth, it will run a “K-Metaverse Academy” to help global metaverse startups enter the South Korean market and connect them with local content companies.

Currently, South Korea is said to rank 12th in the world in terms of market share in the metaverse industry.

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