South Korea's justice ministry is drawing up legislation aimed to curb overheating in the virtual currency market, including a complete shutdown of all cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, its minister said Thursday.
First, the office of one of the top 15 global digital-currency exchanges (Coinone) was raided by South Korean tax officials, amid rumors they were also looking into the other top 15 exchange located in South Korea (Bithumb).
The justice minister of South Korea said on Thursday that the country is preparing a bill to ban all cryptocurrency trading in the country. In local trading, the value of bitcoin fell by as much as 21 percent, although South Korean prices are still around 30 percent higher than in other countries. There are now about 20 virtual currency exchanges in the country, with the monthly turnover of the top bourse at 56 trillion won (US$52.2 billion) as of December.
To sum the situation up, hours after Park Sang-ki's comments, a representative of President Moon Jae-in told Korean media [link in Korean] that the Justice Ministry's position does not reflect that of the entire government.
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On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, bitcoin lost over 10 percent at $13,199, after falling as low as $13,120 earlier.
Cryptocurrency markets at home and overseas responded quickly and radically Thursday on signals by South Korea's Ministry of Justice that it would seek to shut down all exchanges for digital assets.
The report, from authors Cynthia Kim and Dahee Kim, bears the headline "South Korea plans to ban cryptocurrency trading, rattles market".
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A Chinese ban on virtual coin transactions in yuan ended up driving many investors underground, exposing them to greater risks, he said.
The South Korean government disclosed a similar proposal on December 28 previous year, although at the time it also included other options such as allowing trading to continue under tighter regulation. The employee said that the exchange was cooperating with the investigation.
Two people read tables displayed at Bithumb, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea, in central Seoul on January 11, 2018.
Police have been investigating Coinone's margin-trading service since a year ago, according to an official who asked not to be named citing policy.
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South Korean financial authorities had previously said they are inspecting six local banks that offer virtual currency accounts to institutions, amid concerns the increasing use of such assets could lead to a surge in crime.