On Wednesday night, bitcoin and the entire crypto sector tumbled more than 10%, following reports that the Ministry of Justice in South Korea – one of the world’s most active cryptocurrency markets – said it was preparing legislation to close the country’s online exchanges amid a speculative boom in cryptocurrencies. That shot across the bow was paired with the news that tax authorities were investigating at least some of the exchanges in Korea.
In a statement, South Korea Attorney General Park Sang-ki said: “The South Korean Ministry of Justice is considering the closure of cryptocurrency trading to bring cryptocurrency mania and speculation under control for investor protection.”
However, confusion quickly erupted just hours later when following the surprise announcement, South Korea’s Ministry of Strategy and Finance, a key member of the country’s cryptocurrency task force, said that it does not agree with the “premature statement of the Ministry of Justice about a potential cryptocurrency trading ban.”
In a press conference, the South Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance told local reporters that it had first heard of the Ministry of Justice’s cryptocurrency trading ban through media reports. The cryptocurrency task force participated by the central bank, MInistry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, and other agencies have not agreed upon the proposal.
“We do not share the same views as the Ministry of Justice on a potential cryptocurrency exchange ban,” MSF said according to the local Naver website.
Kim Dong-yeon, S.Korea Minister of Finance and Economy.
Adding to the confusion is that in addition to the ouctry from the Finance Ministry, the proposed ban drew swift pushback from within the South Korean government – the president’s office, in particular, said no move is “finalized” as of yet – as well as cryptocurrency supporters and traders in the country who cried foul as the statements sparked a fall in cryptocurrency prices.
Heading into the weekend, the public backlash against the proposed move was accelerating. On the Korean president’s Blue House website, more than 4,000 petitions have been filed related to “virtual currencies” since Jan. 10, CoinDesk reported.
As Coindesk further notes, one petition asking the Minister of Justice to step down in the aftermath of his proposed ban received more than 30,000 signatures on its own. Reuters reports that one petition alone has attracted more than 100,000 signatures and the website became inaccessible due to excess traffic.
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