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South Korea Enhances Crypto Oversight with Permanent Investigative Department

ByDayne Lee

May 7, 2024
South Korea Enhances Crypto Oversight with Permanent Investigative Department

South Korea Enhances Crypto Oversight with Permanent Investigative Department

South Korea is taking significant steps to fortify its approach to cryptocurrency regulation. In a move reflective of the growing importance of digital assets within the legal and economic landscape, the country’s Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Security and Public Administration are gearing up to transform their crypto crime investigative unit into a permanent department. This development, reported by Segye Ilbo, marks a pivotal shift from the unit’s current temporary status, potentially granting it more stability and authority in tackling crypto-related crimes.

Established in July as a temporary entity, the investigative unit is primarily based within the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office. Comprising about 30 experts, the unit collaborates closely with seven government agencies including the Financial Supervisory Service and the National Tax Service. The transition to a permanent department is expected to enhance the unit’s capabilities significantly, allowing for continuous and robust enforcement against crypto crimes.

Budget and Appointments

Key issues such as budget allocation and the appointment of prosecutors are slated for discussion in early May. This discussion is crucial as it will determine the operational scope and resource allocation for the unit, ensuring it is equipped to handle the complexities of crypto-related cases.

A permanent status would enable the department to liaise with both domestic and international government agencies on an equal footing, fostering better cooperation and information exchange. This is particularly important as the crypto market is global, and many crimes transcend national borders.

Increasing Caseload and Legislative Changes

The anticipated increase in the department’s caseload comes in the wake of the impending Virtual Asset User Protection Act, set to be enforced from July 19. This legislation introduces severe penalties for major crypto-related crimes, with punishments up to life imprisonment for offenses involving amounts over 5 billion won ($3.6 million).

The urgency for a robust regulatory framework is underscored by a significant rise in suspicious crypto transactions and crime reports. In 2023 alone, there was a 48.8% year-on-year increase in suspicious transaction reports, with reports of suspected crypto-related crimes to law enforcement surging by 90%.

Regulatory Tightening and Political Context

Amidst tightening regulations on token listings and enhanced scrutiny of exchanges, crypto has also become a charged political issue in South Korea. Political parties are vying to ease restrictions ahead of parliamentary elections, reflecting the complex interplay between regulation and politics. President Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration has postponed the introduction of a 20% tax on crypto capital gains, originally set for 2023, to 2025, indicating a strategic, albeit cautious, approach to crypto taxation and regulation.

South Korea’s move towards solidifying its investigative capabilities in the crypto space signals a commitment to not only enhancing regulatory mechanisms but also to adapting to the evolving challenges posed by digital assets. By transitioning the crypto crime investigative unit to a permanent department, South Korea aims to establish a more structured and effective framework for addressing the complexities of cryptocurrency regulation and enforcement.

Featured image credit: Rubaitul Azad via Unsplash

Dayne Lee

With a foundation in financial day trading, I transitioned to my current role as an editor, where I prioritize accuracy and reader engagement in our content. I excel in collaborating with writers to ensure top-quality news coverage. This shift from finance to journalism has been both challenging and rewarding, driving my commitment to editorial excellence.

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