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Crypto Crimes in South Korea May Attract the Death Penalty

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By Jerry Walters - - 5 Mins Read
South Korea,Bitcoin and law
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South Korea, a country known for its advanced technological advancements, is preparing to take a firm stance against cryptocurrency-related criminal activities by implementing the Virtual Asset User Protection Act.

This legislation is expected to come into effect on July 19, 2023, and is a strong response to the turmoil that the cryptocurrency industry experienced in 2022. This turmoil was triggered by the controversy surrounding Do Kwon, the founder of Terraform Labs.

A Legislative Response to Crypto Industry Turmoil

The Virtual Asset User Protection Act's genesis lies in the upheaval experienced by the South Korean crypto ecosystem in 2022.

Terraform Labs' involvement in a controversy that shook the very foundations of the crypto market prompted authorities to reevaluate existing regulations. 


The main view of the National Assembly Proceeding Hall at Seoul in the Republic of Korea. The building of the South Korean national government.
National Assembly Proceeding Hall at Seoul, South Korea | Efired/Shutterstock


Thus, the resulting two-part digital assets regulation framework, with the Virtual Asset User Protection Act at its core, aims to restore order and safeguard the interests of virtual asset users.

Understanding the Crypto Crimes Framework

On February 7, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) of South Korea released a press statement detailing the Virtual Asset User Protection Act.

This new legislation is aimed at curbing illegal trading activities, market manipulation, and the use of undisclosed crucial information related to virtual assets. The act provides specific criminal punishments and fines for individuals found to be violating these rules.

The statement clarifies, "In the case of criminal punishment, a fixed-term imprisonment of more than one year or a fine equivalent to three to five times the amount of unjust enrichment is possible."

Notably, for offences involving colossal sums exceeding 5 billion won, the legislation allows for the extreme penalty of life imprisonment.

Enforcement Mechanisms Empowered by the Legislation

The FSC has been granted the authority to impose fines equal to twice the amount of unjust profits.

This power of enforcement is exercised after the FSC notifies the Prosecutor General of the charges and receives information about the outcome of the investigation.

The aim of this collaboration between financial oversight and legal authorities is to expedite the process of bringing cryptocurrency criminals to justice promptly.

Furthermore, the Virtual Asset User Protection Act empowers the FSC to collaborate with the Financial Supervisory Service in investigating unfair trading practices.

In the event of a violation, the FSC is vested with the authority to suspend crypto business operations, mandate corrections, file formal complaints, or notify relevant investigative agencies.

This multi-pronged approach ensures a comprehensive response to illicit activities within the crypto sphere.

Impact on South Korea's Crypto Ecosystems

As South Korea propels itself into the digital age, characterized by rapid technological advancements and a growing reliance on virtual assets, robust regulatory frameworks become paramount. 

Also, implementing the Virtual Asset User Protection Act not only serves as a deterrent against potential wrongdoers but also shows the nation's commitment to fostering a transparent and secure virtual asset market.

Addressing Concerns and Enhancing Investor Confidence

The new legislation addresses longstanding concerns about the crypto market's susceptibility to manipulation and fraudulent activities in the Asian country.

By imposing stringent penalties, including the possibility of life imprisonment, South Korea aims to deter bad actors and instil confidence in investors and users alike. 

This move aligns with the global trend of regulatory bodies tightening their grip on the cryptocurrency industry to ensure its sustainability.