By AsiaToday reporter Heo Gyeong-joon
The Ministry of Justice is preparing a bill to curb overheating in the cryptocurrency market, including a shutdown of all cryptocurrency exchanges in the country.
The local price of bitcoin plunged to 18.3 million won ($17,064.53) after the ministry announced the plan to potenially ban trading of cryptocurrencies.
"There are great concerns regarding virtual currencies and the Ministry of Justice is preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges," Justice Minister Park Sang-ki said at a New Year's press conference on Thursday. "We are aiming for a shutdown of exchanges."
"Cryptocurrency trading has started to resemble gambling and speculation. I think it's more accurate to see it as a virtual token rather than a virtual currency," the minister said.
His remarks are in line with the government's additional special measures issued last December to curb virtual currency speculation.
"The fact that media have used the phrase 'Kimchi premium' reflects foreigners' assessment that the cryptocurrency trading in the Korean market is abnormal," the minister said.
Park said that discussions about shutting down virtual currency exchanges are proceeding without any disagreement among the government agencies, and that various measures will be made through discussions with related ministries.
"The Ministry of Justice has been negative about cryptocurrency trading since the beginning," the minister said. "It has become more speculative than other countries. It has more harmful effects economically. While coordinating the ministries' views, the justice ministry decided to enact a special law. Measures are being prepared and will be implemented to eliminate the problem."
The minister stressed the danger of the current form of trading in the cryptocurrency market, saying, "The government warns that cryptocurrency trading can be extremely dangerous. It's different from other financial-related damages in the past. Continuous investment or trading can result in tremendous losses."