March 22, 2019

Supreme Court orders confiscation of Bitcoins

PUBLISHED : May 30, 2018 - 16:01

UPDATED : May 30, 2018 - 16:01

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[THE INVESTOR] In the first such ruling in Korea, the Supreme Court on May 30 said that cryptocurrency attained through criminal methods can and should be confiscated by the government.

The ruling indicates that cryptocurrencies can indeed be viewed as assets. Industry watchers say the decision may help reduce crimes committed using digital currencies.

On May 20, the court sentenced a 33-year-old man to 1 1/2 years in prison for running an illegal, pornographic website. It also said the government should confiscate the 191 Bitcoins he gained illegally, while also slapping him with a fine of around 695 million won (US$642,915). 

The man was arrested in May for allegedly pocketing 1.9 billion won from operating the site for about five years. The country’s lowest court had said Bitcoins can’t be confiscated because they are not tangible. A higher court, however, said they can and should be because they are being lawfully traded, and can be used to make purchases.

Cryptocurrency prices in Korea went through the roof late last year. At one point, Bitcoins were worth more than 20 million won. But after the government intervened, calling on banks to stop issuing accounts and clamping down on cryptocurrency exchanges, prices have plummeted. As of 3:10 p.m. on May 30, Bitcoin was trading at around 8.3 million won.

By Bryan Hong (

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