By The Korea Herald/ANN
Rattled by the government’s series of measures seeking to curb cryptocurrency speculation, South Korea now finds itself sharply divided over the legitimacy of the high-stakes transactions.
In a hurried move to pacify the bewildered market, the government vowed Monday to fully review feedback before making a final policy decision, suggesting that the recently mentioned shutdown of operators is unlikely under current circumstances.
“The shutting down of exchanges as proposed by the justice minister is one of the measures seeking to curb speculation. A government-wide plan will be announced later after sufficient consultation and coordination of opinions,” the Office for Government Policy Coordination said in a statement.
The remarks were seen as downplaying Justice Minister Park Sang-ki’s remarks that they were aiming to close down virtual currency operators here.
While recognizing investor autonomy until further policy decisions, the office also called for prudence and responsibility and reiterated its plan to push for real-name transactions and to deal sternly with illegal actions involving cryptocurrency trading.
“Virtual currency is not legal tender. Its prices may fluctuate by large margins and cause big losses,” it said.
Amid mixed messages from the government that had confused investors over the weekend, the Korean public also appeared split on how to approach the cryptocurrency craze.
Local pollster Realmeter said Monday that a 78.2 percent majority of respondents called for appropriate government measures on the unbridled cryptocurrency market, in a survey conducted last Friday on 504 people with a confidence level of plus minus 4.4 percent.
But on the matter of closing down local exchanges, 47.7 percent of the respondents objected, while 42.6 percent supported the measure.
Investors, particularly the technology-friendly young generation, also voiced their concerns or support toward the measures.
“I mostly support the Moon Jae-in government’s dedication to minimize social disparity and to promote economic equity but I must say that its recent set of indecisive moves over the cryptocurrency issue has been disappointing,” said a 36-year-old financial office worker, who wished to be identified only by his surname Lim.
“Of course, the cryptocurrency investment rush is a free market trend and cannot be fully stopped but the government’s role is to suggest predictable legal guidelines upon which investors may make their decisions.”
Lee Hye-jeong, another office worker in her 30s, on the other hand, backed the recent moves for further regulations.
“One cannot but feel deprived from the rampant rumors that someone made a fortune from cryptocurrency investments and is about to quit work,” she said.
“When a certain market sector is overheated and prone to speculations, relevant government intervention is needed.”
Meanwhile, a post “No to virtual currency regulations -- Has the government ever allowed the people to dream?” on the Cheong Wa Dae bulletin board had gained more than 190,000 signees as of 3 p.m. Monday.
Petitions that obtain 200,000 or more online signatures within 30 day are directly answered by senior officials and delivered to the president.