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(LEAD) Political dispute heats up over cryptocurrency regulations

All News 14:51 January 12, 2018

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; UPDATES in last 8 paras with ruling party lawmakers' remarks)

SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Liberty Korea Party on Friday criticized the government for confusion in its approach to curb cryptocurrency trading, citing it as a sign of policy ineptitude.

On Thursday, Justice Minister Park Sang-ki said the government is working on legislation that includes a complete shutdown of all virtual currency exchanges in the country. But the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said later that no decision has been made yet over the shutdown, amid growing complaints from disgruntled investors.

The government has recently been struggling to tackle the overheating in the cryptocurrency market, as many investors have suffered heavy losses due to price fluctuations and various crimes, including marketing fraud.

"As Cheong Wa Dae and the Justice Ministry have been poking around it, the cryptocurrency market that has been operating normally has turned into a roller coaster," Kim Sung-tae, the floor leader of the main opposition party, said during a party meeting.

Kim Sung-tae (R), the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, speaks during a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Jan. 12, 2018. (Yonhap)

"Whatever (the government) touches, it triggers strong pushback," he added.

The ruling Democratic Party and government plan to hold a policy coordination meeting soon to discuss how to stabilize the cryptocurrency market.

"There has not been any decision yet on the policy (to deal with the cybermoney issue)," Hong Ihk-pyo, the vice policy chief of the ruling party, told reporters.

The ruling party is taking a measured approach to the issue.

"We're in a situation where we have to consider both the industrial side of the issue, meaning developing virtual currencies as an important basis for the fourth industrial revolution ... and the tasks we're currently facing," such as bringing speculation under control, said Woo Won-shi, floor leader of the ruling party.

It's important to find an appropriate point between "promotion and regulation," he said.

"We will make a decision after various discussions, including government-party consultations," Woo said.

Rep. Park Young-sun of the party told a radio interview that she believes the justice minister has gone too far in talking about shutting down cryptocurrency exchanges.

"A wiser policy would be to have exchanges operate after government verification or find ways to differentiate speculative and non-speculative funds in the course of taxation," Park said.

But other members of the party said closing exchanges is the right decision.

"I think scrapping exchanges is the right way," a lawmaker said on condition of anonymity. "If ordinary people start gradually joining (in cryptocurrency trading) out of curiosity, the situation may spiral out of control."


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