Prices plummeted after South Korea's justice minister said Thursday the government is preparing a bill to ban trading of virtual currencies on domestic exchanges. The justice ministry has been preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges after discussion with finance ministry and regulators. The proposed legislation will need a majority vote of all 297 members of the National Assembly in order to ban trading outright. The local price of the cryptocurrency dropped as much as 21 percent, but still trades with a 30 percent premium compared to other countries.
Reports are emerging of nation-wide police inspections on crypto exchanges in the Southeast Asian nation.
Following the market's reaction to the government announcement, the nation's Presidential office later said that a ban on the country's virtual coin exchanges was not finalized, although it was being discussed.
The current price of Bitcoin at popular Korean exchange Bithumb is $18,301, down 7.13 percent in the last 24 hours, but still significantly higher than CoinMarketCap's current average price of $13,840.
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The news sent bitcoin prices tumbling $2,000 from midnight United Kingdom time from a high of $14,890, according to data from Coinbase, before beginning to recover in the early hours of the morning. As such, the plan to ban cryptocurrency trading in the region is a bit of a big deal.
Many analysts believe that the infatuation for cryptocurrencies in South Korea causes concerns of gambling, especially as bitcoin demand surged and the price skyrocketed in the past one year.
The statement came after hundreds of apparent investors in virtual currency rushed to the website of Cheong Wa Dae, posting more than 1,000 petitions against a possible shutdown of cryptocurrency exchanges. The 1,500 percent rise in value of bitcoin has attracted college students, housewives, and others to invest in cryptocurrencies.
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Police and tax agencies in South Korea raided exchanges of cryptocurrencies searching for evidence of potential tax evasion.
The South Korean government disclosed a similar proposal on December 28 previous year, although at the time it also included other options such as allowing trading to continue under tighter regulation.
"We were asked by the tax officials to disclose paperwork and things yesterday", an official at the firm told Reuters, requesting anonymity. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Coinone was cooperating with the investigation.
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