Yesterday, South Korean justice minister Park Sang-ki sent the bitcoin market into a frenzy after unilaterally announcing a proposed law to ban cryptocurrency trading. However, shortly after Park's statements, a myriad of other government ministries expressed surprise and disagreement with the announcement.
Now, more than 120,000 people have reportedly signed a petition to South Korea's Blue House in opposition to the rumored legislation. On the Blue House website, one signatory apparently pleaded, "Tax [cryptocurrency] as much as you want but don't shut it down. My life depends on it."
Yun Chang-hyun, an economics professor from the University of Seoul, said, "The latest idea to ban it all seems to have come out of a fear that when the bubble bursts and things go wrong, it will be all on the government."
At the time of publication, the global price of bitcoin is $13,830, per CoinMarketCap. It's difficult to assess the level of South Korean citizens' investment in cryptocurrency, but over the last year, bitcoin has traded at a significant premium on most of the country's exchanges.
For now, it's obvious that the South Korean government has a dilemma on its hands.
"In a practical sense, the South Korean government needs to factor in some political aspects – if a growing number of people lose huge sums of money on bitcoin because of the government's failed attempts to rein in the frenzy, people will blame the government," said Yonsei University psychology professor Lee Dong-gwi. "Simply put, the South Korean government could be afraid of the political hassles of being held accountable."