South Korea Court Rules Seizure of Bitcoin Unlawful

In what is being reported as “the first time that a [South Korean] court has ruled the nature of virtual money,” officials have deemed the confiscation of bitcoins by police unlawful.

On June 8, 2017, a Suwon District Court sentenced an individual identified as 33-year-old Ahn, who was indicted for operating a pornography site since December 2013. Following Ahn's arrest in May, police seized assets comprising 1.9 billion Won in cash and 216 bitcoins. As per translation, the court ruled, "It is not appropriate to confiscate bit coins because they are in the form of electronic files without physical entities, unlike cash. Virtual currency cannot assume an objective standard value."

Citing a difficulty in the capability to assess an exact value, the court's guidance indicated that in such cases where cryptocurrencies were tied to criminal activity, the value of the cryptocurrency should be converted to a corresponding fiat rate that then may be applied to judgment or fines, as opposed to condoning police confiscation.

As a first of its kind, the judgment sets a precedent in South Korea and may help shape the evolving regulatory landscape of the region.

Quotes translated from Korean using Google Translate.