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Korean Supreme Court Sets Precedent With Bitcoin Confiscation Ruling




The Supreme Court of South Korea has called for the seizure of nearly 200 bitcoin that were acquired through illegal means. The decision could provide greater clarity on cryptocurrency’s legal status in the country.

South Korea's supreme court has upheld an appellate court ruling that 191 bitcoin (approximately $1.4 million at press time) should be confiscated from a convicted man identified in reports by the name "Ahn," who had been previously found guilty of running a pornographic website in violation of the country's Protection of Children and Juveniles From Sexual Abuse Law. The Korea Times reports that the decision represents the first instance of a Korean court calling for the seizure of any cryptocurrency.

In the May 30 ruling, the Supreme Court described bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies by extension, as an "asset with measureable [sic] value," adding that cryptocurrency "is recognized to have value so it can be confiscated."

According to analysis from Korean media, the decision paves the way for future confiscations of cryptocurrency that is deemed to have been acquired illegally. A lower court had initially ruled against the seizure of Ahn's bitcoin on the grounds that digital assets exist only in electronic form and have no physical counterpart.

After he was sentenced to an 18-month prison term and a fine of roughly $650,000 (at press time), prosecutors urged the confiscation of some 216 bitcoin in Ahn's possession. The supreme court ordered the seizure of 191 of those tokens, describing them as funds paid for illegal content.

It's unclear how Ahn, who reportedly engaged in cryptocurrency trading, acquired the remaining 25 bitcoin. Of the 191 bitcoin, the court said in its decision: "If we return the bitcoins to Ahn, it will be giving him back profits that were earned illegally from running an online porn site."

In other jurisdictions, including the US, government entities have already confiscated cryptocurrency. Last week, police in the UK seized "approximately £500,000 worth of Bitcoin" from a hacker.

Adam Reese

Adam Reese is a Los Angeles-based writer interested in technology, domestic and international politics, social issues, infrastructure and the arts. Adam holds value in Ether, Bitcoin, and Monero.

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