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Coinone wins approval, but Bithumb’s application still pending

The Coinone and Bithumb logos (Coinone and Bithumb)
The Coinone and Bithumb logos (Coinone and Bithumb)

South Korean crypto exchange Coinone has passed the high bar for official registration while the case of its bigger rival Bithumb remains pending, the country’s top financial regulator said Friday.

The Financial Intelligence Unit, an anti-money laundering unit under the Financial Services Commission, approved Coinone’s application to register its virtual asset business but is holding off on a decision about Bithumb.

Market insiders suggested that the delay might have something to do with a scandal involving Lee Jung-hoon, Bithumb’s largest shareholder. Lee is currently on trial over accusations that he obtained 160 billion won ($135 million) fraudulently from BK group, a plastic surgery hospital.

According to Bithumb, it plans to comply with any requests from the FIU by submitting additional paperwork to accelerate the registration process.

Coinone, on the other hand, will take the next step to comply with the regulations as mandated by law.

“We will start the KYC (Know Your Customer) process to identify our customers and strengthen anti-money laundering measures by implementing a ‘travel rule’ system through CODE,” a Coinone official said.

CODE is a joint venture launched by Bithumb, Coinone and Korbit that is designed to enable virtual-asset service providers to identify their users and share information with each other.

Until Friday, Coinone and Bithumb had been waiting for approval for more than two months. The nation’s other two crypto giants, Upbit and Korbit, got the green light in less than a month.

Of the 42 crypto exchanges that applied for business registration, only three have passed the hurdles. Evaluations of the other 39 are still pending.

The FIU previously announced that it would notify the crypto exchanges by the end of this year whether they can legitimately operate in the country.

By Byun Hye-jin (