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Authorities mull placing Upbit operator under stricter regulations, scrutiny

Upbit headquarters in Seoul (Yonhap)
Upbit headquarters in Seoul (Yonhap)
South Korean authorities are considering to classify Dunamu -- the operator of the nation’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Upbit -- as a “large business,” which would put the firm under further government scrutiny, sources said Wednesday.

The Fair Trade Commission annually reviews businesses with a total asset over 5 trillion won ($4.03 billion) on whether they should be subject to stricter regulations. Those who are deemed as large businesses – firms with assets of more than 5 trillion won -- must disclose information on major intracompany dealings, board decisions and shareholders. They are also barred from providing excessive and “unfair” benefits to related parties and are placed under close monitoring.

Dunamu held 10.4 trillion won in asset as of end-2021, according to the watchdog Financial Supervisory Service’s disclosure system, which puts the crypto exchange operator at the risk of even stricter regulations compared with businesses with below-10 trillion won. Businesses with total assets of over 10 trillion won are categorized as “companies subject to limitations on mutual investment,” and as the name suggests, are banned from mutual investment, cross shareholding and more.

Sources say that the FTC is leaning towards grouping Dunamu as a “non-financial business,” and consider customer deposits held by Upbit as the firm’s own assets. Under the current law, the FTC doesn’t add customer deposits held by those officially categorized as financial businesses to the firms’ total assets.

Under the Moon Jae-in administration, South Korea has been tightening its grip on the cryptocurrency market with heavy-handed regulations. But President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has pledged to ease the regulation, including reducing taxation on crypto gains, lowering the chance of the incumbent Moon Jae-in administration’s plan to impose tougher crypto income taxes on investors whose gains exceed 2.5 million won from being realized.

Dunamu posted a net income of 2.2 trillion won last year, growing 46-fold on-year.



By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)
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