Representations of cryptocurrencies and five major banks in South Korea are shown in this illustration. (The Korea Herald)
Investors are being discouraged from using 16 cryptocurrency services companies operating in South Korea without registration from the Financial Services Commission, the top financial regulator said Thursday.
The firms, all foreign, are KuCoin, MEXC, Phemex, XT.com, Bitrue, ZB.com, Bitglobal, CoinW, CoinEX, AAX, ZoomEX, Poloniex, BTCEX, BTCC, DigiFinex and Pionex.
The firms are expected to face police probes for having failed to report to the agency their plans to engage in business with Koreans seeking to trade digital assets like bitcoin. In July last year, the companies were asked to register, but they had since not done so, the FSC said.
The foreign companies would no longer be able to promote their crypto services via the internet to attract local investors, the agency added, saying its counterparts in countries where those companies are headquartered would be notified of its latest action as well.
The crypto companies, if found criminally liable here, would have to wait five years after a court order is carried out to register with the agency, which advised investors to alert authorities to any “unlawful business activity.”
Thursday’s warning comes as the agency steps up efforts to lay out a legal framework for cryptocurrencies, which the agency sees as either security or nonsecurity tokens. Where to draw the line separating the two is the debate taking place currently, as the agency prepares legislation.
Security tokens, like stocks, represent ownership, whereas nonsecurity tokens are traded as replacements for traditional fiat currency. The broader the definition regulators use to say what security tokens mean, the stiffer the rules crypto companies are likely to face for investor protection.
The FSC has highlighted that it will balance consumer protection with financial stability, but some worry President Yoon Seok-yeol is leaning toward a more market-oriented economy that could favor business to help get Korea’s nascent crypto industry off ground.
Yoon, who took office in May, pledged to support the burgeoning industry so Korea is not left behind in the global race for growth. Private-led economy and deregulation have since been the mantra for his Cabinet, including the FSC chief.
“Rules aside, the (crypto) industry has to show what it could do on its own,” Kim Joo-hyun, the agency chief, said in describing government intervention as complementing the kind of efforts made by the industry itself.
By Choi Si-young (email@example.com