South Korean Cryptocurrency Regulator Found Dead at His Home

A prominent lawmaker involved in the initial flurry to pass laws to regulate cryptocurrencies has passed away. The 52-year old Jung Ki-Joon was discovered deceased in his home in Seoul last February 18, 2018.

South Korea has been in the news since November 2017 for making formal efforts to come to grips with the cryptocurrency craze in the country. Subsequently, the state has emerged as somewhat moderate on digital currencies, and the revenue collection arm of government has also granted recognition to exchanges by forcing them to pay taxes.

Stressful Workload

The seasoned lawmaker Jung was heavily involved in both the initial look at virtual currencies in 2017 and the current legislative fine-tuning. Previously seen as a critical player in the government’s unwelcome clampdown on digital currency, he nonetheless emerged as a moderate who simply had little tolerance for the potential hype surrounding ICOs.

Jung Ki-Joon worked at the Office for Government Policy Coordination, heading up economic policy. He was instrumental in coordinating efforts to enact legislation that would suppress excessive speculation, pyramid building and other spurious offers around cryptocurrencies.

Reputable media outlet Yonhap stated that initial appraisals indicated that he died of a heart attack, yet the police have opened a case and are investigating. A government spokesman mentioned only that Jung’s workplace, the Office for Government Policy Coordination, remained unsure of the cause of death.

Other colleagues confirmed that Jung had been under immense pressure at work for months as South Korea grappled with the implications of cryptocurrency transactions and trading. He was mainly focused on speculation in digital coins, fearing that bitcoin’s meteoric rise would incite fraudulent activity on the home front.

Quoted in January 2018, Jung had made disparaging remarks about bitcoin and other virtual currencies, questioning their authenticity and legal status. Jung stated that his government would “strongly respond to excessive cryptocurrency speculation and illegal activity.”

It is now understood that while his statements were verbose, he was in fact reasonably open-minded and merely sought to counter the equally aggressive hype around digital currencies.

Approximately 4.5 percent of global Bitcoin transactions in 2017 utilized the South Korean currency, the Won. This volume makes it the most widely employed fiat currency after the US dollar in Bitcoin trading.

Other prominent fiat currencies used in such transactions include the Japanese Yen and the Euro. As a possible clue to Jung’s intolerance, the Won is also a very prominent currency employed in Ether and Bitcoin Cash trading. South Korea’s experience with digital coins is thus much more open to the rapid enthusiasm within the populace.

A Melting Pot of Bitcoin Enthusiasm

Bitcoin has clawed back from a recent slump, trading at a new high of around $11,000. China’s outright ban and other nations’ stern regulatory rumblings put a damper on bitcoin’s resurgence in 2018 after previous highs of around $19,800 in December 2017.

Although it would be naive to align bitcoin’s slump squarely with regulatory moves by various governments, it cannot be denied that it has contributed to a new caution towards cryptocurrencies.

South Korea also experienced a far higher hysteria surrounding bitcoin. It contributed noticeably to the coin’s meteoric rise during 2017 with the kimchi premium, a wholly South Korean phenomenon.

The “kimchi premium” was a term used to denote the fact that bitcoin was often trading at around 20 to 30 percent more in South Korea than any other country during 2017. At the time, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon had said that the unbridled enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies could “lead to some serious distorted or pathological phenomenon.”

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