South Korean Cryptocurrency Regulator Found Dead at Home

A South Korean civil servant involved in the regulation of cryptocurrency has died, apparently of a heart attack, according to Yonhap News.

Jung Ki-joon, 52 years old, passed away in his sleep at home. An official cause of death has not yet been announced.

Ki-joon had been in charge of economic policy at the Office for Government Policy Coordination. One of his tasks, according to Yonhap, was coordinating the opinions of various South Korean government agencies in preparation for weekly meetings between the vice ministers of those agencies. The ongoing meetings concern the regulation of cryptocurrency. They began in November and are led by Hong Nam-ki, minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination.

Police were told by colleagues that Ki-joon had been under a lot of stress.

The death of this individual is being used by media outlets to segue into writing about the confusion that has typified Seoul’s relationship with cryptocurrency, and so – it is certainly true that this country has been getting more than its fair share of headline space over the last 6 months or so.

This is because the country is one of the biggest stables of cryptocurrency clients and has a government that can’t quite decide whether the industry should be legal or not. Millions of South Koreans are using cryptocurrency applications on a weekly basis, while recent government figures claim that exchanges made almost 700 billion won in taxable income in 2017.

The government grudgingly decided at the end of last year to allow cryptocurrency exchanges to operate in the country, but it entered 2018 having banned ICOs and anonymous transactions. It also began carrying out inspections and raids on both cryptocurrency exchanges and the banks that entertain them.

At the same time, the national pension fund has invested billions of won in cryptocurrency exchanges, and South Korean banks are also making a killing by trading the stuff. And then a government official was found to have made 700,000 won through what would have been an open and shut case of insider trading had there been such laws written for cryptocurrency.

Nam-ki (whose publicly-made comments were key to making the market move in the employee’s favour) said at the time that he considered the behaviour inappropriate, but at the end of the day the man was not punished. One politician said in response to the matter: “The government’s policies are totally misunderstood and confused.”

But as stressful as all this may be to those employed in the sector, Ki-joon’s medical history has not been provided, and there is nothing to say that his untimely death was in any way related to his work. I extend my sympathies to his family.

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