Korean Lawmakers Hasten to Regulate Cryptocurrency Legalize ICOs

Korean Lawmakers Hasten to Regulate Cryptocurrency, Legalize ICOs

Lawmakers in South Korea, one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency trading markets,
are set to submit draft bills to legislate regulations for burgeoning sector.According to a report by the Korea Times, a number of lawmakers across different political spectrums are seeking to fast-track cryptocurrency regulations that could plausibly lead to lifting the current ICO ban in the country. The drafts will be submitted during ‘an extraordinary session of the National Assembly from July 13 to 16’ to address the legal status of cryptocurrency and regulatory guidelines for crypto exchanges, Notably, the report suggests that the submitted regulatory drafts are expected to play the role of a ‘catalyst’ in triggering discussions toward regulation and the subsequent the legislative process of turning bills into law.

Representative Park Yong-jin, a lawmaker and member of the country’s ruling Democratic Party, is perhaps the most prominent politician pushing for regulations, alongside Rep. Chung Tae-ok of the primary opposition Liberty Party Korea (LPK) and Rep. Choung Byoung-gug of the Bareun Mirae Party, a minor opposition camp.

As reported previously by CCN in July 2017, Park proposed at least three new bills to build a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies despite previously comparing last year’s surging prices to Europe’s tulip mania in the 17th century. Rep. Hong Eui-rak, also of the political camp in power, is notably pushing for the legalization of ICOs after authorities enforced a ban on the radical new form of fundraising in September last year.

Further, Rep. Song Hee-kyung of the opposition LPK party is set to host a policy debate on the security framework at domestic cryptocurrency exchanges on July 19, in a year of noteworthy major security breaches and thefts at Korean exchanges. Last month, domestic exchange Coinrail was the victim of a hack with a reported 40 billion won ($37 million) in cryptocurrency stolen. A little over a week later, Seoul-based Bithumb – the country’s biggest crypto exchange – suspended Unlinktransactions after losing $30 million in cryptocurrency following another hack.

The proposed draft regulations coincide with a previously-set deadline by G20 nations that aims to enact a uniform regulatory framework for the cryptocurrency sector among member nations.

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Already More ICOs in 2018 Than All of 2017: 63B

The amount of money raised in initial coin offerings (ICOs)

in the first quarter of 2018 has blown past the amount raised throughout all of 2017, according to data from Coindesk. In the first three months of the year, a total of $6.3 billion raised from digital coin offerings represented 118% more than that of last year's total, suggesting that despite increased scrutiny on the cryptocurrency space, ICOs aren't going anywhere soon.

ICOs have been a major source of controversy in the cryptocurrency space as regulators struggle to combat illegitimate business and protect investors against buying into the frenzy without proper consideration. Since just about anyone can create digital currency: Over 15,000 cryptocurrencies have been launched. Often, the means by which crypto-related startups raise money is by selling virtual coins as an alternative to raising stock. Regulators have tried to crack down on the surge in fraudulent ICOs, which prompt many to buy in due to false advertising and other schemes. Many investors have also fallen victim to "FOMO," or fear of missing out, getting into crypto-investing simply because others have bought in, and not in response to the actual details of the startups that they are funding. 

Digital Token Projects Continue to Gain Popularity 

Of course, not all ICOs are schemes, and many are legitimate. On Wednesday, Basis (formerly Basecoin), landed $133 million in an ICO, with participation from high-profile investors such as Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) GV, Andreessen Horowitz, former Federal Reserve governor Kevin Warsh and billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckermiller. The funding round marked the first time that venture capital firms Bain and Lightspeed had ever bought a digital token.

In 2018, the size and speed of ICO funding rounds have also accelerated, according to the Coindesk report. Q1 saw 59% as many ICOs raise capital as all of 2017. The report noted that without Telegram's record-breaking $1.7 billion token sale, ICOs in the first three months of 2018 would amount to $4.6 billion, or 85% of last year's total. Coindesk notes that given most ICOs in Q1 have garnered less than $100 million, "a number of projects are still eager to sell tokens, despite the regulatory risk." The report pointed to a recent ruling from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which acknowledged some ICOs as securities offerings and required that they be registered with the agency.

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns cryptocurrency.

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Shoshanna Delventhal

As a digital nomad based out of New York City, Shoshanna enjoys reporting on business and finance, with a focus on consumer products and technology companies. Shoshanna is passionate about enhancing the future of work by harnessing productivity and adopting transparent, flexible work cultures.

After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Economics and International Relations, Shoshanna worked in international business advisory at KPMG. When she’s not writing, you can now find Shoshanna leading yoga, mindfulness and creative workshops around the world. Shoshanna’s enthusiastic about forward-driving projects that advance social entrepreneurship, conscious consumerism and sustainability movements.

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