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INTERNATIONAL - South Korea’s finance minister said the government has no plans to shut down crypto- currency trading, soothing investors' worries that the authorities might go as far as China’s tough action in blocking virtual coin platforms.

The comment by Kim Dong-yeon yesterday comes as traders at home and around the world have been spooked by conflicting comments from government officials in South Korea - a major hub for crypto- currency trade - that Seoul was planning to ban local digital coin exchanges.

“There is no intention to ban or suppress the cryptocurrency (market),” Kim said, adding that the government’s immediate task was to regulate exchanges.

Reinforcing Seoul’s intent to tighten the screws on a market widely seen as opaque and risky by global policymakers, the country’s customs yesterday announced that it had uncovered illegal cryptocurrency foreign exchange trading worth nearly $600million (R7.1m).

Customs service has been looking closely at illegal foreign exchange trading using cryptocurrency as part of the government’s task force.

South Korea has been at the forefront of pushing for broad regulatory oversight of cryptocurrency trading as many locals, including students and housewives, jumped into a frenzied market despite warnings from policymakers around the world of a bubble.

Seoul previously said it was considering shutting down local cryptocurrency exchanges, which threw the market into turmoil and hammered bitcoin prices. 

- Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)