The South Korean government has banned its own officials from holding and trading cryptocurrency, which is considered to be ‘the first time the government has formulated a virtual currency ban for all public officials,” Maeil Business reported on March 1.
According to Maeil Business, the Ministry of Personnel Management issued a document entitled "Virtual currency holdings and transaction-related information for civil servants" stating that officials who are found to be involved in cryptocurrency trading are “in violation of the prohibition of forbearance obligations under the civil servants’ law” and are subject to disciplinary actions, especially if the banned activities occur during work hours.
The statement stressed that the ban will be applied to all government ministries. “Even if there is no job relevance [public officials] could be subject to discipline.” Each ministry will be responsible for pursuing whichever disciplinary response it deems appropriate, according to Maeil Business.
The government stance toward cryptocurrencies in South Korea, reportedly the world’s largest market for cryptocurrencies after the US and Japan as of February 2018, has at times been unclear. In December 2017, crypto markets reacted to confusion regarding a rumored full ban on cryptocurrencies in the country. Later the government confirmed that it had “no intention” to ban or “suppress” cryptocurrency trading.
According to Maeil Business, the Financial Services Commission (FSC), the Fair Trade Commission, and the head of the Office for Government Policy Coordination Hong Nam-ki, had previously warned their employees to abstain from cryptocurrency investments.
In January 2018, South Korean officials from the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) were accused of insider cryptocurrency trading. FSS chief Choi Hyung-sik later confirmed the accusations.