South Korean Supreme Court Rules Crypto an Asset, but Almost by Default

South Korean Supreme Court Rules Crypto an Asset, but Almost by Default

South Korea’s Supreme Court has ruled that Bitcoin is a legally recognizable asset, overturning a lower court decision made last year, according to the Bitcoin Magazine.

The decision came about through a court case last year, when a 33-year-old man was charged at Suwon District Court with the sale and distribution of child pornography. The offender had been operating a website since 2013, disseminating some 235,00 files. Although he was found guilty of the charges and jailed for 18 months, the criminal retained the BTC 216 gained through his illegal activities.

The legal ramifications of the resulting outcome meant that the government was unable to seize the Bitcoin funds, because unlike other assets, such as fiat currency, they were not regarded as tangible.

“It is not appropriate to confiscate bitcoins because they are in the form of electronic files without physical entities, unlike cash,” the court ruled. “Virtual currency cannot assume an objective standard value.”

The country’s Supreme Court reviewed the outcome of the case and the Suwon District Court’s decision was appealed and, upon being challenged in South Korea’s highest court, fell over due to it finding that the fortune was amassed in exchange through illegal activities, thus it could be lawfully confiscated.

“Korean law stipulates that a seizable hidden asset ranges from cash, deposits, stocks, and other forms of tangible and intangible objects holding standard value,” the ruling read. “Bitcoin is intangible and comes in the form of digitized files, but it is traded on an exchange and can be used to buy goods. Therefore, receiving Bitcoins is an act of taking profits.”

The perpetrator, simply known as Ahn, will now have to forfeit BTC 191 worth roughly USD 41.4 million at the time and some USD 654,000 in cash, but his sentence will remain the same. By tracking his transactions on Bitcoins ledger the court was able to trace exactly how much he received as payment.

The ruling has, almost incidentally, become a fundamental move in the direction of establishing Bitcoin’s legal status as legitimate currency in South Korea, particularly at a time when the government is in the process of further regulating the industry.


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