South Korean lawmaker Kim Nam-kuk has found himself amidst controversy after being accused of conducting suspicious crypto trades amounting to about KRW 6 billion ($4.5 million). Allegedly, the politician withdrew his crypto holdings from an exchange just before South Korea executed the crypto travel rule in March 2022, as reported by The Korea Times. This rule mandated that owners of crypto assets must carry out real-name transactions. An unnamed exchange reported Kim’s transactions to the state-run Korea Financial Intelligence Unit, which subsequently filed the case with South Korean prosecutors.
However, Kim disputes these accusations, maintaining that he did not cash out most of his crypto assets, but rather transferred them to another exchange. Additionally, he argues that he was not obliged to disclose his crypto holdings under the country’s public service ethics act.
“I did not borrow and receive money from anyone at all (for the crypto trading),” Kim stated. “I sold some of my stocks to use for the initial crypto investment. I also made transactions only through real-name accounts, and I can transparently share all the transaction records.”
Kim is a member of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), South Korea’s primary opposition party. With 168 lawmakers in the National Assembly, the DPK is the largest party in South Korea’s lower chamber of parliament and contests the People Power Party (PPP) of President Yoon Suk Yeol.
In response to the allegations, the ruling PPP has criticized the opposition lawmaker, amplifying the already tense rivalry between the parties ahead of the next parliamentary election scheduled for April 2024. PPP lawmaker and spokesperson Yoo Sang-bum expressed public dismay at Kim’s perceived hypocrisy, stating, “The public is shocked by his ambivalent attitude and attempts to gain sympathy by highlighting his cheap shoes, even though he held crypto assets worth 6 billion won.”
Further intensifying the situation, Hong Joon-pyo, the mayor of Daegu and a PPP politician, has called for Kim’s resignation, labeling his actions as a “serious moral hazard.” He asserted that Kim’s engagement in crypto trading was akin to a get-rich-quick scheme and suggested the lawmaker should have forsaken his position to focus on speculative trading. Moreover, Hong accused Kim of abusing his legislative power by delaying crypto taxation to protect his private assets.
In conclusion, the recent accusations against Kim Nam-kuk have ignited a political maelstrom, revealing deep-seated disagreements about the regulation and ethics of crypto trading among South Korean lawmakers. As the scandal unfolds, it remains to be seen how these events will affect both the accused and the country’s evolving relationship with cryptocurrencies.