Korea’s premier court has overturned the law to seize 191 Bitcoin earned through the provision of child pornography, ending a lengthy battle over the legal status of cryptocurrency.
Appealing a September 2017 ruling that deemed such confiscation to be illegal, the Supreme Court will see $2.3 million worth of BTC confiscated from a 33-year old surnamed Ahn — the proprietor of a child pornography website.
Convicted in September 2017, Ahn and his Bitcoin cache have been the cause for months of debate — prosecutors failed to confiscate 216 BTC from Ahn in April 2018. Exempting Bitcoin from such action, a lower court dismissed the confiscation on the basis BTC had no physical form.
The Supreme Court, however, sees things differently. Citing Korean law, the nation’s top court dismissed the ‘intangibility’ argument explaining:
“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 move marks the first expropriation of cryptocurrency in the East Asian nation — further highlighting their recognition of the asset’s “measurable value.” The Supreme Court stated:
“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.”
Despite describing the Bitcoins as the “proceeds of crime,” the high court did not order all of Anh’s holdings to be stripped (191 of 216 BTC) — having forensically identified the exact number of Bitcoin units paid for pornography.
Where the more anarchical users of cryptocurrency may see the ruling as a blow, many will invariably welcome legal clarity — the asset class distancing itself from such nefarious usages.
Weeks after moving to allow domestic ICOs, South Korea may now be positioning itself as a regulatory leader in an economy filled with question marks.
If only skin-deep, the ruling may be seen as a triumphant win for Bitcoin enthusiasts — who have witnessed a legal declaration of the coin’s economic value.
Cover Photo by Oleksii Khodakivskiy on Unsplash