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South Korea will officially establish a crypto investigative unit in response to the increase in crimes

In response to the significant increase in crypto-related crimes, South Korea is taking decisive measures to strengthen its regulatory framework and law enforcement capabilities. 

A recent local report highlights the nation’s plan to transform its temporary investigative unit on cryptocurrency-related crimes into a permanent department. 

This move is motivated by the urgent need to address the escalation of fraud and other crimes associated with digital assets.

Context of the investigative unit on cryptocurrencies in South Korea to combat crimes

Launched in July 2023, the Joint Investigation Unit on Virtual Asset Crimes operates under the jurisdiction of the Office of the District Prosecutor of South Seoul. 

Initially established as a temporary measure, the unit is composed of about 30 specialists from seven financial and tax regulatory authorities. These experts bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in combating complex financial crimes in the emerging sector of digital currencies.

The need for a permanent investigative unit on cryptocurrencies has become increasingly evident, given the rapid growth of crypto-related crimes. According to a February report from the Financial Intelligence Unit of South Korea, local cryptocurrency companies reported 16,076 suspicious transactions in 2023. 

This number represents a 49% increase compared to the previous year, indicating a growing trend in illicit activities that exploit the relative anonymity and borderless nature of digital currencies.

The primary role of the Joint Investigation Unit on Virtual Asset Crimes is to investigate and prosecute crimes involving digital assets. By transforming this body into a permanent department, the South Korean government aims to provide it with greater stability and resources. 

This change would ensure that the unit is not dissolved and can continue its crucial work more efficiently, including the appointment of additional prosecutors and better budget allocations to manage the complex nature of crypto-related cases.

Upcoming regulatory changes

In addition to institutionalizing the investigative unit, South Korea is about to implement its first comprehensive cryptocurrency regulation on July 19. This fundamental legislation will introduce stricter measures to protect investors and maintain market integrity. 

Among the significant provisions of this new regulation are severe criminal penalties for those found guilty of manipulating the cryptocurrency market. In some cases, these penalties could extend to life imprisonment, highlighting the seriousness with which South Korean authorities view these crimes.

Discussions to elevate the status of the cryptocurrency investigative unit are expected to begin in early May, involving key stakeholders from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior and Security. 

As reported by Segye Ilbo, the transition of the unit into a full-fledged department is intended to consolidate its operations and expand its capabilities.

The implications of this move are far-reaching. By establishing a department dedicated to fighting crimes involving cryptocurrencies, South Korea not only strengthens its national ability to protect investors, but also positions itself as a global leader in regulating digital assets. 

This proactive approach is likely to strengthen investors’ confidence and could serve as a model for other nations facing similar challenges.


The decision to formalize the investigative unit on cryptocurrency-related crimes reflects South Korea’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity of its financial markets and protecting citizens from emerging threats. 

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the need for strong regulatory frameworks and dedicated law enforcement units becomes increasingly critical. 

South Korea’s efforts to adapt to these changes and proactively address the challenges posed by the digital economy are commendable and could well set a precedent for global governance of cryptocurrencies.