The Korean Ministry of Justice said Sunday that KRW 2.7 trillion in damages have been done over the last two years in crimes using virtual currency.

The ministry said 420 people have been indicted for virtual currency-related crimes over the same time period.

Virtual currencies were a major tool in pyramid schemes. For example, Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted in April the individual behind a pyramid scheme that scammed investors out of KRW 430.8 billion by misleading them into believing a coin his company supposedly developed had been listed and was in commercial use. The individual even gathered investors using a photoshopped photo doctored to make it look he’d taken it with the president of Korea.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Suwon busted nine organizations between January and April of last year for running pyramid schemes that scammed investors out of KRW 134.7 billion by promising high returns on a worthless virtual currency.

The ministry said virtual currencies were used in cases of illegal currency exchange, too. In February of last year, prosecutors in Bucheon indicted four people, including the chief of an exchange, for illegally changing KRW 131.9 billion’s worth of Chinese yuan into Korean won using Bitcoin. Three of them were sentenced to prison sentences of two years and two months.

Despite efforts by the authorities to combat them, virtual currency-related crimes continue to occur — and indeed, evolve. South Korea’s Justice Minister told prosecutors on Friday to thoroughly investigate cryptocurrency-related crimes and harden punishments for them. He also called on prosecutors to eliminate the lure to commit such crimes by recovering illegally obtained gains.

The ministry’s statement appears to have been influenced by the FAFT’s joint statement last month calling for tighter international regulations on cryptocurrencies. Yonhap News reminds us that seven Korean government organizations attended the FAFT meeting, including the FIU and the Ministry of Justice. Then again, it also notes that Justice Minister Park Sang-ki has been something of a hardliner when it comes to virtual currencies, telling reporters in January that his ministry was considering a complete shutdown of cryptocurrency exchanges in Korea.

Also in the Korea blockchain space…

For blockchain business success, S. Korea firms need to open up themselves 
(By Yeo Jun-suk, the Korea Herald, July 21)

Hashed CEO Simon Kim warns Korea’s big companies that just adopting blockchain won’t be enough. They need to open themselves up in a way they’ve so far avoided. He also warns the Korean government about being left behind in the economic transformations driven by digital currencies.

Samsung And South Korean Enterprises Enter The Blockchain ID Race
(By Darryn Pollock, Forbes, July 16)

That big Korean consortium’s move into the blockchain ID space seems to have grabbed Forbes’ attention. “If the South Korean giant can offer its users the chance to secure their identity on the blockchain, and for them to be able to use it for payments and proof, it will be a massive feather in the cap, and potentially a big drawcard for new users,” writes Darryn Pollock. “People are highly aware of the difficulties of proving identity as it currently stands, and the dangers of having centralized systems in control of identification. Therefore, the successful deployment of a blockchain-based digital ID has the power to put competition like Apple way behind.”

Someone Is Trying to Trademark ‘Samsung Coin.’ It’s Not Samsung
(By Wolfie Zhao, CoinDesk, July 19)

After the media reported Samsung might be developing a cryptocurrency it could call “Samsung Coin,” an individual submitted patent applications to Korea’s intellectual property authority for the trademark. Earlier this month, the same individual tried to lodge the trademark of a piece of LG blockchain technology, which would suggest – if nothing else – that he’s equal opportunity.

Binance Wants to Open a New Local Exchange in South Korea: Report
(By Helen Partz, CoinTelegraph, July 16)

The world’s largest crypto exchange may be working to open a local branch in Korea. Or maybe not. CZ didn’t really say much to Korean-language blockchain news site Blockinpress, the story in which forms the basis of CoinTelegraph’s report. He did have some harsh words for a legal entity in Korea called Binance Korea, which he claims has nothing to do with Binance. The head of Binance Korea, however, says the company was founded after signing an initial agreement with Binance in March.