The recent response by the government to the country's cryptocurrency craze came as a bit of a shock But we finally had some confirmation on Monday that any drastic move like banning exchanges will only be decided after thorough discussions on the matter as the technology involved could be a driver of economic grwoth in the future Our Lee Ji-won reports The Korean government's announcement Monday wasn't the blow many crypto traders had feared — a ban on virtual currency exchanges — rather, officials said there hasn't been a decision yet

(Korean) "Any plan to shut down the exchanges, which is one possible way to curb speculation as suggested by the justice minister last month, will be decided after thorough discussions and coordination in the government" The government also said that it'll continue to push forward with a plan to require investors' real names in cryptocurrency trading, and that price manipulation and other crimes will be punished severely But the government also showed a change in tone, saying it will invest in research and development of blockchain technology, the computer code that makes cryptocurrency unique This follows a number of announcements by the government in the past month amid cryptocurrency's exponential rise

Korea is now the third-largest bitcoin trading market in the world after Japan and the US And experts say there are reasons for the government's concerns (Korean- ) "Koreans are investing in the virtual currency for the wrong reasons

They don't see it as a new form of currency that could make up for the shortcomings of the ones we have now, but as a way to earn huge sums of money in a short amount of time And with the current security level of the exchanges and the development of blockchain system,

it's a very risky investment to make" Despite the huge potential blockchain technology could have in the future, the expert said it's still in the development stages, and that the relatively weak security of the crypto exchanges compared to banks make them more prone to cyberattacks (Korean- ) "The government is doing a good job in warning the public of a possible fall in the market And having seen a lot of potential in the technology, the government should step up investments in blockchain technology and nurture companies to overcome the current shortcomings" The expert added it's also vital for the public to see virtual currency not as a speculative tool but as a potential currency for the future

Lee Ji-won, Arirang News