South Korea considers shutting down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges

Above, an electric board shows the exchange rate between South Korean Won and Bitcoin at a cryptocurrencies exchange in Seoul. South Korea’s justice minister said last week the ministry was preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading, which sent bitcoin prices sharply lower and threw the market into turmoil. (Reuters)
Updated 18 January 2018
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South Korea considers shutting down domestic cryptocurrency exchanges

SEOUL: South Korean policymakers joined the global chorus of virtual-coin critics on Thursday, saying Seoul is considering shutting down domestic virtual currency exchanges as the new breed of market exposes users to speculative frenzy and crime.
The country’s tough stance comes as policymakers from the United States to Germany struggle to come up with stricter regulation against money laundering and other crimes.
Responding to questions in parliament, South Korea’s chief of the Financial Services Commission said: “(The government) is considering both shutting down all local virtual currency exchanges or just the ones who have been violating the law.”
Separately, Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-yeol told a news conference that “cryptocurrency is not a legal currency and is not being used as such as of now.”
Regulators around the world are still debating how to address risks posed by cryptocurrencies, as bitcoin, the world’s most popular virtual currency, soared more than 1,700 percent last year.
Prices have plummeted since South Korea announced last week it may ban domestic cryptocurrency exchanges. On Wednesday, bitcoin slid 18 percent.
According to Bithumb, South Korea’s second-largest virtual currency exchange, the nation’s bitcoin trading price stood at 15,697,000 won ($14,690.69) as of 0314 GMT on Thursday.
On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, bitcoin was traded at $11,750.
Hong Nam-ki, minister of the office for government policy co-ordination, said that opinions on cryptocurrency trading are sharply divided within the government, but vowed to make a decision on regulations during Thursday’s parliamentary session.
South Korea’s justice minister said last week the ministry was preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading, which sent bitcoin prices sharply lower and threw the market into turmoil.
The shift toward tighter regulation sparked strong reaction from many South Koreans, thousands of whom signed a petition on the website of the presidential Blue House to stop a ban on cryptocurrency trading.
On Thursday, the BOK governor said the central bank had begun looking into the market’s impact on the economy.
“We have started looking at virtual currency from a long-term standpoint, as central banks could start issuing digital currencies in the future. This sort of research has begun at the Bank of International Settlements and we are part of that research.”


US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

Updated 24 May 2019
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US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

  • Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said

LONDON: The value of joint Saudi-US contracts rose to $13 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to a business council report.

That marked the highest value of awarded contracts since the first quarter of 2015, the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council said.

The value of contracts awarded during the first quarter amounted to about half of the total value in all of last year, it added.

The contracts “included many vital projects, notably in the oil, gas, water and transport sectors,” Abdallah Jum’ah, the co-chair of the council, was reported as saying by Asharq Al-Awsat.

Energy was the top sector, with $3.1 billion of the value of contracts awarded, with many struck by Saudi Aramco. 

Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said.

The construction sector also looks set for a recovery after many projects were put on hold due to the oil-price crash.

“If the pace of awarding construction contracts witnessed during the first quarter of 2019 continues for the rest of the year, the index of awarding construction contracts may return to the range we witnessed before the canceling and postponing of mega projects due to lower oil revenue,” the council said.