CryptoWatch: Bitcoin tumbles on reports South Korea will ban all trading

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Bitcoin came under intense selling pressure on Thursday, as did Ripple and Ether coins, after reports that South Korean plans to ban all cryptocurrency trading.

The bitcoin spot price BTCUSD, -6.53% was recently down 9% at $13,530.19, having tapped a low of $12,845.71, according to CoinDesk data. Those levels haven’t been seen since late December, and the cryptocurrency remains well below a recent all-time high above $19,000 hit in mid-December.

Bitcoin futures for January BTCF8, -5.71%  on the CME dropped 9.5% to $13,075, and on the Cboe, bitcoin futures XBTF8, -4.95%  fell around 9% to $13,110.

Among other cryptocurrencies, Ripple slid 9% to $1.71, while Ether coins on the Ethereum blockchain dropped almost 12% to $1,215.18, according to CoinMarketCap.com data.

“There are great concerns regarding virtual currencies and justice ministry is basically preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges,” South Korea’s justice minister, Park Sang-Ki said at a press conference Thursday, according to the ministry’s office, Reuters reported.

The decision was made after discussions with the country’s finance ministry and regulators, the report said. But even if a bill is drafted, the process of getting the votes needed to approve it could be lengthy, and even take years.

Meanwhile, two of the South Korea’s biggest exchanges, Coinone and Bithumb, were raided by police and tax authorities this week, according to the Reuters report.

Korean clampdown

South Korea is an active region for investing in virtual currency, and news of stepped-up scrutiny there has been hitting the overall market in recent days.

On Monday, digital currencies took a hit on reports South Korean regulators would begin inspecting commercial banks to ensure they were complying with anti-money-laundering regulations.

Shortly afterward, CoinMarketCap dropped Korean exchanges from its aggregate digital currency valuations, which are used to track the price of thousands of those assets. South Korean exchanges have persistently shown the price of cryptocurrencies as higher than on other marketplaces, according to CoinDesk.

Scrutiny has also increased elsewhere. China authorities this week ordered the closure of cryptocurrency mining operations, while in the U.S., regulatory authorities have been persistently warning about the investment risks and the sector. That U.S. scrutiny has led to a number of bitcoin exchange-traded-fund applications being pulled in recent days.

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