South Korean Top Court Defines Bitcoin as Asset in Landmark Ruling

This is the first time Korean authorities will seize any digital asset.

The South Korean Supreme Court, in a criminal ruling on Wednesday, has recognized cryptocurrency as an asset because of its “measurable value,” as detailed by a report in the Korea Times.

The case involved a person named Ahn, a 33-year old man, who ran a pornographic website and made profits in Bitcoin. He was arrested and indicted in May 2017 for violating the Protection of Children and Juveniles From Sexual Abuse Law.

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Ahn was already sentenced to 18 months imprisonment along with a fine of 696 million won ($646,000) by a lower court. However, the question remained whether the prosecutors are allowed to confiscate 191 Bitcoins worth over $1.4 million Ahn receive as payment.

Landmark judgment

“The cryptocurrency is recognized to have value so it can be confiscated,” the Supreme Court of Korea stated in its judgment.

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This was a landmark judgment for South Korean administration as for the first time cryptocurrency is subjected to confiscation in the country.

The newspaper detailed that since 2013, Ahn distributed 235,000 obscene pictures online and made 1.9 billion won ($1.7 million). A lower court ruled against an appeal by the prosecutors to seize 216 Bitcoins in his possession that were earned illegally, stating Bitcoins only existed electronically and had no physical form.

However, a high court, on an appealing plea, ruled in favor of the prosecutors recognizing that 191 out of 216 Bitcoins were acquired as a payment from the illegal online content.

“The bitcoins were earned from the proceeds of crime,” the high court order noted. “If we return the bitcoins to Ahn, it will be giving him back profits that were earned illegally from running an online porn site.”

Moreover, the Supreme Court’s order added weight to the high court’s judgment and the South Korean authorities now can confiscate any digital asset related to illegal activities.

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