A high-flying South Korean prosecutor from the Ministry of Justice has been left out of work after controversy arose over his attempted move to take on a post as a legal adviser for a major domestic crypto exchange.
Yonhap reported that the Ministry of Justice had announced that the prosecutor, whom it called “A”, had been working in the ministry’s policy advisory department, had resigned after “trying to become a lawyer at a large domestic cryptocurrency exchange.”
The ministry’s protocols dictate that staff intending to take on additional posts must declare their intentions to an auditory body to avoid conflicts of interest. However, it appears that A decided to bypass this process altogether by resigning from their ministry job in order to take up the new post.
The move, though, appears to have been ill-timed – as the ministry appears caught in a fast-escalating tug-of-war with financial regulators over who is in charge of Seoul’s crypto policy. The government, regulators, police, and the central bank have all spoken out about enacting a “crypto crackdown,” the details of which appear thus far somewhat unclear.
However, the Ministry of Justice appears to have been unhappy about A’s move and the controversy it has already stoked, with many accusing the prosecutor of taking on a post where they would have a conflict of interests – having had access to crypto policy deliberations.
The prosecutor has since decided not to take the post at the (unnamed) crypto exchange but now appears to have ended up in an employment quandary, as the Ministry of Justice is in the process of processing A’s resignation.
The ministry’s stance on crypto has been relatively hardline in the past. In January 2018, days before crypto prices began to tumble, the then-Minister of Justice Park Sang-ki told media outlets that his department was “preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency transactions through exchanges.”
The bill never materialized after the market slid into a long crypto winter, and Park left his post in 2019. However, there have been few signs that the ministry has since softened its stance.