South Korea Considers Regulatory Measures for Cryptocurrency Mixers

South Korea Considers Regulatory Measures for Cryptocurrency Mixers

South Korean financial authorities are currently exploring the introduction of specific regulatory measures for cryptocurrency mixers. This move comes in response to concerns about the misuse of these protocols for money laundering by criminal organizations. Originally designed for privacy protection, mixers have increasingly become tools for illicit financial activities.

The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of South Korea’s Financial Services Commission is leading the charge in examining potential regulatory frameworks for cryptocurrency mixers. These mixers, also known as tumblers, fragment and intermix digital assets, making it difficult to trace transactions and user identities. While they were initially intended to protect the privacy of users with substantial funds, they have now become a means for criminals, including hackers, to launder money.

The absence of specific sanctions against mixers in South Korea has led to a significant risk of these platforms being used for money laundering. To address this, the proposed regulations might restrict virtual asset service providers from engaging in mixer-based transactions. Professor Hwang Seok-jin from Dongguk University’s Graduate School of Information Security highlights the importance of new regulations to prevent the cash-out of stolen assets through exchanges and to maintain market integrity.

The urgency for these regulatory measures in South Korea stems from a recent hacking incident involving the Orbit Bridge. Hackers exploited the protocol and stole approximately $81 million worth of various digital assets, suspected to have been laundered through mixers. In response, the FIU in South Korea aims to align its actions with international trends and regulatory efforts.

Regulatory actions by other authorities, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), further support the need for intervention. FinCEN recently established Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations specifically targeting mixers. In fact, they have already sanctioned a crypto mixer called Sinbad, which was frequently used by the North Korean hacking group ‘Lazarus’ for laundering stolen funds.

While there is a growing global consensus on the need for regulatory measures to address the misuse of mixers, formulating concrete frameworks will take time. This is due to the novelty of this discussion and the requirement for international coordination, given the cross-border nature of mixer usage. The FIU intends to closely monitor the developments in other countries and actively collaborate with international regulators to crack down on the misuse of mixers.

As the use of cryptocurrency mixers continues to grow, so does the risk of their exploitation by criminal organizations for money laundering. South Korea acknowledges this threat and is taking steps to introduce specific regulations to curb such illicit activities. By implementing regulatory frameworks, authorities aim to safeguard financial market integrity and prevent the cash-out of stolen assets through mixer-based transactions. While this regulatory effort will require international coordination, there is a growing consensus among global regulators on the necessity of taking action against mixers. With increased collaboration and monitoring, the misuse of mixers can be effectively addressed and deterred.


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