According to a government inspection, the Financial Supervisory Service worker earned about 7 million won ($6,550) in profit from selling about half of his virtual currency holdings last month, just two days before the government announced a package of measures aimed at curbing cryptocurrency speculation.
The profit represented more than 50 percent of his investment, and the finding sparked outrage among investors and others that the official, who is supposed to act as a watchdog, took advantage of unannounced information affecting the market.
|Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (Yonhap)|
"People have expressed anger following revelations that an employee of the main department handling measures on virtual currency earned profits from virtual currency trading," Lee said during a Cabinet meeting. "The reason people are upset and a relevant agency is investigating is because public servants have a special (moral) responsibility."
Lee instructed government agencies to take steps to beef up their codes of conduct and told the Ministry of Personnel and Management as well as the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission to put together new principles and criteria in new codes of conduct.
The current code of conduct states that public servants should not use information obtained in the line of duty for transactions related to securities or real estate, or provide such information to others to help with their transaction and investment.
The anti-corruption commission plans to ask government ministries and agencies to come up with their own criteria about transactions using duty-related information, including virtual currency trading, so as to put together code of conduct guidelines specific to each agency.
Even under the current State Public Officials Act, those who trade in cryptocurrency or stocks during working hours can be punished because such trading constitutes a violation of their obligation to concentrate on their duties during working hours.
The government has been struggling to bring cryptocurrency speculation under control with a series of measures, including a regulation requiring real-name transactions in virtual currency trading, but the overheated market has shown few signs of cooling down.
Earlier this month, the government even suggested that it's considering shutting down all virtual currency exchanges in the country but took the idea back after it sent cryptocurrency prices plummeting and sparked angry reactions from investors. (Yonhap)