Lee Jae-myung, the ruling Democratic Party’s candidate for the 2022 South Korean presidential election, says cryptocurrency is already an integral part of the lives of Korean citizens and the country needs to be a leader in virtual assets.

Fast facts

  • At an invitational lecture at Seoul National University’s finance and economics seminar, Lee said that crypto is an “undeniable reality” that is “recognized by many people as a means of trading and storing value.” He also pointed out that South Korea’s cryptocurrency market trading volume had already exceeded that of the KOSPI stock market.
  • Lee also thinks the central bank digital currency (CBDC) and private cryptocurrencies can coexist, for cryptocurrencies are a more seamless, less expensive and time- saving method for sending remittances overseas compared to the existing financial system.
  • When asked his opinion on whether the government should intervene in seigniorage — the difference between the denomination and production and distribution costs — that occurs in cryptocurrencies. The candidate said individuals making seigniorage profits when issuing virtual currencies is not justifiable, and that there should be a method for the public to share the seigniorage.
  • Lee Jae-myung has been a vocal advocate of virtual assets. He even pushed back, as part of his presidential campaign, on taxes on crypto gains. The crypto tax has since been officially delayed by one year to 2023, with support from Lee and other lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties. The presidential candidate also proposed a plan to redistribute profit from real estate and large-scale housing developments to every Korean citizen in cryptocurrencies.
  • Lee’s crypto campaign is interpreted as an attempt to win over votes from virtual asset investors, as South Korea has one of world’s highest crypto adoption rate — a recent survey revealed that 4 out of 10 Koreans in their 20s and 30s have invested in virtual assets, while the amount of deposits in South Korea’s four largest crypto exchanges — Upbit, Bithumb, Coinone and Korbit — exceeded 60 trillion Korean won (about US$50.9 billion) in September.
  • A latest survey of 1,036 adults showed that Lee currently runs 8.2% behind Yoon Seok-youl, candidate for opposition People Power Party, in a hypothetical multicandidate race, despite gaining 2% from the previous Realmeter survey. Lee has 37.1% support while Yoon has 45.3% support, with the survey’s margin of error being plus or minus 3% at a 95% confidence level. The presidential election will take place in March 9, 2022.