Park cited "great concerns" about virtual currencies.
Nonetheless, the announcement triggered a massive selloff of cryptocurrency on both local and offshore exchanges, with the local price of bitcoin dropping as much as 21 percent. Money for industrial growth is being leaked to virtual money trading.
That difference in price is called a "kimchi premium" by many traders. This morning, South Korea's Justice Minister Park Sang-Ki likened cryptocurrency trading to gambling and speculation. It seems that other government departments had only heard of the proposed ban through media reports, and hadn't been apprised of the Justice Ministry's plans. Capital is flying away to virtual currencies.
The minister warned of social repercussions that might come from tremendous potential financial losses if the market begins to collapse.
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However, the impact will be felt by South Korean local exchanges, a few of which are being investigated by authorities according to Bloomberg. We are also concerned about damages individual investors could face when the bubble bursts.
Nonetheless, with Korea the world's largest trader of bitcoin on a country basis, the scare was enough to spread fear and move the market.
According to industry website CryptoCompare, more than 10 percent of ethereum is traded against the South Korean won - the second largest concentration in terms of fiat currencies behind the dollar.
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The dramatic market reaction led to the country's Presidential office to put out a statement saying that the ban on cryptocurrency trading had not been finalised and was still only being considered as a possible option.
South Korea is one of the major cryptocurrency trading markets.
Not tied with any central bank, bitcoin is transferred directly from one person to another, often anonymously, via the blockchain, an online public ledger tracking every bitcoin transaction ever made.
Chat with other cryptocurrency enthusiasts and investors. Just as the year started, it was reported on January 2 that US-based entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel may have invested $15 million to $20 million of his Founders Fund into Bitcoin in early 2017.
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Choi Jong-ku, chairman of the Financial Services Commission, told lawmakers that the government is considering forcing banks to stop offering virtual accounts for cryptocurrencies if any irregularities are found. The ban is implemented to prevent speculative investment in virtual coins.