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South Koreans petition government to stop cryptocurrency crackdown

Click to play video 'Bitcoin plunges amid crackdown fears' Bitcoin plunges amid crackdown fears
WATCH ABOVE: Bitcoin plunges amid crackdown fears – Jan 16, 2018

A threat from the South Korean government that it will ban virtual coin exchanges has prompted thousands of citizens to sign a petition.

The petition, which calls on the government to stop regulating the exchange of cyptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, gained more than 210,000 signatures in about two weeks. According to The Wall Street Journal, that means the government will have to respond and open an investigation.

READ MORE: South Korea prepares to ban cryptocurrency trading, exchanges raided

“Please don’t take away our happiness and dreams that we could have for the first time living in South Korea,” the petition, launched last December, reads in Korean.

“You may think you are protecting the public but we citizens think that the government is stealing our dream.”

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Meanwhile, the government said Monday it has still not decided how it will regulate the trades.

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“The plan to ban cryptocurrency exchanges, recently mentioned by the nation’s justice minister, is one measure in talks to curb speculative investments, which the government will carry on with enough discussion for before finalizing the decision,” an official at the Office for Government Policy Coordination said Monday.

The popularly of cryptocurrencies in South Korea helped drive the popularly of Bitcoin in the past months. And on Tuesday, Bitcoin hit a four-week low amid worries that the country would actually go through with its planned crackdown.

Investing in cryptocurrencies has become mainstream in the country amid an economic downturn.

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The high demand from South Korean investors has created what investors call a “kimchi premium” — the extra price South Koreans have to pay to buy digital currencies that are sold in South Korea at higher than the average global prices.

But the government says relying on cryptocurrencies too heavily is risky because of digital currencies’ volatile nature and threats of tax evasion. The government has also flagged the possibility of gambling addiction.

READ MORE: Tempted to invest in Bitcoin? Here are a few things to consider

Worries of South Korea putting limitations on cryptocurrency trading come as Kay Van-Petersen, an analyst with Saxo Bank who predicted cryptocurrency’s surge in 2016, said Bitcoin could hit between $50,000 and $100,000 in 2018.

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In December 2016, Van-Peterson predicted that the virtual currency would hit $2,000 in 2017. Bitcoin was trading at $900 at the time.

On Tuesday, the currency sat at $11,619.80, according to Coinmarketcap.

— With files from Reuters, The Associated Press