Major cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, ripple and ethereum took a hammering Thursday following the news that South Korea could be preparing to ban trading in digital coins.
At 7:25 a.m. London time, bitcoin was down nearly 6 percent, while ethereum fell over 11 percent and ripple took a 9 percent tumble, versus their price a day ago, according to data from Coinmarketcap.com. Many of those coins began to pare losses later in the morning. Ripple was up nearly a tenth of a percent by 8:10 a.m. London time.
South Korean Justice Minister Park Sang-ki said Thursday that the ministry is “basically preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges.”
At around 4.50 a.m. London time, a few minutes after news, over $106 billion of value was wiped off of the entire cryptocurrency market when compared to the market capitalization at the beginning of the day on Thursday. It has since pared some of those losses.
This fall in prices comes after two major cryptocurrencies hit record highs. Ripple hit an all-time high of $3.84 on January 4. It has fallen over 50 percent since then as of 8:00 a.m. London time on Thursday.
South Korea is one of the major cryptocurrency trading markets. It accounts for somewhere in the region of 6 percent to 12 percent of bitcoin trading, according to industry website CryptoCompare. For ethereum, this figure is higher at around 14 percent. Ripple buying in the South Korean won can be as high as 33 percent, depending on the day.
The country’s government did not give concrete details about any potential new legislation. Reuters reported that the proposed ban on cryptocurrency trading was announced after “enough discussion” with other government agencies including the nation’s Finance Ministry and financial regulators.
Major cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are often traded at a premium on South Korean exchanges, meaning that they are at a higher price versus other exchanges in the U.S. or Europe for example.
Earlier this week, industry data provider CoinMarketCap even removed some South Korean exchanges from the way it calculates the prices of cryptocurrencies, citing “extreme divergence in prices from the rest of the world.”
Regulators are taking a keener interest in the cryptocurrency world. Reuters reported Thursday that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing next month with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Major business figures also continue to pour water cold water on cryptocurrencies.
“In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending,” Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, told us Wednesday.