On Thursday, conservative, pro-crypto candidate Yoon Suk-yeol claimed victory in South Korea’s hotly-contested presidential election, claiming approximately half of the votes in a race that saw 77% of voters turn out. In under a day, the South Korean project ICON surged over 60%, buoyed by optimism that Yoon’s victory may herald a raft of pro-crypto policies.
The country is home to a young, tech-savvy population, which gravitated toward Yoon in part because of his pro-crypto outlook, and his pledge to deregulate South Korea’s exploding crypto market. Last winter, Yoon minted an NFT of his signature on the ICON blockchain, and in the leadup to the election, Yoon also launched his own NFT collection.
Today, the Korean won is the third most-popular currency for Bitcoin-to-fiat conversions, and by some estimates, South Korea has become the third-largest crypto trading market in the world. But in recent years, the local crypto industry has been hamstrung by tightening regulations and a crackdown on local crypto exchanges.
“To realize the unlimited potential of the virtual asset market, we must overhaul regulations that are far from reality and unreasonable,” Yoon has said about the country’s restrictive crypto policies.
While his predecessor oversaw the closure of approximately 70 crypto exchanges, Yoon has pledged to relax capital gains taxes on crypto profits and help victims of crypto crimes recoup financial losses. He plans to increase the threshold for capital gains taxes on crypto profits from $2,000 to $40,000, a victory for crypto traders in the country.
Beyond crypto, however, Yoon’s allure is largely credited to his anti-feminism platform, which galvanized legions of young South Korean men, who formed a key swing vote, to cast ballots for him. In a political moment where women have gained inroads in South Korea’s chaebol-dominated economy, women are facing a backlash from men unwilling to cede power.
Yoon pledged to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, castigating the ministry for treating South Korean males as “potential sex criminals.” Unsurprisingly, only 34% of women in their 20s voted for Yoon, whereas almost 60% of men in their twenties cast a ballot in favor of him.
Despite the focus on gender equality as a key electoral issue, however, many younger citizens are more concerned about the economy. The majority are locked out of affordable housing, with apartments in the capital Seoul now climbing to nearly $1 million – out of reach for the majority of South Koreans. For those seeking greater economic mobility, crypto has been one avenue out.
And for them, Yoon’s crypto policies might be more favorable. Among other changes, the politician said that he might overturn a 2017 ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs), which have been rocked by rug-pull scams in recent years.