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South Korea Stunned by ‘Crypto-motivated’ Murder – Is Crypto Crime on the Rise?

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
The lights on the top of a South Korean police car in Seoul, South Korea.
Source: Papii/Adobe

South Korea has been rocked by the apparent kidnap and murder of a 48-year-old woman in Gangnam, Seoul – a crime that seems to have been motivated by crypto. 

Four suspects have been arrested.

The alleged crime was caught on camera and shared in news reports, such as the video below – a report from the national broadcaster MBC.

The video appears to show three men attacking a woman on a street at 11:46 pm in the affluent Seocho neighborhood. 

The district is home to most of the nation’s biggest crypto firms.

The men then appear to drag the woman into a car.

Per Chosun, Maeil Kyungjae, Joongang, and EToday, four men aged between 24 and 36 have been placed into police custody in connection with the crime. 

Three are believed to be the assailants in the video, with the youngest thought to be an accomplice who was employed to “follow” the woman for several months.

The victim’s identity was not revealed, but media outlets reported that she was a “former employee” of a crypto-related company. 

She reportedly owned considerable amounts of crypto assets, such as Bitcoin (BTC).

Police stated that the woman’s husband had been arrested on crypto-related fraud charges and is currently in police custody awaiting trial.

Officers added that “there may be more accomplices besides” those arrested and were currently looking for “additional suspects.”

Was Crypto the Motive for Brutal Killing?

Police think the men kidnapped the woman, held her for two days, drugged her with ketamine, and eventually suffocated her – before driving to the nearby city of Daejeon. 

The victim’s body was found near the city’s Daecheong Dam.

Media outlets released photographs of the men being taken into police custody.

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The 24-year-old reportedly told police that one of the other suspects asked him to help in January, but denied taking part in the kidnap.

Police believe that the 35-year-old was the ringleader, and that he had invested almost $61,000 in the victim’s former company – a firm where he, too, was once employed. Police think that he lost all the money he had invested.

This man, police think, convinced the 36-year-old to help him kidnap the woman. A third man, aged 30, owed money to the 36-year-old – who allegedly said that he would write off the debt if the younger man joined in.

One of the men reportedly told police that the crime “was committed with the purpose of stealing the coins owned by the victim.”

Is Crypto Crime Increasing in South Korea?

Police said the crime was premeditated and explained that the men appeared to have used cash and pay-as-you-go mobile phones to escape arrest. 

Officers repeated their claim that the crime was financially motivated – and that the suspects had hoped to steal the woman’s crypto holdings.

At least two of the suspects were former college classmates, police noted.

In December last year, a crypto firm CEO was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he was found guilty of stabbing his girlfriend to death before throwing her from a 19th-floor apartment complex.

Police have also been battling a rise in crypto-powered drug trafficking.