The shocking case of former spy Lee Kyung-woo has sent tremors through South Korea. Convicted and sentenced to life in prison in October, Lee Kyung-woo stands accused of kidnapping a woman from an upscale district in Seoul over a cryptocurrency dispute and subsequently causing her demise using drugs acquired from a plastic surgery clinic.
South Korea has faced its share of cryptocurrency-related challenges, punctuated by the notorious case of fallen crypto king Do Kwon. Currently detained in a Montenegrin jail, Kwon awaits extradition over the spectacular collapse of his Terra and Luna tokens, resulting in a multi-billion-dollar fallout.
The crypto crime in South Korea is further complicated by the involvement of another collapsed cryptocurrency, PURE, based in Seychelles but operated by a Korean individual who was apprehended last month on charges of fraud and market manipulation.
Adding a layer of intrigue to the narrative, former spy Lee Kyung-woo found himself entangled in hired killings spurred by a cryptocurrency-related grudge.
Yoo Sang-won and Hwang Eun-hee, a couple who suffered major financial losses in the PURE cryptocurrency, hired former spy Lee Kyung-woo to orchestrate the kidnapping and murder of a woman who had convinced them to invest in the currency.
The victim, persuaded by the couple to invest in PURE, became the target of a grisly crime masterminded by Lee. The couple spent a hefty amount, resulting in a harrowing incident that unfolded on March 29 in Gangnam, Seoul.
Lee and his accomplices used ketamine to kidnap the victim, forcing her to reveal her cryptocurrency account details, which proved unsuccessful. Subsequently, the criminal group injected the victim with ketamine, causing her death.
The body was then buried in a rural area 140 km from Seoul. Court records confirmed the cause of death as “ketamine poisoning.” This disturbing crime sheds light on the dark underbelly of cryptocurrency-related disputes, leading to life sentences for Lee Kyung-woo and his accomplices.
Lee, who once operated a gym and invested his life savings in PURE, justified his actions by claiming the need to use “any means necessary” to recoup his losses. He faced financial setbacks when his health club business folded during the pandemic and invested his life savings in the cryptocurrency PURE, which suffered a staggering 95 percent loss in early 2021.
The former spy, who portrayed himself as an undercover agent operating in North Korea, suggested unconventional and illegal methods to solve problems, including hiring Chinese assassins and harvesting organs.
The couple, Yoo and Hwang, were sentenced to 8 years and six years in prison, respectively, while Lee and his accomplices faced severe sentences, with Lee himself receiving a life sentence and his wife sentenced to five years in prison for her involvement.
South Korea, once a thriving crypto hotspot in Asia, has witnessed the spectacular collapse of Do Kwon’s tokens, causing a decline in retail trust and prompting official scrutiny. Authorities, concerned about the increasing criminality associated with the industry, have established a dedicated inter-agency unit this year to combat crypto-related crime.