Korean victims of Luna crash say good riddance after US is granted extradition of Do Kwon

Posted on : 2024-02-23 17:34 KST Modified on : 2024-02-23 17:34 KST
Investors who lost money during the Luna-TerraUSD death spiral welcomed a decision to send Kwon to the US, where prison sentences are far steeper than Korea
Terraform Labs CEO Do Kwon after being arrested in Montenegro in March 2023. (Reuters/Yonhap)
Terraform Labs CEO Do Kwon after being arrested in Montenegro in March 2023. (Reuters/Yonhap)

Korean investors hurt by the collapse of the TerraUSD and Luna cryptocurrencies welcomed a court’s decision that disgraced cryptocurrency tycoon Do Kwon should be extradited to the US to stand trial. As CEO of Terraform Labs, Kwon is considered the main culprit behind the spectacular collapse of the two cryptocurrencies.

Prison sentences in the US are much steeper than in Korea, prompting many Koreans to call for major international criminals to be extradited to the US.

The Podgorica High Court in Montenegro ruled Wednesday that Kwon should be extradited to the US, local newspaper Poveda reported.

“Do Kwon will be extradited to the US, which has indicted him for crimes committed in the area of financial operations,” the Montenegrin court said, turning down the South Korean government’s request for criminal extradition.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Goran Rodić, Kwon’s local attorney, announced plans to appeal. That would require another court decision, delaying Kwon’s extradition to the US.

Kwon, whose full name is Kwon Do-hyung, has already been indicted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and he’s also being investigated by a securities crime task force at the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office.

Victims who suffered massive losses in the crash seem to welcome the extradition decision. Members of an online community called “Victims of Luna and Terra’s Crypto Scheme” posted on their forum, “We hope that Do Kwon is sentenced to life without parole for his crimes.” 

One investor, simply identified as “K,” said they had lost over 30 million won (US$22,551) in the Terra crash. 

“US sentences for financial crimes tend to be much harsher, so [Kwon] deserves to be tried and punished in the US,” said K. 

Observers say that Kwon could be sentenced to up to 100 years or more if he is tried in the US. 
Criminal law in the US differs from that of South Korea. If a defendant is found guilty of multiple crimes, then the sentence for the gravest offense is multiplied by 1.5 to cover all offenses committed. In the case of penal servitude, the maximum sentence is 50 years. 

Conversely, the US has no limit on prison sentences. Moreover, each offense is viewed and sentenced individually, and the sentences for all offenses committed are added up in the end. This is why Kwon’s lawyers are demanding his extradition to South Korea and not the US. 

As the international community sees more cases like Kwon’s, where the crime impacts victims around the world, people are increasingly asking the question: Which country gets to punish the criminal? 

When the US requested the extradition of Son Jung-woo, the owner and operator of the child pornography site Welcome to Video, Son’s father blocked the extradition by reporting him to Korean authorities for concealing criminal proceeds. Ultimately, the US extradition request was denied, and Son was tried and sentenced in South Korea — a decision that sparked vehement public opposition, including a massive public petition. 

There are also cases of Korean criminals fleeing to countries with more lax punishments for their offenses, such as the Philippines. The criminals then intentionally commit additional offenses to be arrested by local authorities in the hope of avoiding punishment in South Korea.  

“With advances in the internet and digital technology, crimes are no longer restricted to a specific region, and their impact is becoming increasingly international. In that light, criminals are now ‘shopping around’ for countries with the most lenient penalties for their crimes,” said Won Jae-chun, a professor at Handong International Law School.

“In cases of financial crimes or sexual crimes, it’s necessary to revise or expand criminal jurisdictions so that criminals are tried in their country of origin, or at the very least so that they cannot flee to countries with more lax penalties,” Won added.

By Jeong Hye-min, staff reporter; Oh Yeon-seo, staff reporter; Shin Gi-sub, senior staff writer

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