First Mover Asia: South Korea Election Made Crypto a Big Issue, but There's No Guarantee of a Follow-Through; Cryptos Suffer Weekend Decline

Both candidates made crypto an important issue to attract younger voters, but it's not yet clear if the winner, Yoon Suk-yeol, will introduce legislation fulfilling his promises; bitcoin and ether were both in the red.

AccessTimeIconMar 13, 2022 at 10:49 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:56 p.m. UTC

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Bitcoin, ether and other major cryptocurrencies had an off weekend as fighting in Ukraine intensified.

Insights: South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol promised a crypto-friendly administration. Now comes the hard part.

Technician's take: BTC upside could be limited with the potential for higher volatility next week.

Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis. And sign up for First Mover, our daily newsletter putting the latest moves in crypto markets in context.


Bitcoin (BTC): $37,783 -3.3%

Ether (ETH): $2,512 -2.9%

Top Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Cardano ADA +0.8% Smart Contract Platform

Top Losers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Cosmos ATOM −3.5% Smart Contract Platform
Solana SOL −3.1% Smart Contract Platform
Polkadot DOT −3.0% Smart Contract Platform

Crypto spends a weekend in the red

Russia's invasion of Ukraine raged on over the weekend, and investors continued to watch events with trepidation .

At the time of publication, bitcoin was trading at about $37,800, off about 3% from where it started the weekend. Ether was trading at approximately $2,500, also down roughly 3% for the same period. Most other major altcoins were in the red.

Since Russia began its unprovoked attack, bitcon has risen and dipped within the $37,000 to $45,000 price range that it entered in late January. "It's been another range-bound, indecisive week for Bitcoin and the crypto markets where the market leader has failed to make any meaningful headway on the upside," wrote Joe DiPasquale, the CEO of fund manager BitBull Capital, in a text to CoinDesk. He added: "The current price action is typical during bearish phases, as was seen in May, June and July, and often precedes strong price bottoms."

Cryptos have largely followed the performance of equity markets, which have dropped significantly in recent months and turned particularly edgy as Ukraine turned into a tinderbox. The economic fallout has troubled a global economy that was already struggling to address logistical bottlenecks, workforce shortages for key positions, rising energy prices and wider inflationary concerns. A crypto executive order by the Biden Administration that sent bitcoin into the mid $40,000 range now seems way in the past.

U.S. gas prices rose to $4.33 per gallon late in the week, smashing the previous record of $4.08 set in 2008 during the Great Recession and nearly $1.50 higher than the price a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. inflation had accelerated in February to a fresh four-decade high of 7.9%. Investors fear that sanctions against Russia, a major global supplier of oil, could send prices even higher.

Crytpo's weekend performance followed another series of Ukraine horrors. Early Sunday, a Russian missile strike on a Ukraine military training center just 10 miles from the border to Poland killed 35 people, according to multiple reports, and threatened to spread the conflict beyond Ukraine borders. Earlier during the weekend, Russia said that it viewed efforts to supply Ukraine as "legitimate targets." A U.S. journalist was killed on Sunday while reporting from a Kyiv suburb.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and other countries that have condemned the invasion have continued to look for ways to ratchet up their sanctions, and a growing list of major global brands have said they will no longer do business in Russia.

"The teetering of crypto prices near a price point that led to lows over the last month is also related to uncertainty over the military actions between Russia and Ukraine," DiPasquale said. "Just as equities markets have been vacillating, crypto markets have largely done the same."

But DiPasquale said the U.S. central bank's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decision Tuesday on interest rates would be "very interesting for markets."

"Volatility is a certainty, but whether the market will rise or fall will depend on what the Fed comes out with," he said.


S&P 500: 4,204 -1.3%

DJIA: 32,944 -0.6%

Nasdaq: 12,843 -2.1 %

Gold: $1,985 -0.5%


Housing prices, economic inequality and feminism were issues at the core of South Korea’s recent election – its closest in recent history – and so was crypto.

For both parties, crypto was an unusually noticeable policy plank in an election where arguably more important issues, such as the lack of affordable housing, was center stage in a country anxious about a slowing economy and rising inequality.

The Democratic Party’s Lee Jae-myung pledged to offer a framework for security token offerings (STO) and a national tokenization project that would allow for some sort of social dividend paid out by real estate speculators. Lee also promised a digital asset management and supervision agency.

Yoon Suk-yeol, the conservative candidate who won the election, said he would take legal measures to confiscate crypto profits gained through illegitimate means and return them to the victims."

As the campaign wore on, some of these promises wore out.

Lee’s digital asset management and supervision agency was unspecific, particularly how responsibilities would differ and not overlap with the existing Financial Supervision Commission. Eventually, this was toned down in campaign literature to a “monitoring agency.”

For Yoon’s part, his “digital asset promotion agency” didn't have much specificity and was eventually dropped from campaign literature.

The question is, six months down the road when the Yoon presidency needs to introduce legislative motions, will crypto be a priority? Yoon’s campaign has been accused playing on the anxiety of the nation's chauvinistic men regarding South Korea’s rocky economic changes and rising feminism in order to gain a few points at the polls. What’s to say the same can’t be said about his crypto policy?

After all, the Biden administration’s much-awaited executive order on crypto, which was expected to come down harshly on the digital assets industry (many prominent Democrats, such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, aren’t fans), wasn’t much to worry about. In fact, it was a win for the industry.

The point is, when polls are close, politicians will use crypto as a way to score some points with the electorate. Crypto still isn’t mainstream enough to affect the masses like housing prices. It still makes many voters’ eyes glaze over at the thought. It doesn’t hit a nerve like housing prices or income inequality.

Although crypto was important during this contentious election, whether it makes it through to a bill and then legislation that is enacted is another question entirely. There are probably more pressing issues to worry about for lawmakers now that the election is over.

Technician's take

Bitcoin Weighed Down by Resistance; Support at $35K-$37K

ETH/BTC price ratio, weekly chart (Damanick Dantes/CoinDesk, TradingView)
ETH/BTC price ratio, weekly chart (Damanick Dantes/CoinDesk, TradingView)

Bitcoin (BTC) continues to struggle within a choppy trading range between $37,000 and $45,000. The cryptocurrency is roughly flat over the past week, although the loss of upside momentum could keep sellers active over the short term.

The downward sloping 100-day moving average, currently at $43,300, has weighed on price action over the past few months. That indicates a downtrend, evidenced by a series of lower price highs since November.

While the downtrend has stabilized within a tight trading range, a lower price high from March 2 indicates limited upside beyond $46,000.

Meanwhile, higher price lows from Jan. 23 have kept BTC anchored above $37,000 support in recent months. A series of higher price lows and strong overhead resistance, however, typically results in a breakout or breakdown in the direction of the prevailing trend. In this case, BTC’s downtrend could resume with higher volatility.

On the other hand, downside exhaustion signals are starting to appear across global equities, especially in Europe and Asia. That could lead to a brief short-squeeze in speculative assets next week, albeit with limited upside.

Important events

8 a.m. HKT/SGT(12 a.m. UTC): Spain retail sales (Jan. YoY)

8 a.m. HKT/SGT(12 a.m. UTC): Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) economic forecasts

3:30 p.m. HKT/SGT(7:30 a.m. UTC): U.S. 3- and 6-month bill auctions

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of "First Mover" on CoinDesk TV:

Russian President Vladimir Putin sees "certain positive shifts" in talks with Ukraine. This comes as Ukraine continues to put up a strong resistance against Russia. Pavel Kravchenko, on the ground in Ukraine, a co-founder of crypto software firm Distributed Lab, joins "First Mover" to share the latest from that region. Timothy Massad, former CFTC chairman and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Research Fellow, weighs in on the impact of the economic warfare on Russia and U.S. President Joe Biden's crypto executive order on digital assets. Plus, crypto markets analysis from David Gan of OP Crypto.


Bitcoin-Banning Measure Seen Too Close to Call in Tomorrow's EU Parliament Vote: Still, people familiar with the matter said a slim majority of parliamentarians could defeat a controversial new MiCA provision that seeks to force proof-of-work cryptocurrencies to shift to more energy-friendly consensus mechanisms.

Ukraine Asks Tether to Halt All Transactions With Russians; Tether Demurs: The vice prime minister of the embattled country has made similar requests with a number of western companies as well as major crypto exchanges.

Bitcoin Miners’ February Production Fell on Shorter Month, Winter Storm: Mining power increased for most miners from the previous month as miners continue their growth plans.

After ‘Doxxing’ Fracas, Bored Apes Team Starts Asking for Customer ID: About a month after Buzzfeed News revealed the identities of its founders, Yuga Labs has started requesting customers’ personal information for an unspecified new project.

Biden's Executive Order on Crypto Receives Bipartisan Praise: The White House unveiled a "whole-of-government" approach to digital assets earlier this week, the president's press secretary said.

Longer reads

Elizabeth Warren and the Mysticism of the Crypto-Skeptics: What Jean-Paul Sartre can teach doubters who continue to poo-poo this technology based on limited reasoning.

Today's crypto explainer: NFT Scams: How to Avoid Falling Victim

Said and heard

"A layer 1 blockchain called Juno is on the verge of doing something radical: taking away tens of millions of dollars’ worth of a holder’s tokens using an on-chain vote by other users." (CoinDesk columnist David Z. Morris) ... "We agree the executive order is an important milestone. But whether it promotes its stated objective of “innovation that works for all Americans, protects our national security interests and contributes to our economic competitiveness and growth” depends on the follow through." (Matthew Homer and Paul Watkins for CoinDesk) ... Though prices are getting attractive, and I’m a buyer not a seller in times like these, it appears the biggest discounts are still ahead. (Placeholder venture capital partner and Cryptoassets co-author Chris Burniske) ... Nearly 78% of all vehicles sold last year were SUVs and trucks, a stark reversal from a decade ago when those types of vehicles accounted for about 55% of total U.S. industry sales, according to data analytics firm Wards Intelligence. Auto executives are bullish on boosting sales of EVs, but the selection on dealership lots is still limited. (The Wall Street Journal on a dearth of fuel efficient vehicles for purchase)


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Damanick Dantes

Damanick was a crypto market analyst at CoinDesk where he wrote the daily Market Wrap and provided technical analysis. He is a Chartered Market Technician designation holder and member of the CMT Association. Damanick is also a portfolio strategist and does not invest in digital assets.

James Rubin

James Rubin was CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.