The South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Upbit has surged into the top five global crypto exchanges, challenging industry giants like Binance and Coinbase. This rise comes amid a resurgence in Asia’s cryptocurrency markets and despite stringent regulatory measures in South Korea.

Key Takeaways

  • Upbit now ranks among the top five global crypto exchanges.
  • The Korean Won has become the most-used fiat currency for crypto transactions, surpassing the USD.
  • Upbit dominates 80% of South Korea’s crypto trading volumes.
  • New regulations in South Korea could further strengthen Upbit’s market position.
  • Over 6 million South Koreans engaged in crypto trading last year.

Upbit’s Meteoric Rise

Upbit offers a wide array of cryptocurrencies, making it a dominant player in South Korea’s crypto landscape. The exchange accounts for 80% of the total crypto trading volumes in the country, putting it in direct competition with global players like Coinbase. Meanwhile, Binance appears to be losing market share in Asia.

Interestingly, Upbit’s rise comes despite increasing regulatory measures in South Korea. Last year, Upbit’s clientele made up nearly a fifth of its primary banking partner’s overall deposits, drawing significant criticism from a South Korean legislator.

Regulatory Landscape

New legislation aimed at safeguarding investors, introduced after the collapse of TerraUSD in 2022, could inadvertently strengthen Upbit’s dominant position. The updated regulatory framework requires crypto exchanges to bolster reserves, secure investor protection insurance, and intensify surveillance of suspicious transactions. As a result, Upbit has decided to submit deposits and withdrawals exceeding $1 million.

Earlier this week, Singapore-based postponed its plans to launch in South Korea, citing the need for more time to consult with regulators.

South Korea’s Crypto Enthusiasm

Despite the $40 billion collapse of TerraUSD, South Korean traders continue to show high participation in the crypto space, demonstrating their appetite for high-risk, high-reward investments. Over 6 million Koreans, constituting more than 10% of the population, engaged in cryptocurrency trading on registered exchanges in the first half of last year.

The widespread interest in crypto has become a political issue in Seoul, with competing candidates in recent parliamentary elections pledging to postpone taxes on digital assets or ease constraints on investing in US Bitcoin ETFs.

Altcoins and Market Trends

Altcoins, smaller tokens beyond Bitcoin and Ethereum, contribute to 80% of the trading volume on Korean exchanges, compared to around 50% on global platforms. This trend highlights the unique preferences of South Korean traders.

Ho Chan Chung, head of marketing at Korean analytics firm CryptoQuant, noted, "I invested more in stocks before, but now I’m all in crypto. The Korean stock market has stagnated, and companies don’t operate for shareholders’ benefit."


Upbit’s rise to the top five global crypto exchanges marks a significant milestone in the cryptocurrency landscape. With new regulations on the horizon and a strong user base, Upbit is well-positioned to continue its growth, challenging established giants like Binance and Coinbase.


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