The Asian cryptocurrency market is witnessing a resurgence as South Korean crypto exchange Upbit secures a position among the top five global exchanges. Recent reports indicate that the Korean Won has overtaken the USD as the most-used fiat currency for trading BTC and other digital assets.

Key Takeaways

  • Upbit now ranks among the top five global crypto exchanges.
  • The Korean Won has become the most-used fiat currency for crypto trading.
  • Upbit dominates 80% of South Korea’s crypto trading volumes.
  • New regulations in South Korea could further strengthen Upbit’s market position.
  • Despite regulatory challenges, South Korean traders remain highly active in the crypto market.

Upbit’s Popularity and Trading Surge

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 giants like Coinbase. Meanwhile, Binance appears to be losing market share in Asia.

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

New legislation aimed at protecting investors after the collapse of TerraUSD, founded by South Korean entrepreneur Do Kwon in 2022, may inadvertently strengthen Upbit’s dominant market 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 recently 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 the TerraUSD stablecoin, South Korean traders continue to show high participation in the crypto space, demonstrating their appetite for high-risk, high-reward investments.

Official data reveals that over 6 million Koreans, more than 10% of the population, engaged in cryptocurrency trading on registered exchanges in the first half of last year. This widespread interest has become a political issue in Seoul, with candidates in recent parliamentary elections pledging to delay taxes on digital assets or ease restrictions on investing in US Bitcoin ETFs.

Altcoins, smaller tokens beyond Bitcoin and Ethereum, account for 80% of the trading volume on Korean exchanges, compared to around 50% on global platforms, according to data from CryptoQuant. Ho Chan Chung, head of marketing at Korean analytics firm CryptoQuant, stated:

"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 highlights the dynamic nature of the cryptocurrency market in Asia. With new regulations and a strong appetite for crypto trading among South Koreans, Upbit is well-positioned to maintain its dominance and continue challenging global players like Binance and Coinbase.


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