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 platform alone accounts for 80% of the total crypto trading volumes in the country. This significant market share puts Upbit in direct competition with global players like Coinbase, while Binance appears to be losing ground in Asia.

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

Regulatory Landscape

New legislation aimed at protecting investors, introduced after the collapse of TerraUSD in 2022, requires crypto exchanges to bolster reserves, secure investor protection insurance, and intensify surveillance of suspicious transactions. These measures could inadvertently strengthen Upbit’s dominant position in the market. Recently, Upbit 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 remain highly active in the crypto space, showing a strong appetite for high-risk, high-reward investments. Official data indicates 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.

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

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 trading preferences of South Korean investors.


Upbit’s ascent to the top five global crypto exchanges marks a significant milestone in the cryptocurrency world. With its dominant market share in South Korea and the increasing popularity of the Korean Won for crypto transactions, Upbit is well-positioned to challenge established players like Binance and Coinbase. However, the evolving regulatory landscape will be a critical factor to watch in the coming months.


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