Upbit Rises to Top Five Crypto Exchanges, Challenging Binance and Coinbase

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 increased regulatory scrutiny 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 solidify Upbit’s market position.
  • Despite regulatory challenges, South Korean traders remain highly active in the crypto market.

Upbit’s Popularity and Trading Skyrockets

Upbit offers a wide array of cryptocurrencies, making it a dominant player in South Korea’s crypto landscape. The platform 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 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, could 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.

South Korea’s Mass Appeal for Crypto

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 shows 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 in crypto has become a political issue in Seoul, with candidates in recent parliamentary elections pledging to postpone taxes on digital assets or ease constraints 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, said:

"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 its dominant position in South Korea and the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies among South Korean traders, Upbit is well-positioned to challenge industry giants like Binance and Coinbase. However, the evolving regulatory environment will be a critical factor to watch in the coming months.


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