Upbit Leads South Korea’s Crypto Market, Ranks in Global Top 5

Azeez Mustapha


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Upbit controls 80% of South Korea’s crypto trading market, challenging major global players such as Coinbase.

Upbit, a South Korean-based cryptocurrency platform, accounts for over 80% of the country’s trading activity and has emerged as one of the top five exchanges worldwide in terms of trading volume.

A Bloomberg report notes that Upbit’s clients contributed nearly 20% of the total deposits from its major banking partners last year.

Concerns Emerge Over the Dominance of Upbit
Upbit’s dominance has attracted criticism and concerns, especially as South Korea prepares to implement new legislation to protect investors in response to the 2022 TerraUSD stablecoin collapse.

The forthcoming regulations, set to take effect in July under the Virtual Asset User Protection Act, will enforce stringent requirements on cryptocurrency exchanges, such as increasing reserves, strengthening investor protection, and monitoring suspicious transactions.

These concerns arise from the possibility that the regulations could solidify Upbit’s status as the dominant force in the Korean market.

Nam HyeonJoon, a spokesperson for Bithumb, South Korea’s second-largest trading platform, emphasized the hurdles posed by the new regulatory framework, mentioning the significant capital and manpower needed to achieve compliance.

Simon Seojoon Kim, CEO of Hashed, a Korea-based venture capital firm, agreed with this perspective, stating that well-funded exchanges like Upbit might find it simpler to adhere to the new standards, potentially increasing the divide between market leaders and smaller competitors.
Upbit Leads South Korea's Crypto Market, Ranks in Global Top 5These regulatory obstacles have already impacted international exchanges looking to enter the Korean market.

Singapore-based Crypto.com recently announced a postponement of its planned launch in South Korea, citing the necessity for additional discussions with regulators.

The decision followed reports of regulatory scrutiny, with concerns about anti-money laundering practices being raised.Since the crypto law was enacted last June, smaller exchanges such as Huobi Korea, Cashierest, and Coinbit have shut down.

Min Seung Kim, an analyst from Korbit Research, anticipates Upbit will readily comply with the new regulations, observing that competition is shifting more towards the leading exchange.

South Korea’s Cryptocurrency Boom
Despite the regulatory environment, South Korea’s interest in cryptocurrency remains strong. Over six million Koreans, accounting for more than 10% of the population, actively trade cryptocurrencies, making the won one of the most traded currencies against crypto-assets worldwide.The country is a hub of activity for crypto enthusiasts.

“I used to invest more in stocks, but now I’m fully invested in crypto,” said Ho Chan Chung, head of marketing at Korean analytics firm CryptoQuant.

Upbit, launched by Dunamu Inc. in 2017, has rapidly become a major player in the crypto market.

CCData reports that its global trading volume has risen to nearly 5%, up from 1.4% in January 2021. Supported by Kakao Corp. and Woori Technology Investment, Upbit reached a peak valuation of $15.7 billion during the pandemic.

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Azeez Mustapha

Azeez Mustapha is a trading professional, currency analyst, signals strategist, and funds manager with over ten years of experience within the financial field. As a blogger and finance author, he helps investors understand complex financial concepts, improve their investing skills, and learn how to manage their money.

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