Top Korean Cryptocurrency Exchanges in 2020

Korean cryptocurrency exchanges are still going strong despite facing opposition from the Korean government and banks. However, all that is expected to change as Yoon Suk-yeol was elected the next president of South Korea. During his campaign, Yoon promised deregulation of cryptocurrency trading. Therefore, this paves the way for the issuance of digital coins in South Korea.

South Korea remains one of the top cryptocurrency trade exchange markets. South Korea has become a hub for cryptocurrency exchanges over the past few years. When you add in the fact that the Korean government has embraced Blockchain technology and is looking to support the Blockchain ecosystem in Korea, there will be high demands for cryptocurrency exchanges. The South Korean cryptocurrency trading market hit over $45 million in 2021.

Big corporates like Kakao, Korean banks, and even the city of Seoul are looking into creating their own cryptocurrency. Now that the price of Bitcoin has passed 50 million won early this year, the crypto market in Korea is officially back! As cryptocurrencies are looking to be on the rise during the start of 2022, we will look at the top 10 Korean cryptocurrency exchanges for 2022.

The Future of Cryptocurrencies in South Korea

Cryptocurrency policies were becoming increasingly stringent in South Korea. For example, a new law requires every company in South Korea to register with the FSC (Financial Services Commission). This law means that cryptocurrency exchanges will not be able to operate in Korea unless they are registered. To date, 28 cryptocurrency exchanges filed their documents. What will happen now that Yoon is the president? Many expect a lot of deregulation in the cryptocurrency space. This is big news for cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea.

The top 4 cryptocurrency exchanges account for 90% of crypto-asset trading volumes in South Korea. These 4 include Upbit, Bithumb, Coinone, and Korbit. They have secured contracts with banks for real-name verification of accounts and have received certification from the Korean Internet and Security Agency.

The rankings were comprised by the Seoulz staff and are based on four factors:

  • Funding Raised
  • Market Opportunity
  • The innovation of service or product
  • Growth Potential/Scalability

Top Cryptocurrency Exchanges in South Korea

UPbit

Korean Cryptocurrency Exchange Upbit

Upbit is one of the largest Korean cryptocurrency exchanges today. They have switched back and forth with Bithumb as the top exchange. However, UPbit remains the top crypto exchange in Korea. The exchange has a user base of around 8.9 million and a trading volume of over $2.6 billion despite the heavy regulations from the Korean government. They are run by a subsidiary of Korean tech giant Kakao.

UPbit has helped the Korean Blockchain ecosystem the most by investing $50 million into Blockchain startups since March 2018. Their Blockchain investment arm is Dunamu & Partners, which has invested in over 25 Blockchain startups. They are expected to invest over $30 more into the Blockchain projects related to Fintech and content creation. Among Dunamu’s shareholders is South Korean Internet giant Kakao Group.   

Bithumb

Bithumb Korean Exchange

2018 and 2019 were slow years for Bithumb. However, since then, they have been moving on the right path. Bithumb has over 8 million registered users and 1 million mobile app users. However, Bithumb has been hit with many hacks over the years.

Many felt the hack was due to the massive layoff by Bithumb, who cut 50% of their workforce in 2018 from 310 employees to 150. The layoff was not due to the hacks but rather the fall of cryptocurrency prices. Bithumb posted a net loss of $170 million in 2018.  Compare that to the net profit of $470 million in 2017. 

For 2022, Bithumb allows the withdrawal and deposit services for three cryptocurrencies (XRP, BCH, and EOS). They will also focus on going global with Bithumb Global. They are already established in 10 countries and will look to provide a safe and reliable withdrawal and deposit service globally. The hope of Bithumb Global is to provide access to cryptocurrencies in as many countries as possible.  

Coinone

CoinoneCoinone will be looking to expand elsewhere in Asia in 2022. They are still one of the biggest crypto exchanges in South Korea. However, they will focus on Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Coinone already operates in Indonesia and opened an umbrella exchange in Malta called CGEX. This is in direct response to the strict government regulations in South Korea.

Coinone Transfer is a payments business and subsidiary of Coinone. Furthermore, they introduced South Korea’s first Blockchain remittance mobile app, Cross. It is a remittance app that utilizes Ripple’s xCurrent product that facilitates speedy cross-border payments. This will allow unbanked individuals to transfer funds from South Korea to Thailand or the Philippines at a very low cost. Coinone is already working with Siam Commerical Bank (SCB) in Thailand and a financial institution called Cebuana Lhuillier in the Philippines. Furthermore, Cross users can send funds to any Thai bank account through the PromptPay app, which is powered by Mastercard.

Coinone Criteria for Listing

There are nine criteria that cryptocurrency projects need to meet in order to get listed on Coinone. These are…

  • market size
  • use case
  • vision and value
  • sustainability of business models
  • transparency of governance
  • token distribution plan
  • team formation
  • roadmap achievement rate
  • marketability

Coinone will mainly focus on Korean Blockchain projects that have a Korean market-focused business plan. The reason is that most of the users on Coinone are Koreans.

“Coinone has a social responsibility and we want to foster a healthy market without much speculation. So we are educating the investors about the technology and the market,” said CEO of Coinone, Cha Myunghun.

Korbit

Korean crypto Exchange Korbit

Korbit was the first-ever Korean won cryptocurrency exchange. They are considered the 4th biggest crypto exchange in Korea. The exchange has been making the news lately, with EA and Disney bidding against each other to acquire Korbit.  Tencent, a China-based IT company, is also very interested in buying Korbit. NXC (Nexon) bought Korbit back in 2017 for $150 million. Then it bought Bitstamp in 2018. While the interest in NXC will be their gaming industry, Korbit and Bitstamp will benefit greatly from the acquisition from any of these three major companies.

Buying NXC means that one of these companies will have two of the major crypto exchanges in their portfolios.  If Tencent wins the bid, they will add Korbit and Bitstamp to their already impressive Blockchain operations.

Korbit was the first cryptocurrency exchange to get an “optimal” grade during its due diligence for information security and AML (anti-money laundering) by the MSIT (Ministry of Science and ICT). In addition, they have brought back Korean won deposit services and formed a partnership with Shinhan Bank.

GOPAX

Korean cryptocurrency exchange gopax

GOPAX, which stands for Global Online Professional Assets Exchange, is the 5th largest Bitcoin exchange in South Korea. Founded by Streamit, it partnered with Shinhan Bank and has been aggressive in hiring the best engineers in the world. Many of their core engineers are from Harvard, Stanford, and KAIST. They allow for trading in Korean won and have over 20 coins available for trade. Traders are able to trade the day they register with no trading fees. This has its pros and cons as many fear GOPAX lacks key security features as it is very easy to register and trade. However, they are the only exchange that acquired KISA’s Information Security Management System (ISMS) certification.  

Their focus in 2018-2021 has largely been on the Korean market. The Korean won is the only fiat currency on the platform. Things may change once the Korean government provides an operational guideline on crypto exchanges. They have already created gopax.com, which is focused on their foreign subscribers. Korean servers cannot access the site. The interesting part is that the company runs its business operations in Korea and pays taxes in Korea.  

Huobi Koreakorean cryptocurrency exchange huobi korea

Huobi Korea is the subsidiary of the China crypto exchange Huobi. When they launched, they listed 100 coins and 208 markets. They hold over 98% of their customer’s assets in cold wallets.  In 2022 they will continue to add coins while looking to add the Korean won to their exchange for trading. Huobi itself is the 3rd largest crypto exchange globally. They also have companies in Singapore, the US, Japan, China, and Hong Kong.

Huobi Korea has also strengthened its anti-money laundering protections. They closely monitor any suspicious transactions on their platform. In addition, they also have an inter-exchange hotline to prevent fraudulent activities. Moreover, they are currently looking to raise their Series B round. Their main goal is not just to raise funds but to find the right strategic partner to help Huobi Korea enhance the development and diversification of its trading products and upgrade its existing services. 

“The fund will help us further strengthen Houbi Korea’s position as a South Korean exchange and conduct a range of business activities that will lead to qualitative and quantitative growth in the South Korean blockchain industry,” said the CEO of Huobi Korea, Cho Kook-bong.

Probit Korea

Korean Cryptocurrency Exchange Probit Korea

Probit Korea was recently listed as the 28th safest exchange in regards to security by Hacken. Security is one of Probit Korea’s strongest features. The CEO of Probit Korea is the ex-partner of Kim & Chang, the largest and most prominent law firm in South Korea. Probit Korea offers KRW deposits and is currently ranked in the top 70 on CMC. Furthermore, they currently have over 100 markets and continue to grow. They are an IEO exchange and have done over 80 IEOs so far. Projects continue to come to Probit Korea for their fair business practices and good value.

ProBit Exchange Key Figures

  • Over 300,000 monthly active users
  • Over 2.5 million web views per month
  • Global outreach in 8 key languages
  • Stake 100,000 PROB and get back 100% of the trading fees in PROB when trading BTC, ETH, or XRP.
  • Earn up to 30% of trading fees for referring friends to ProBit

“Unlike other exchanges based in Korea, ProBit targets the global market and we have prioritized top-notch performance and user security to compete against the top names,” said the CEO of ProBit, Hyunsu Do.


John

John is the Co-Founder of Seoulz. He has covered the startup, tech & blockchain scene for over 7 years and has written over 700 articles regarding the Korean startup ecosystem. Using Google SEO, he has brought global attention to Korea's tech scene. Email him at john@seoulz.com

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