South Korean Won Dominates Q1 Crypto Trading Volume

The South Korean won has emerged as a dominant force in cryptocurrency trading during the first quarter of 2024, surpassing the widely favored U.S. dollar in trading volumes on centralized exchanges. According to a recent analysis by Kaiko, a data-driven crypto market trend analysis firm, the South Korean won achieved a staggering $456 billion in trading volume, narrowly outpacing the U.S. dollar’s $445 billion.

This shift highlights the continuing expansion and maturity of the cryptocurrency market in South Korea, a nation that stands as one of the most vibrant crypto trading hubs globally. Despite high premiums, which typically exceed those seen in other regions, the demand for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies remains robust within the country. For instance, during a period last week, Bitcoin traded at approximately $73,000 in South Korea, compared to around $69,000 internationally.

The South Korean crypto market landscape is primarily dominated by five major, fully licensed exchanges. Among them, Upbit has secured a significant lead over the past three years, commanding 82% of the total market share, as per Kaiko’s data. However, the landscape is rapidly evolving with increased competition, especially from Bithumb, which has notably tripled its market share following its implementation of a zero-fee policy in late 2023.

This heightened competition coincides with favorable macroeconomic trends, further catalyzing the trading activity in the region. Such positive sentiment is not confined to South Korea but is also palpable across the wider Asia Pacific region, partly spurred by Hong Kong’s recent approval of spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

The landscape of competition is set to become even more intense with the entry of some of the world’s largest cryptocurrency firms into the South Korean market. Notably, announced earlier this month its plans to launch its app for retail users in South Korea on April 29, a strategic move that underscores the country’s significant role in the company’s global expansion plans. Meanwhile, Binance, the largest crypto exchange globally by trading volume, has also made inroads into the South Korean market by acquiring a major stake in Gopax. However, the finalization of this acquisition remains uncertain, marred by delays from local financial regulators and complications arising from legal challenges in the United States.

These developments paint a picture of a dynamically evolving cryptocurrency landscape in South Korea, marked by robust growth, fierce competition, and significant international interest, which are collectively propelling the nation to the forefront of the global crypto economy.

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