Despite only launching in October 2017, by January 2018 UPbit was already the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea by average daily trading volumes. Without discounting the level of success represented by the rapid traction UPbit has achieved, the exchange does have some very serious backing. UPbit’s founder, Song Chi-Hyung, is one of South Korea’s richest men. Chi-Hyung’s company Dunamu, which is the holding company behind UPbit, started out in 2012 as an online news aggregator but quickly moved into Fintech, where it has had real success.
Through Dunamu, UPbit partnered with Kakao Corp., a publically listed internet giant that holds stakes in numerous products including South Korea’s most popular online music streaming service as well as owning apps such as the hugely popular Kakaotalk instant messaging service. The alliance between Dunamu and Kakao dares back to KakaoStock, a mobile stock trading app which leverages Kakao’s instant messaging base of 50 million. The exchange is also partnered with US-based exchange Bittrex, also one of the world’s biggest. At the peak of December 2017’s cryptocurrency mania, Upbit’s average trading volume reached $4.5 billion a day, with a one-day record of $11 billion. With Kakao also offering an increasingly popular online banking app and Kakao Pay, the country’s second most popular mobile payments app, the ways in which UPbit might in future leverage the exchange’s backers means it is likely to remain a dominant force, at least in South Korea. And as the world’s biggest national cryptocurrency market, it’s not a bad one to dominate.
At least for the moment, Upbit’s website and exchange platform are only available in Korean, which will, of course, limit the attraction for an international audience. However, the Google translation is pretty good and means that the site and exchange platform can be navigated through reasonably comfortably in English, and presumably other languages. The more significant barrier for international users is that to register and trade with the exchange the same process is applied as to South Koreans and it’s pretty geo-specific. KakaoTalk and Kakao Pay accounts are required for login as names verification by a South Korean mobile carrier. Basically, if you don’t live in South Korea, opening up an account with UPbit would require an inordinate effort.
The desktop and mobile app versions of the exchange platform closely resemble the KakaoStock platforms and are essentially a version of the same platform adapted to cryptocurrencies trading. This does mean that the technology is built to a very high level in terms of design, usability, and functionality.
The exchange doesn’t offer leveraged cryptocurrencies trading but does offer traders a high-quality analysis and newsfeed resource.
The only Fiat currency that UPbit currently supports is the South Korean Won, in which deposits can be made in and out of from South Korean bank accounts. As a result of the partnership with Bittrex, UPbit offers a very wide range of cryptocurrency coins and token, with over 100 listed. Almost all of the top 100 cryptocurrencies by market cap are available, as well as some outside of that.
UPbit does not charge any fees on deposits and while withdrawal fees vary depending on the cryptocurrencies being withdrawn, or in Won to a bank account, they are not high. Trading fees are roughly in line with most South Korean exchanges and are set at 0.25% for both takers and makers. It’s not the cheapest exchange to trade on internationally but South Korean exchanges generally aren’t and fees are in line with the local context.
Security and Fairness
As might be imagined for a cryptocurrency exchange backed by one of South Korea’s real internet and Fintech giants in Kakao, cyber security levels protecting UPbit traders are significant. Wallets are secured by BitGo, widely recognized as the global standard in multi-signature wallets and favored by many of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges internationally. Account security is in partnership with Kakao Pay, the mobile payments app owned by partner Kakao Corp., and a leader on the South Korean market, second only to Samsung Pay. It’s safe to say the Upbit’s cybersecurity standards are hard to beat.
The exchange provides customer support through email, a telephone number and also KakaoTalk, the popular messaging app owned by Kakao. Support levels have a generally good reputation with plenty of agents on hand to respond to inquiries or difficulties and an extensive FAQ section is also provided.
Pros and Cons
- Well over 100 cryptocurrencies supported
- Backed by one of South Korea’s biggest technology companies
- The top technology used for trading platform
- High-level cybersecurity
- Difficult for non-South Koreans to trade on this platform
- South Korean Won the only Fiat currency supported
- Margin trading not offered
It’s not by coincidence that UPbit has become the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the world and, according to CoinMarketCap data, the fifth largest in the world by daily turnover within a matter of months. The exchange has arguably the most serious backing in the world in the form of Kakao Corp., the South Korean internet giant and the partnership with Bittrex, the major US exchange, that allowed well over cryptocurrencies to be supported, has also gone a long way to quickly establishing the exchange among the global elite.
From a technology and security point of view, UPbit has few rivals and the range of tradable coins is also up there with the best. The one drawback is that UPbit is very much a South Korean exchange and setting up an account and trading is difficult for anyone of a different nationality.
- South Korea