Overview and History
Among all the countries in the world, South Korea has one of the most active and lively crypto markets in the world. During the peak of the 2017 bull run, Koreans were buying Bitcoin like there’s no tomorrow. There would be a 5-10% premium on the Korean market, also called the Kimchi premium. And within the Korean crypto market, the largest exchange is Upbit. Despite starting operations in late 2017, by early 2018, Upbit has skyrocketed itself to the top. It surely helps to have one of South korea’s richest men, Song Chi-Hyung, as the founder and have Kakao as their partner. Through the holdings company, Dunamu, funding was secured from South Korean internet giant Kakao Corp. The partnership with Kakao also led to the creation of Kakao stock, the internet company’s mobile stock trading app. They are also partnered with US based exchange Bittrex.
Although they started out in Korea catering specifically for the korean traders, they have managed to branch out to offer their services to the rest of the world, specifically targeting South East Asian countries. They currently offer 3 Upbit exchanges, namely Upbit Korea, Upbit Singapore, and Upbit Indonesia.
The first and main one is Upbit Korea. This is the main exchange and is available only for Koreans. This is the most active among the three processing around $400m worth of volume daily and offering 173 coins across 258 markets. They offer KRW, BTC and USDT trading pairs only. Of these, the top 40 pairs are all traded against KRW.
Upbit Korea is designed and operated only for Koreans and its residents. First, the whole website is in Korean without the option to switch into english. You will need to use Google translate if you can’t read Korean. Second, you will also need KakaoTalk and KakaoPay accounts to sign up and start. Since KakatoTalk is virtually used by every Korean, this is a very easy process for them. Identification is also asked upon registration. Fiat transfers are done via Korean banks so it is very hard for non-Koreans to even open an account.
As an exchange, Upbit also gives priority in listing Korean crypto currencies. They would debut Korean ICOs. Some of the more well known ones are Carry Protocol and MIL.K. They often give a high return on listing since these are well known in Korean communities and have partnered with big Korean companies.
The second one is Upbit Singapore. This version is also known as the Upbit global version. Users from around the world are automatically directed here. Upbit SG first launched in November of 2018. There are currently 45 coins here across 52 markets. They offer BTC, USDT and SGD trading pairs only. 2019 volume was relatively low but still good enough but that quickly dried up in 2020 to the point that even the BTC/USDT pair is just at 2 BTC volume per day with almost $300 spread between ask and bid price.
The last and most recently launched is Upbit Indonesia. It was launched in January of 2019. They currently offer 165 coins across 191 markets. They offer IDR, BTC and USDT trading pairs only. Compared to Upbit Singapore, Upbit Indonesia seems to be doing much better processing around $1.5m daily volume.
Dunamu & Partners
Dunamu is the parent operator of Upbit. Aside from operating the exchange they also have an investment arm called Dunamu & Partners. It has been aggressive in its investments investing in blockchain, gaming and even travel startups. Here is a list of their portfolio companies:
- Terra – stablecoin-based payments network
- Rainist – Fintech startup
- Dalcom Soft – Gaming software firm
- Honest Fund – Peer-to-peer lending platform
- Tide Square – Online travel agency
- Finhaven – blockchain-based investment platform
- Band Protocol – blockchain oracle and content startup
Upbit Main Exchange
Upbit’s main exchange has all the basics you’d expect from a top tier exchange. It integrates Tradingview charts so it has all the functionalities like indicators and drawing tools. The main difference is the color scheme. While Japanese candlesticks are normally red and green or black and white, Upbit uses the red and blue. In this case, red means an increase and blue a decrease.
The exchange works well and is snappy even in times of high volume. At the peak of 2017, Upbit handled around $4B worth of volume so their systems are tried and tested to handle massive spikes and volumes
Currently, Upbit does not offer leverage trading, both margin trading and futures trading.
Upbit Mobile App
Upbit offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android. The app is stripped bare minimum and the design is super simple. You can buy and sell right from the mobile app. Surprisingly, they also offer multi chart views. This is very convenient especially when you’re on the go.
Upbit has made it very easy for consumers to buy crypto. Korean users can just link their bank accounts and do a wire transfer. Since the majority of trading pairs are in KRW, they can just go ahead and buy their preferred crypto straight from the exchange. They also have integrations with KakaoPay which is widely used in Korea so loading their balance is really simple.
For Upbit Singapore, SGD services are currently suspended. As for Upbit Indonesia, you will need to do KYC first and then link your bank account details. Upbit has made the depositing of cash directly to the exchange very easy and straightforward.
Deposit and withdrawal limits vary depending on the KYC level you provide. When you sign up, you are automatically at KYC Level 1 which does not let you withdraw nor deposit. KYC Level 2 requires proof of identity and is done by sending picture of your government issued ID. Here, crypto deposits are unlimited and withdrawal has a small limit. On completeing KYC level 3, Bank account verification, you can not deposit and withdraw local currencies with amounts as seen in the table below.
Upbit’s fees are higher compared to the rest of the market. They charge 0.25% for both maker and taker fees. Normally, exchanges would have a lower maker fee to encourage more people to provide liquidity. Stop limits for local currencies will have an additional 0.15% fee for stop limit orders. However, Koreans don’t seem to mind this given the amount of volume and breadth of tokens Upbit offers.
Deposit and Withdrawal Fees
Depositing crypto is free for all tokens. However withdrawal fees will vary depending on the token you would like to withdraw. More popular tokens such as BTC, ETH, and USDT have withdrawal fees of 0.0005 BTC, 0.01 ETH and 3 USDT. These are much higher than withdrawal fees from other exchanges.
Upbit Customer Support
Upbit offers a few ways to deal with your account and trading issues. You can email them by clicking the contact button on the homepage. These support tickets are usually responded to within the day. They also provide a good FAQ section that covers most of the basic questions from account details to KYC and trading terminologies. Lastly, they also offer 1:1 customer support in Upbit Korea via KakaoTalk.
Security is very important for any financial service especially for crypto exchanges money especially for large institutional clients. Upbit offers different security options as seen below.
2FA – This has been a standard form of account protection. This involves using a separate device that generates a unique code or combination every few seconds. You will be asked to enter this upon signing in.
Email verifications – Whenever you would like to withdraw funds, an email will be sent to your email address for you to confirm if this transaction is legitimate.
Hot and Cold Wallets – This is a standard procedure that separates revolving funds (hot wallet) and most user funds (cold wallet). The cold wallet is disconnected from the internet so it is less likely to be hacked. It is akin to banks not having all of their money locked in a giant safe. They only hold what they expect to be transacted that day.
In December of 2019, a group of hackers hacked Upbit for $50m worth of crypto. Despite this, the company will cover it through their own assets as circulated in a company memo. This shows good will and will definitely keep the trust of their users.
Upbit is a very popular exchange in one of the most active crypto countries in the world, South Korea. They are also known by the rest of the crypto world as a proponent of Korean projects. By offering tokens to the korean market, this usually pumps the price of the asset especially during a bull run. For Koreans, it is a good experience having an exchange that is integrated to their bank accounts, their KakaoTalk and KakaoPay accounts. Their system is robust and is proven to handle enormous amounts of volume.