The South Korean Won has surpassed the US dollar to become the world’s most traded fiat currency in trading against cryptocurrencies in the first quarter of 2024. This is evident from a report by Kaiko, published on April 15.

The Won accounted for more than $456 billion in trading volume on centralized crypto exchanges, just slightly more than the $455 billion volume in US dollars.

Fee war between crypto exchanges

The increase in trading activity with the Won has been attributed to a fierce ‘fee war’ between Korean cryptocurrency exchanges. According to Kaiko, the improved macroeconomic environment in South Korea, together with intense competition among exchanges, led to a significant increase in trading volume, which reached the highest level in more than two years in early March.

In comparison, euro-denominated trading pairs generated a total volume of just $59 billion, putting the euro in third place in the same quarter.

Upbit dominates South Korean crypto market share

Upbit, the largest crypto exchange in the region, dominates over 82% of the South Korean crypto market share as of 2021. However, the recent rise in the market has led to increased competition, with both Bithumb and Korbit launching zero-fee campaigns in late 2023. Despite a continued market share of below 1% for Korbit, Bithumb saw its share triple after introducing zero-fee trading in October 2023.

Kaiko noted that although the zero-fee strategy increased trading volume, Bithumb still reported a significant 60% decline in annual revenue by 2023. This decline led to Bithumb terminating its zero-fee campaign after just five months.

Furthermore, trading volumes for the Korean Won fell in early April, but Kaiko expects a recovery with the approval of spot Bitcoin and Ether exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s financial regulator has reportedly approved three spot Bitcoin ETFs, which will soon be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.


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