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Korean Won Overtakes US Dollar as Top Fiat for Crypto Trading


The South Korean Won (KRW) has overtaken the US Dollar (USD) in terms of trading volume against cryptocurrencies. A report by the financial analytics firm Kaiko revealed that in Q1 of 2024, transactions on centralized cryptocurrency exchanges involving the Won exceeded $456 billion. This narrowly edges out the trading volume of the US Dollar, which posted figures around $455 billion.

This rise in trading volume has been attributed to a competitive environment in the South Korean crypto exchanges where a “fee war” has been identified. This race has resulted in a considerable increase in trading activities, with Won taking its place at the top of the list of the world’s fiat currencies in the crypto market.

Fee Wars Fuel Korean Won Trading Surge

One factor contributing to Won’s appreciation is the intensifying competition between the exchanges in South Korea. Major players in the industry, such as Upbit, Bithumb, and Korbit, have resorted to aggressive tactics aimed at attracting traders, such as introducing zero-fee trading periods.

Although such strategies have led to a considerable rise in trade volumes, they have also affected the cash flows of these platforms. For example, Bithumb’s yearly returns declined by 60% in 2023, attributable to its zero-fee policy, which was rolled back soon in early February 2024 after just five months of implementation.

Notwithstanding these financial difficulties, the fee wars seem to be working in the sense that market activity has risen to levels not seen in over two years. In the beginning of March 2024, trading volume reached the top, influenced by a better macroeconomic environment and high market competition.

Global Context and Market Trends

The Korean won’s dominance in cryptocurrency trading occurs at a time when the crypto market is experiencing some notable global developments. The recent green light of the Hong Kong financial regulator for three spot Bitcoin and Ether ETFs is expected to positively impact market moods in the Asia Pacific region. These ETFs, set to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, could further stimulate trading activity involving the Won.

In addition, the crypto market still follows regulatory actions in the United States, and the Securities and Exchange Commission more prudently observes the likes of Uniswap Labs. Regulatory actions of this nature tend to impact market dynamics and investor sentiment globally and may, therefore, lead to alterations in trading volumes across different fiat and crypto pairs.

Potential Outlook

As the second quarter of 2024 unfolds, market observers will be keenly watching the impact of regulatory developments and their interplay with market forces. The fact that the Korean Won holds a leading position in the trading volume of cryptocurrencies is representative of a wider trend towards diversification in the global crypto market. Traders and investors increasingly tend to seek alternatives from traditional havens, such as the US dollar, to other fiat currencies, which have competitive advantages, such as lower fees or better market liquidity.

The development of the fee war among the South Korean exchanges will also be crucial. Should these platforms be able to find a middle ground between increasing volume and keeping profit, the Korean Won will continue to be the top currency against the US Dollar in the crypto trading sector. With the maturing market, the approaches that these exchanges favor will become the template for other regions that would like to strengthen their position in the cryptocurrency market.

Read Also: Uniswap (UNI) Crosses Historic $250B L2 Volume, UNI To Rally?



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