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Where to Buy Bitcoin in South Korea as a Foreigner

I drank the Kool-Aid. I bought Bitcoin. Ever since my coworkers have been going on and on about how economies are crashing and Bitcoin will be the future, I finally caved and went searching for Bitcoin exchanges available to me in South Korea that I could toss my “snack money” into.

this is pretty much what happened.

Unfortunately, as a foreigner in Korea, my options were a little limited due to citizenship restrictions, lengthy verification processes, and incompatibility with my Korean bank account. Binance, for example, blocked US citizens from their regular trading platform according to theblockcrypto.com. Etoro.com was a bust as it cannot “accept US citizens who do not live in the US.” And my accounts on Coinbase and Gemini have been pending for-ev-er. Coinbase customers based in Korea also cannot currently add a payment method to their account for buys, sells, withdrawals, and deposits.

Payment Methods

If you’re transferring money to a non-Korean Bitcoin Exchange with an overseas bank address, you will probably have to pay additional fees. Wire transfer to overseas banks may be costly depending on your domestic bank, and you may have to wait for the transfer to clear before receiving your Bitcoin. Also, most international exchanges do not accept KRW, so you’ll have to convert your KRW to USD. You may also have adjustments made to the BTC received due to the amount of time that has passed.

Paying with a credit/debit card may also come with high fees and surprise charges as most exchanges will charge up to 5% in fees through third-party payment providers. Why the high fees? Debit cards are reversible and have a high risk of fraud.

Why I Can’t Use Binance, But You May Be Able To

Though Binance is not a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange platform, it’s worth mentioning. Binance initially started in China but has since moved on to Malta and then now rumored to be in the Cayman Islands. It’s considered one of the more popular trading platforms due to its low fees.

If you’re not an American, you can sign up for a Binance.com account. If you are an American (like me), you’re mostly SOL. Americans have to sign up for Binance.us which can be difficult for Americans residing in South Korea since you have to verify a US address.

The fee schedule varies on your account level. At the most basic account level, the standard taker and maker fee is 0.1%. The withdrawal fee for Bitcoin is 0.0005 BTC. You can also view the Binance US Fee Schedule which mentions their 0.5% Instant Buy/Sell fee. Paying by debit/credit card comes with a 3.5% fee.

Requirements for Foreigners to Use Korean Cryptocurrency Exchanges

After 2017, foreigners were no longer allowed to deposit Korean won into domestic (Korean) cryptocurrency exchanges with the exception of one exchange, Gopax. You can read more about why in this Forbes article published in 2018.

Take note that you are only allowed to use Korean cryptocurrency exchanges if you are a legal resident of South Korea. You must have a valid Korean phone number and a government-issued resident card. Fiat currency exchange is also limited to those using domestic (Korean) banks.

After verifying your account, you can easily deposit Korean won directly from your Korean bank account through domestic transfer. The verification was easy and instantaneous as I connected my Korean phone number and submitted my ARC card number.

Fee Comparison

NameWithdrawal Fees (BTC)Withdrawal Fees (KRW)Maker FeeTaker Fee
Coinone0.0015 BTC (minimum 0.0001 BTC)1,000 KRW (minimum 5,000 KRW)0.2%0.2%
Korbit0.001 BTC (minimum 0.0001 BTC)1,000 KRW0.15%0.15%
Bithumb0.001 BTC (discount coupons available)1,000 KRW0.25%0.25% (discount coupons available)
Gopax0.001 BTC1,000 KRW0.2%0.2%
UPbit0.0009 BTC1,000 KRW0.25%0.25%
Huobi0.0005 BTC1,000 KRW0.1%0.1%

Keep in mind that withdrawal fees for BTC at Gopax, Korbit, and Bithumb are 0.001 BTC if you ever want to move your Bitcoin out of their wallets which is high at around $46 USD (as of Feb 10, 2021 at 12:14 AM.) A 1,000 KRW fee for withdrawing Korean currency is pretty standard among the exchanges. They also charge between 0.1% to 0.25% when doing any trading.

Gopax

The easiest platform for me to use in South Korea as an American was Gopax since they have support available in English and Korean. As far as I know, Gopax is also the only cryptocurrency exchange platform in Korea that foreigners can link their domestic (Korean) bank account to. Domestic wire transfers are, fortunately, almost instantaneous and inexpensive, so you’re also more likely to receive your Bitcoin immediately.

You can still sign up for accounts on the other Korean platforms, but you’ll face difficulties when trying to deposit Korean won.

Cryptocurrency Tax in South Korea

According to Coindesk, there’s a new tax plan on its way in South Korea for 2022. It’s definitely worth visiting the article from Coindesk Korea, if only to read the angry comments. After 2022, you’ll have to file your taxes accordingly and will have to pay a 20% tax on any profits when trading Bitcoin. You can use Google Translate on Chrome Browser to translate the article to your native language.

From January 1, 2022, those who earned profits from cryptocurrency investments must pay 20% of the profits exceeding 2.5 million won per year as other income tax.

Coindesk Korea

Not Your Keys, Not Your Coins

Hardware Wallet

Trezor One

If you need to store your bitcoin in a hardware wallet, one of the most popular brands out there right now is Trezor. You can purchase the Trezor One wallet from this authorized reseller in South Korea for ₩49,000 which normally retails for 48.76 EUR on the Trezor website.


Did you find this article useful? Comment below and tell me what you think! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook, so I can feel all the love.

12 comments on “Where to Buy Bitcoin in South Korea as a Foreigner

    • Hi Robin,

      I just signed up for an account to double-check the procedure. I had no problem signing up.

      You do however need to have a domestic (Korean) phone number in order to create an account. Like most Korean applications, you probably want to keep your name in capital letters and spelled exactly how you have it on your mobile phone contract. You also want to input your address in Korean.

      The only thing to note is that I realized after authenticating is that you cannot link a domestic (Korean) bank account to your Korbit account.

      In that case, I would suggest signing up for GOPAX as I know for a fact I was able to link my domestic bank there.

      I hope this helps,
      Monica

  • Nice info! Thank you!
    I already tried all the app but couldn’t find the way…
    But just today, I found that I can use my Korean debit card for Binance!
    I think the fees is expensive. TT I may try GOPAX again later.

    • Yes, Binance works well! The only reason that I didn’t mention them is Americans were kicked off binance.com and binance.us requires US address verification.

      GOPAX should also work. There are no deposit fees when depositing Korean won from your domestic bank account, but you will have to watch out for trading and withdrawal fees (like all other platforms).

      • KEB. I had to connect my bank account directly with a Korean exchange platform. I also had issues with using my KEB debit & credit card on a number of exchanges – even though I have international purchases enabled.

  • Hey sir…i am from nepal and i am working in korea now but i a am unable to invest in bitcoin…when i try to register any app it says forigners cannot use it..can you help me out please

    • You can resister on GOPAX as long as you have your Korean resident registration card, domestic bank, and domestic phone number.

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