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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

Wire Transfer to Overseas Account

If you’re transferring money to a non-Korean Bitcoin Exchange with an overseas bank address, you will probably have to pay additional fees by your bank. 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.

If you’re planning on transferring more than 10,000 USD from South Korea, keep in mind that some banks in South Korea restrict the amount of money wired overseas. Hana Bank, for example, has recently reduced the limit of overseas transfers from 50,000 USD to 10,000 USD. Also, keep in mind that transferring 50,000 USD to/from South Korea within one year will raise some red flags, and you may be asked to provide supporting documents as proof. Any transaction over 10,000 USD will be reported to the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) by your local bank.

Hana Bank for Expats, Facebook Group

Credit Card or Debit Card

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.

Keep in mind that a lot of international cryptocurrency exchanges have issues processing payments with domestic Korean debit or credit cards. Your Korean bank may also block the payment.

Domestic Bank Transfer

This one is tricky because you’ll have to find a local Korean cryptocurrency exchange that accepts domestic bank transfers from foreign residents. The only Korean cryptocurrency exchange that allows foreign residents of South Korea to link their bank account for domestic bank transfer is Gopax. On the plus side, there are no fees in depositing your Korean won to the Gopax exchange platform.

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.

Keep in mind that a few of my Korean friends have mentioned that they are no longer able to use their credit/debit cards with Binance due to local Korean banks blocking the transactions, and they have to start using local Korean cryptocurrency exchanges instead.

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.

The Top 5 Cryptocurrency Exchanges in Korea from Maekyung Economy

You’re Going to Want to Sign Up for 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.

New York-based, DCG (Digital Currency Group), who also owns the popular crypto news, CoinDesk, has recently become the second-largest shareholder of Streami, the parent company of Gopax. You can read more at CoinDesk article, “Digital Currency Group Invests in South Korean Crypto Exchange.”

Most importantly, “The investment suggests DCG is not concerned that Gopax will be hurt by the country’s increased scrutiny of the crypto industry.” The investment is also mentioned in this Pulse News article, “Korean crypto platforms strive to turn more reliable with global partner, protection” as well as this Mega Economy article, “외국계 가상자산 투자사 DCG , 한국 중소 거래소에 투자한 이유” (Why did DCG, a foreign virtual asset investor, invest in Korean small and medium-sized exchanges?)

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.


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 exceeding 2.5 million won 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

On March 11th, 2021, Korea JoongAng Daily published the article, “Bitcoin exchanges to be subject to heavy fines by FSS”, in which cryptocurrency exchanges are under scrutiny. They also added that in addition to the 20% tax mentioned above, there will be a 50% inheritance tax imposed on any cryptocurrency assets.

And if you’re thinking about being a sneaky little bugger and hiding all your money in cryptocurrency in Korea without paying taxes, I’d rethink your strategy. According to another article, “National Tax Service targets cryptocurrency for the first time”, the Korean government has and will investigate unpaid taxes in cryptocurrency. The Korea Herald also mentions their ongoing investigation in “Korea toughens rules on cryptocurrency amid market frenzy.”

After March 25th, 2021, new cryptocurrency regulations will also require local cryptocurrency exchanges to use real-name verification and report all suspicious activity to the Korean government according to the Korea JoongAng Daily article, “New cryptocurrency rules in effect from March 25.”

The Kimchi Premium

According to CryptoNews.com on April 5th, 2021, bitcoin prices in South Korea are up around 12% compared to exchanges outside of South Korea. If you’re buying bitcoin in South Korea, you may or may not have heard of the kimchi premium. This so-called premium is a higher-than-average price of bitcoin available on South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges versus other global exchanges. In 2017, the kimchi premium in South Korea surged as high as 20%. You can read more about the history, capital controls in South Korea, currency arbitrage, and the effects of kimchi premium on Investopedia.

In this article from UPI in April 2021, “Speculators in South Korea’s crypto markets caught buying apartments illegally”, be aware that the South Korean government is actively cracking down on those trying to take advantage of the Kimchi Premium. “The transfer of money from the cryptocurrency market to other markets is illegal in Korea, according to the customs service.”

Looming Regulations on Cryptocurrency Exchanges in South Korea

If you’ve been following cryptocurrency news in South Korea, you may have heard about the regulations on cryptocurrency exchanges that are just around the corner in September 2021. The Korean government will require cryptocurrency exchanges to register with the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit, partner with a local bank, and require real-name verification for users and deposit insurance for the exchange.

Local banks are hesitant to partner with high-risk cryptocurrency exchanges due to fears of money laundering and other illegal activities that could put them in hot water. Offering too many altcoins, for example, is deemed risky.

There is a detailed article on the Diplomat from July 3rd, 2021, explaining this in “South Korea Tightens Regulations on Cryptocurrencies.”

Under the new legislation all virtual asset management providers, which includes cryptocurrency exchanges and other virtual asset service providers, must register with the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit (KFIU) to operate in South Korea. […]

In order to register, exchanges are required to be certified by the Information Security Management System, ensure their customers have real name back accounts, and ensure that their CEO and board members have not been convicted of a crime. The law also requires exchanges to provide proof of adequate levels of deposit insurance to cover losses from hacks.

In January, South Korea also began enforcing a requirement that the name on cryptocurrency investors’ bank account match the name on their account at a cryptocurrency exchange in order to deposit money into their virtual wallets. With exchanges now required to ensure their customers have real name bank accounts, they are also required to partner with domestic banks to establish real name accounts for their clients.

“South Korea Tightens Regulations on Cryptocurrencies”, The Diplomat

Whether or not many cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea will survive these regulations, we’ll have to see by the end of the year. Since DCG (Digital Currency Group) has become the second-largest shareholder of Streami, the parent company of Gopax, one would hope. Nevertheless, Gopax still remains the only cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea that we as legal foreign residents can really use.

MORE READING: “Korea may join with Japan, UK to regulate Binance”, “S. Korea’s cryptocurrency exchanges busy reshuffling coins before scrutiny in Sept”, “Crypto exchanges with ‘too many’ coins likely to be denied real-name accounts”, “BNK Bank turns down partnership with cryptocurrency exchanges”, “South Korea is open to cryptocurrencies and making an effort to regulate them, but crypto exchanges still aren’t happy”, “Crypto exchanges required to reduce trading irregularities”, “‘Banks responsible for crypto irregularity screenings'”, “South Korea seizes crypto assets in clampdown on ‘tax dodgers’”, “‘Only 4 Korean Exchanges to Be Left Standing’ in September, Warn Banks”, “More altcoins tossed overboard as banking deadline looms”, “Banks in South Korea Instructed to Treat Crypto Exchanges as High-Risk Clients”, “South Korea’s 4 Biggest Crypto Exchanges to Adopt FATF’s Travel Rule”, “Banks ask not to be held accountable for crypto fraud”

FAQ

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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.

35 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

  • Hi,
    Read all the informations posted here i must say kinda useful but still being confused how to connect with or use my local bank account to the app Bithumb to buy or sell my coins.

    Ken

    • Hi Ken, if you’re a foreigner, the only Korean exchange platform that we can still connect our banks to is Gopax. We can sign up for the other Korean exchange platforms but they are very limited in what we can do.

  • Hello there. Thanks for your article. I need to know which BTC wallets l can use to receive and sell my coins and be able to receive the money in my Korean bank account.

  • Thank you for the article. GOPAX works for me (foreigner in Korea, not a US citizen). I was able to get my Binance, KuCoin, Crypto.com, Bilaxy accounts varified but every time I try to buy some cryptos using my credit card, the transaction got denied. Talk to the bank today (Hyundai card), they said there’s a law that all credit card companies (maybe all banks) must decline transactions on crypto exchanges.

    Crypto prices on GOPAX are quite high (about 20% premium compared to Binance) and not many altcoins are available. Thus, I was wondering if anyone knows a good way to buy cryptos in Korea and transfer them to other (bigger) exchanges?

    I am thinking about buying up some CRO on GOPAX, transfer it to my account on crypto.com, stake it, and get a crypto.com visa card. Then, use that card to buy other cryptos? Does this sound ridiculous or?

  • Can you withdraw from gopax to a cold wallet or to another crypto exchange abroad like coinbase or another? Instead can you only withdraw to your bank account only? Just curious on this as gopax appears to only allow bank account but some folks tell me they csn withdraw the crypto the ways mentioned above?

    • Yes, on Gopax you can transfer your cryptocurrency to any wallet. However, there’s a 72-hour hold after purchasing virtual assets on GoPax, so there’s a little wait. After the hold, you can go to the “History” tab and scroll down to the virtual asset that you want to withdraw. You have to register a withdrawal address (e.g. your cold storage wallet or any other virtual wallet) and then you can go ahead and click “withdraw” next to the cryptocurrency, e.g. ETH. After that, you can confirm how much you want to withdraw and which wallet the virtual asset will go into. It will also show you the fees, minimum you can withdraw, and total withdrawal amount.

      GoPax withdrawal minimums are available at the GoPax Help Desk, if you’re curious – https://streami.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/GHC/pages/126222503

      • Hi momotherose, can I ask how you deposit money on Gopax? it’s giving me some 6 digit code and I’m just lost, I don’t know which app to use. Ordinary wire transfer didn’t give me any result as there is no bar for the 6 digit code.

        • Oh! The six-digit code is so they can verify that it is your transfer/account.
          For example, I usually pop into my banking website, e.g. KEB Hana or Woori Bank, and choose to make a domestic transfer. Gopax will give you the deposit address (it’s sometimes different each time so double check). When making the transfer, there’s usually a little box for a memo where I then copy & paste the 6 digit code into the bank memo field. If there’s no bar/space for a memo, I would ask your bank about it or if you’re making the transfer via an app, switch to the desktop site (sometimes the apps leave things out, y’know).

          “The 6-digit deposit code must be correctly entered in the received bankbook note field, and the deposit amount will not be reflected if it is incorrectly entered or omitted. (Receiving bankbook memo: usually the field where your name is written).” ~ from the GoPax support help desk.

    • If you’re a foreigner in South Korea, the easiest cryptocurrency exchange platform to use would probably be Gopax. Other crypto exchanges in South Korea block registration or verification of non-Koreans. Also, many of the crypto exchanges overseas do not allow Korean debit/credit cards as a form of payment.

  • Thanks for the awesome article here! I was wondering if you publish regularly? Do I get a email if you do when I sign up?

    Also wanted to ask if there any platforms in English to invest in US stocks and also connect to my Korean bank account?

    Thanks Momo

    • Hi Rafi!

      I *try* to publish semi-regularly, but it’s tough with work-life balance as this is more of a hobby blog for me! I do not have a newsletter, but try to post any blog updates to Twitter and Facebook.

      I use American investment/brokerage apps connected to my US bank account for US stock investment, but I’ve heard that you can open an account at Mirae Asset or Samsung Securities in Korea as a foreigner with a registered address here and connect your Korean bank account. Just try to find an English-speaking employee to help fill out the forms in person as foreigners we’re not permitted to register an account online.

      For US stocks with Mirae Asset, you can use an app like this one – https://apps.apple.com/kr/app/%EB%AF%B8%EB%9E%98%EC%97%90%EC%85%8B%EC%A6%9D%EA%B6%8C-%ED%95%B4%EC%99%B8%EC%A3%BC%EC%8B%9D%EC%84%A0%EB%AC%BC-m-global/id1255352523 – but the investment apps — and someone please correct me if I’m wrong! — in Korea are all in the Korean language.

      I think that if you meet minimum deposit requirements, you can also check out Schwab – https://international.schwab.com/expatriate-essentials – or Interactive Brokers. When opening an account from overseas, Schwab has high deposit minimums though like 25k+ from what I’ve heard.

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for the great info, had a quick question;

    If I open up a domestic, korean bank account, and I withdraw my monies from the crypto exchanges to the bank, do the korean banks have problems with this? Will they open up an account if the client (me) will be trading on cryptocurrency exchanges? Are there korean banks that are friendly to crypto investors at this time?

    Thanks so much and love the blog!

  • Hello,
    Thank you for your recommendations.

    I wanted to use GOPAX to buy some crypto and then send it to my own wallet. I know there is a withdrawal option for each crypto.

    I was just wondering is there anybody who has done that? Did it work well?

  • I just contacted hana bank,and now Etoro and other investment or stock brokers are on a list of entities we cannot send money to via wire transfer or credit card.
    I tried the credit card and I asked about the wire transfer.This only leaves Korean crypto exchanges and brokers.
    Has anyone had this experience recently or was the man I spoke to wrong,as he did not sound sure of anything.

    • It sounds like it. My Korean coworkers have recently complained about now being unable to use non-Korean crypto exchanges as their debit/credit cards are blocked on platforms like Binance.

    • Same here. I could use eToro in the past (around January 2021) but Hana and credit card companies recently blacklisted eToro so no more payment with Korean cards.

      Reply moderated

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