Bitcoin Booms, But No Return to the Kimchi Premium in South Korea

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read

Bitcoin (BTC) prices have been skyrocketing globally of late, but in one part of the world, crypto fever is not yet making its mark – or at least not to the extent that it did three years ago.

Source: Adobe/Monica

That place is South Korea, where 2017’s crypto bubble arguably peaked, amid reports of teenagers spending their pocket money on altcoins and septuagenarians buying BTC with their pension payouts.

The frenetic bitcoin buying of late 2017 resulted in a phenomenon known as the kimchi premium, whereby South Koreans were paying way over the global average to buy tokens on domestic trading platforms.

But while BTC has been scaling new, record-breaking heights on most exchanges, the kimchi premium has shown no signs of return yet, with many 2017 price records still intact in South Korea.

Janet Cho, a Seoul-based IT journalist, told,

“The mood here is still very depressed and many people seem baffled by reports from elsewhere in the world that investors are looking at bitcoin as some sort of hedge. For many people in this country, recent government regulations that will restrict the way [cryptoassets] can be traded, as well as new taxes, make bitcoin seem like a very shaky and uncertain investment.”

And Cho agreed that it was a case of “once bitten, twice shy” for many crypto investors, with relatively low demand driving relatively low crypto prices in South Korea after the premium was actually turned on its head last year.

She added,

“Last time people went all-in on crypto, they got bitten hard by a government crackdown and a price slump. With a financial crisis looming due to the coronavirus pandemic, it looks like only dyed-in-the-wool crypto converts are buying tokens now.”

However, per a Hans Kyungjae report, many listed firms with links to crypto-related business experiencing price rises in line with crypto prices. The media outlet reported that Woori Technology Investment, an investor in Dunamu, the operator of the Upbit crypto exchange, had seen a price rise of almost 10% on Friday. LCD and semiconductor firm Wizit, which owns a stake in Upbit rival Bithumb, also saw a share price rise of over 14%.
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