Number of South Korean 20- and 30-something Crypto Buyers Has ‘Nearly Tripled’ Since 2020

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 1 min read
Source: Markus Winkler/Unsplash

More young South Koreans than ever are buying crypto, with the number of 20- and 30-somethings taking the plunge trebling since 2020. But this rise in bullish buying behavior has come at a price – with a sharp rise in youth bankruptcy claims reported over the same period.

Per the Busan Ilbo, demographic data on the users of the market-leading crypto exchange Upbit shows that, as of October 2020, some 1,796,000 users aged 20-39 had active accounts on Upbit. 

That figure ballooned to 5,394,000 by October 2021 and while data for this year is not yet available, with trading volumes skyrocketing in the first few months of 2022, the figure may well have grown again.

Upbit exchange trade volume over the past 12 months (Source: Screenshot/CoinGecko)

The same media outlet noted that there has also been a rise in stock market activity – both domestic and overseas – in the same demographic group.

South Korea’s regulatory Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) was quoted as stating that a “rapid increase” in personal debt had accompanied the rise in investment. It spoke of a “frenzy of investment in stocks and cryptoassets” in the demographic group – which has been dubbed “2030” by the South Korean media.

The FSS pointed to low interest rates “before and after the spread of COVID-19” as a major contributing factor. But financial experts have previously claimed that for young Koreans, crypto investment is “no longer optional.”

Spike in Young Crypto Buyers: The Cost

Bullish bitcoin (BTC) and altcoin buying has come at a price for younger South Koreans, who are now more likely to go into debt to pay for their crypto and stock investments.

The same media outlet reported that the amount of people aged 20 to 39 who have taken out loans from three or more financial institutions has increased by more than 30% in the past five years.

For people aged 20-29, the rise over the same period was 33%.

And this has all led to a rise in personal insolvencies. Supreme Court data shows that the number of individual rehabilitation (bankruptcy) applications from people in their 20s rose from 10,307 in 2019 to 11,108 in 2020 – hitting 11,907 in 2021.

In the first six months of this year, 6,364 individuals aged under 30 filed for bankruptcy, with experts opining that over 12,000 twentysomethings will claim insolvency before the year is out.