2018 Bitcoin Bear Market Decimated Revenues of South Korean Cryptocurrency Exchanges

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Only one of the “big four” cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea managed to record a profit for the year 2018.

This revelation is the latest in a long list of negative performance for companies in the crypto space after the year-long bear market of 2018. Throughout 2018, cryptocurrency prices slumped considerably, by as much as 80 percent across the board.

Bear Market

Upbit: The Only “Big Four” Platform in the Green for 2018

According to Business Korea, only Upbit among the big four cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea posted profit earnings for 2018. The other three platforms – Coinone, Korbit, and as previously reported by Blockonomi, Bithumb, all recorded losses in 2018.

Financial disclosure documents published by Dunamu Inc., operators of Upbit, show the platform was able to make a net profit of 140 billion won ($123 million). The cryptocurrency exchange posted sales of 470 billion won ($413 million) with an operating profit of more than 287 billion won ($252 million).

Upbit’s operating expenses for the year stood at 96.5 billion won ($84 million). In all, the company performed better than it did in 2107 with its profit margin rising by almost 100 percent.

For the other three, the situation was the exact opposite. Coinone’s audit report shows the company’s net loss at 5.80 billion won ($5 million). Korbit’s net loss for 2018 was about 45.80 billion won ($40 million).

Bithumb posted the biggest losses among the big four, with a net loss of 205 billion won ($180 million). The platform’s net loss was more than Korbit and Coinone combined.

There is also the possibility that the $30 million hack suffered by Bithumb also contributed to the size of its loss. Less than a fortnight after the hack, the company did announce that it had managed to recover more than half of the stolen cryptocurrencies.

Kimchi Premium Not Enough to Counteract 2018 Bear Market

Despite the bear market of 2018, the Kimchi premium still persisted for large swaths of the year. Traders in the country often had to pay a markup price for cryptocurrencies when compared to the market average price.

However, not even the Kimchi premium was enough to prevent the huge losses incurred by these three platforms. For all three, sales figures declined massively in the second half of the year. The significant sales decline coupled with the devaluation of cryptocurrency prices as the bear market bit harder saw operating profits for these platforms begin to enter deficit region.

Tightening government regulations also likely played a role in the poor sales figures for these major exchange platforms. The government outlawed anonymous cryptocurrency trading with probably led to a decline in the number of accounts for each exchange.

Losses Galore For Cryptocurrency Companies in 2018

Bithumb, Korbit, and Coinone aren’t alone in counting the losses from the year-long bear market of 2018. Mining firms also shrinking revenue with a couple even abandoning plans for massive initial public offerings (IPOs) in Hong Kong.

Bitmain is yet to release its financial report for the second half of 2018. There are reports that the company suffered devastating losses in Q3 and Q4 2018. Bitmain’s bet on Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and the subsequent hash war of November 2018 are likely to have caused massive hemorrhage in the company’s revenue.

Nvidia, one of the world’s largest computer chip maker announced earlier in the year that it was departing the cryptocurrency business. The company hopes to offload its outstanding inventory given the shrinking demand for mining hardware.


Osato is a Bitcoin enthusiast who can often be found providing insight on the latest Bitcoin-related news. When he isn't closely monitoring stories in the industry, he is either attempting to beat his scrabble high score or internally debating some existential dilemma. Contact

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