South Korean exchange Upbit gets Singapore license

abdelaziz Fathi

South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Upbit, has secured in-principal approval for a major payment institution license from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).


The license from Singapore’s central bank enables Upbit’s Singapore unit to provide digital asset services legally in the city-state, pending final approval.

Operated by Dunamu, one of South Korea’s most valued startups, Upbit stands as the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volumes. The recent in-principal nod further accentuates the exchange’s strategic expansion across the Asia Pacific region. As reported, Upbit has established legally compliant branches in both Indonesia and Thailand.

The major payment institution license in Singapore allows its holders to offer payment services without the conventional transaction volume limitations. The standard cap is set at SG$3 million (US$2.2 million) for monthly transactions for a single service. If offering multiple services, the cap is SG$6 million, along with a daily outstanding e-money maximum of SG$5 million, as specified by MAS.

A potential full approval for Upbit would see the exchange join 15 crypto firms with full digital payment token service licenses from MAS. In October alone, the Singaporean entities for Coinbase, Ripple, and Sygnum Bank all received full license approvals from MAS, increasing the total number of licensed digital payment token service firms to 15.

On October 2, Coinbase obtained full approval for its MPI license, with GSR, a crypto trading firm, securing in-principal approval on the same day. Subsequently, Swiss crypto bank subsidiary Sygnum Singapore was granted its full MPI license a day later, and Ripple received its full MPI license on October 4.

Upbit was in the news recently after its offices were raided by prosecutors from the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors Office. The raid was conducted as part of an investigation into the crypto holdings of lawmaker Kim Nam-kuk, news agency Yonhap reported.

Nam-kuk, a member of South Korea’s National Assembly, allegedly liquidated KRW 6 billion ($4.54 million) worth of cryptocurrencies before the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force’s “Travel Rule.” He sold his digital assets without making proper disclosures to the authorities.

Bithumb, one of the cryptocurrency exchanges involved into Kim’s investigation, has indeed faced increased scrutiny from local regulators in South Korea. The exchange has been subject to investigations and regulatory actions due to concerns related to security breaches, inadequate internal controls, and potential violations of financial regulations.

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