My Problem With Upbit, the Largest Crypto Exchange in Korea

Yesterday, the biggest crypto exchange in South Korea, Upbit rejected my requests to move the coins to my personal wallet.

Here’s a timeline of what happened.

  • I decided to move all my crypto on Upbit to another wallet. No special reason. Just never really liked storing all my assets in the exchange. Can say that I was inspired by “not your keys, not your coins” ethos.
  • On Upbit, I had withdrawn ~$3,000 total worth of ETH, BTC, SOL, MATIC, LINK. However, Upbit refused to approve my transactions. I waited a while, but the status kept saying “pending.”
  • A manager from Upbit called me to verify my requests. Initially thought it was just another layer of security. He checked whether I could verify my name, birthday, email, and home address. Additionally, he asked me why I was moving my assets and to which address I’m sending them. I was a little annoyed about these questions but told him honestly that I just decided to store my coins in a personal wallet. Then he asked me multiple times whether I was being duped to send the assets to an unknown address. I said there was nothing to worry about. The manager replied that he would be sharing the info with another team to make sure Upbit can confirm the validity of the requests. I said sure and the call ended.
  • After a few minutes, Upbit sent me a message saying I needed to sign a legal waiver form, take a picture with it (showing my face), and submit the photo to Upbit’s customer support channel if I wanted to send my currencies to another wallet.

As of 2023, Upbit owns about 80% of the regulated crypto market in S. Korea. Koreans have stored billions of dollars worth of assets without realizing that the exchange could easily deny the transfer of their own assets. I understand that there are lots of scams and criminal activities happening, and Upbit has the responsibility to prevent any malicious attempts. However, that does not mean that all users must be forced to sign a legal document and take a picture with it. Transferring one’s own money should not be this difficult.

From this experience, I have learned one important lesson. For Upbit, all of its depositors are now potential criminals. To truly own your crypto, I advise you to first get your coins off the exchange.