A man walks past a board showing exchange rates of various crypto-currencies in Seoul. Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
A man walks past a board showing exchange rates of various crypto-currencies in Seoul. Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

At the start of this year, crypto was becoming a dirty word in Seoul. What a difference three months makes. On Wednesday Upbit, South Korea’s largest crypto-currency exchange, announced it was rolling out a new reward-based system aimed at getting its users to identify illegal ponzi scams that pose as crypto-currencies or ICO tokens.

Upbit is encouraging its users to participate in the new scheme, which aims to “prevent damage due to illegal fraud and to create a sound crypto-currency ecosystem” by rewarding those who find scams with cash prizes, reports Bitcoin.com.

Upbit is backed by South Korea’s internet and SMS giant Kakao and is the country’s largest crypto-currency exchange and the third largest global exchange. The exchange does an average trading volume of $1 billion in a 24-hour time frame.

Crypto trading exploded in South Korea in 2017 and the government has since brought in a raft of regulatory measures that have included a clampdown on foreigners holding crypto exchange accounts, a ban on government officials owning any crypto-currencies and the termination of anonymous trading. Yet crypto continues to grow in South Korea and on Thursday the country stands as the world’s third-biggest, by traded volume, behind the US and Japan. And it looks like it is about to grow some more.

On Thursday, CryptoSlate reported that Bithumb, another major South Korean crypto exchange, was forming a partnership with digital payment service provider Korea Pay Services to enable 6,000 Korean retail outlets to accept crypto-currency payments.

Bithumb says the service will launch this summer and it hopes to increase the service to 8,000 participating stores by the end of the year.

Bithumb is South Korea’s second largest crypto-currency exchange, after Upbit. Both exchanges were raided and fined in early 2018 by government regulators after a spate of security breaches and thefts. Yet both have said they agree with the new government crypto regulations and were, in early 2018, founder members of the Korea Blockchain Association that aims to “boost transparency in the trading of crypto-currencies.”

And so now for the next three months…