(Bloomberg) -- South Korean retail investors were piling into local digital-asset exchanges in greater numbers well ahead of the global crypto boom that drove prices to record highs in early 2024.

Active users of registered exchanges in the country increased by 390,000 to 6.45 million by the end of 2023, according to the semi-annual report on crypto-asset businesses published by the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit (KOFIU). 

Of those users, which represent more than 10% of the country’s total population, 99% identified as “individual” investors and nearly 60% of them were in their 30s and 40s. Daily average crypto trading volume in the country grew 24% to 3.6 trillion won ($2.6 billion) in the period, while the total value of the crypto held by registered exchanges surged 53% to 43.6 trillion won. 

The report underscores how vital a growth organ South Korea has become in global crypto markets. The South Korean won was the most traded currency against crypto-assets globally in the first quarter of 2024, beating the US dollar. Upbit, the dominant exchange in the country, has at times ranked among the top five in the world by trading volume.

Read more: Upbit Rides Korea Crypto Boom to Top-Five Global Exchange Spot

“Trading volume, market capitalization, operating income of exchanges, deposits in Korean won all increased compared to the first half due to the rise in crypto prices and recovery of investor sentiment,” KOFIU said in a statement. “The number of crypto trading users rebounded from the first half of 2023,” the institution added.

Even in aftermath of the collapse of TerraUSD, the ill-fated stablecoin created by South Korean native Do Kwon, crypto enthusiasm in the country is such that a major political party pledged to grant Koreans access to US Bitcoin ETFs during the parliamentary election last month.

From July, regulators in South Korea will introduce the Virtual Asset User Protection Act, imposing strict new requirements on exchanges and tougher punishments for wrongdoing in the sector. 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.