|Park Young-sun, minister of SMEs and Startups, speaks during a roundtable talk meeting with overseas entrepreneurs running their businesses here at Tips Town, a startup incubator office, in Seoul, Thursday. / Courtesy of Ministry of SMEs and Startups|
By Baek Byung-yeul
Korea has been endeavoring to nurture startups as part of its effort to find a breakthrough in a low-growth economy. The government is also working on luring more overseas-based startups to do business here in an attempt to help the country become a business hub and improve the global competitiveness of local industries.
To advance such efforts and discuss ways to better support global startups, the Ministry of SMEs and Startups held a roundtable talk event in Seoul, Thursday, inviting companies which won the K-Startup Grand Challenge, a state-run startup accelerator program.
In the meeting, Startup Ministry Park Young-sun vowed to come up with more policies that can better support global startups running their businesses here.
"We are living in times where setting up a new business is more about where you start, rather than who runs the business. Korea was the first in the world to commercialize 5G telecommunication, and has already surpassed 4.35 million subscribers. Against this backdrop, Korea is well matched to be a new land of opportunity for global startups as Asia's tech hub, equipped with advanced infrastructure and technology," the minister said.
"Recently, the passing of the three data-related acts at the National Assembly has enabled our ministry to fully support the industry. This recent development will help those pursuing new business models in big data, AI and related new industries, providing a breath of fresh air to companies who faced certain barriers in respective fields in the past," she added.
The startup ministry, which supervises the business growth of small enterprises here, has been running the K-Startup Grand Challenge program since 2016, modeled after prominent overseas startup accelerator programs such as the MassChallenge of the United States and the French Tech Ticket of France.
In the 2019 event, 1,677 teams from 95 countries applied and 35 teams won places in the four-month acceleration program with financial and consulting supports at Pangyo Startup Campus in Gyeonggi Province.
Participants in the roundtable talk stressed they decided to launch their business in Korea taking the East Asian country as a bridgehead to other Asian markets. They also added Korea is a tech-savvy nation, which makes it easy for them to develop and test innovative technologies.
Park Ji-hyun, director of German-based startup "Is It Fresh" said they decided to run their overseas branch in Korea because the country has outstanding comprehension of digital technology. The company is making sensor chips that can be attached to single units of instant noodles or milk, helping distributors easily manage their inventory.
"We are frequently asked questions about why we, a German-based company, chose Korea to do our business. I always tell them Korea has the fastest mobile download speeds in the world, which means government and company officials here have high level of comprehension in emerging technology such as big data and IoT," he said.
Chris Georgiev, co-founder of AI image recognition software development company Imagga, said "Korea is a great test bed for innovative technology."
"Korea is a doorway to Asia, which means the country has a geographical advantage. In terms of cultural openness and startup ecosystem, Korea has a better business climate compared to Japan and China," he said.
|Park Young-sun, minister of SMEs and Startups, gives her welcome speech, during a roundtable talk meeting with overseas entrepreneurs running their businesses here at Tips Town, a startup incubator office, in Seoul, Thursday. / Courtesy of Ministry of SMEs and Startups|
Overseas entrepreneurs running their business here also presented their suggestions to attract overseas-based companies and investors.
Georgiev, pointed out there needs to be more improvement in the visa issuing process for foreigners who seek to launch their businesses here. He also noted that overseas entrepreneurs working here are having trouble in dealing with paperwork such as tax calculations because the government web sites don't properly offer foreign language services.
Regarding his questions, the startup minister answered she is fully aware of their difficulties and said "the visa process is expected to be much easier this year as the ministry is closely talking with the Ministry of Justice to amend the process." Also, she vowed to "offer suggestions to other government agencies to improve their foreign language service on their websites."
Park Ji-hyun, director of Is It Fresh, suggested the minister to have more networking or investment opportunities with big local firms as he thinks this is the way to improve the competitiveness of startups here.
In response, the minister said, "Our goal is to create more opportunities to integrate between large-sized companies which have capital strength and startups which hold their state-of-the-art technologies. We are working on expanding collaboration opportunities."
"I will take the feedback we received from you, on your impressions and comments regarding the difficulties while working in Korea to resolve them as best we can. Moreover, we will put in our utmost efforts to reflect your comments into the policies we draw up and startup-related visions," the minister added.