What do Koreans think of half-Koreans

Korea - an aspiring startup nation introduces itself

China is a great power, also on the Internet, word of that has long since got around the world. But Korea? Little is known about this East Asian country in this country, apart from smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung. An event in Mindspace on the South Korean startup scene brought a lot of new knowledge.


South Korea is the country with the fastest Internet in the world and a smartphone density that is also unparalleled. The everyday life of Koreans can no longer be imagined without the web and it plays a much bigger role than in Germany, for example. And manufacturers such as Samsung and LG have captured leading positions in the mobile phone market. The best prerequisites for a flourishing startup scene. But it's not that simple.

Sungil Eo, General Director of KOTRA Hamburg, gave the greeting

This became clear at an event hosted by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) in Mindspace. KOTRA is a government organization for the promotion of Korean foreign trade, which has existed since 1962 and has had an office in Hamburg since 1974. Consultant Jan Ziegler first gave an overview and first gave a look at the country and its startup ecosystem. Here are a few of the most important dates and facts:

In the Korean startup world, the "Gangnam Style" dominates

South Korea has a population of over 51 million, of which around 25 million live in the greater Seoul area. There are an estimated 3,500 startups there. The center of the scene is in the Gangnam district, world famous for the hit "Gangnam Style." Traditional security thinking and the parents' wish that their children get a job with a large corporation slows down the growth of a startup culture. Therefore, most of the founders are already over 30 when they take their first step into self-employment, and 90% of them are male.

Jan Ziegler, Consultant at KOTRA Hamburg, gave an overview of the Korean startup scene

Funding comes primarily from numerous government programs, but private investors are very reluctant. Most Korean startups are almost exclusively active in the domestic market, where they offer services that are provided by the American Internet giants. Naver is the leading search engine there, not Google, and the most popular messaging service is called KakaoTalk. The e-commerce company Coupang and the versatile startup Yello Mobile, both billionaire unicorns, write further success stories.

Hyeyun Kim, Consultant KOTRA Hamburg, spoke about cooperation

Abroad, on the other hand, they all have a hard time or don't even try. That is slowly changing now. In December, 18 startups from South Korea attended the K-Startup Meetup Berlin in Germany for the first time. The cooperation with the telephone companies Brighstar and Deutsche Telekom, also initiated by KOTRA, gave Korean startups additional international attention. Maybe one or the other of them will soon venture to set up a branch in Hamburg.

Ludolf Ebner Chung reported on his experiences as a foreign entrepreneur in South Korea

But how does it look the other way round: What chances do German startups, for example, have in the East Asian country? Germany itself has a good reputation and is considered a reliable brand there. The half-Korean Ludolf Ebner Chung has also had very good experiences. First when setting up a subsidiary of Delivery Hero, then with his own logistics company Naldo. Nevertheless, he does not necessarily encourage courage in his lecture. Korean culture is inherent and tax law is too complicated, more complicated than German. And be careful with officials when they have a bad day!

What could be successful in Korea? Games - and food!

The Hamburg computer games company Bigpoint, which has been in Chinese hands since 2016, is a positive example. Its bestseller Drakensang became a hit in South Korea in a revised form and under the name Dragon Rise. In general, game makers have good cards there, because around half of the population deals with video games, sometimes excessively, which is why there is a state-regulated monthly upper limit for spending in this area.

South Korea is not only known for fast internet, but also for good food.

Another promising business field could be food, says KOTRA consultant Hyeyun Kim. Vapiano's system catering has already gained a foothold in South Korea, and German baked goods have a legendary reputation around the world anyway. Maybe it's time for a bread startup, why not from Hamburg? Otherwise there is no shortage of good food in South Korea, as the sumptuous buffet at the end of the day proved in a delicious way. And so we went home well fed and full of information about a startup country that I am sure we will still hear about.

Keywords:Bigpoint, Coupang, Delivery Hero, Gangnam Style, KakaoTalk, Korea, KOTRA, Naver, South Korea, Yello Mobile