Fostering 10 Years of Entrepreneurship in Korea through GEW

With less than 10 weeks until Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation is looking ahead to this November’s celebration. This year marks 10 years of unleashing ideas through GEW, and South Korea has participated in this event since the beginning – with KEF leading the helm the past few years.

KEF has been able to grow GEW events from just a few hundred participants to several thousand. The foundation faces a unique challenge in South Korea. According to the KEF, while 50 percent of parents in Korea view entrepreneurship positively, they often do not approve of their children choosing entrepreneurship. This is why KEF and its GEW campaigns have placed an increased focus on entrepreneurial education.

“We believe that parents are one of the most important players [that] have influence on educational effect,” said Jaeyoung Park, international coordinator at KEF.

In particular, Park and her colleagues at KEF, like the Happy Family Entrepreneurship Camp, a GEW program that encourages teams of families to think in an entrepreneurial way through certain activities and challenges. The goal of the camp is to overcome Korean perceptions of entrepreneurship.

“It is intended to bring whole family members [together] and share the level of knowledge on entrepreneurship and the concept how they apply entrepreneurship for daily life,” explained Park.

It’s not the only GEW event KEF highlights as having a significant impact on entrepreneurship in Korea. The foundation also pointed to the E-Ship Roundtable during the second GEW hosted in Korea.

The roundtable brought together embassy officials from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Kenya, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, Israel and South Korea. Through the roundtable, the 10 countries talked about policies and support systems that create more collaboration between these countries and the South Korean startup ecosystem.

“The session was fruitful for KEF and participants—mainly students, entrepreneurs, startups—to get to know about bilateral cooperation and the way to approach global market via exchange programs provided by embassies,” the foundation said.

The impact of GEW and the country’s emphasis on entrepreneurship has had a tangible effect in South Korea. According to KEF, over the last 10 years, more than a dozen innovation centers have opened, between 20 and 30 startup incubators have launched in Seoul, and KEF said the number is likely higher if co-working spaces in the public and private sector are included.

But KEF points to once success story in particular that highlights the tangible effects of GEW in Korea, with Eric Kim’s startup success story.

Kim, co-founder of DOT, a smartwatch for the visually impaired, is now an established company, and the startup used GEW to launch the venture.

In 2014, GEW Korea hosted Get in the Ring, a global startup competition for entrepreneurs. DOT was one of the startups to compete. Kim said the competition and finals helped his startup access a global market and meet investors who supported his business, such as financial services company ING, musician Stevie Wonder and telecommunications company Saudi Telecom. DOT also went on to compete at the global finals during the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellín.

For Park and KEF, these success stories and the proliferation of entrepreneurship resources in Korea is why they value their participation in GEW. Especially because GEW serves as a catalyst in Korea, sparking Korean startup ecosystems and entrepreneurs.

“We are proud of the quality of contents that we provide,” said Park. “Every Korean public and private school needs to teach entrepreneurship as part of regular courses.”

KEF also wants to recognize the work of the Korean Small and Medium Business Administration (SMBA), and University Entrepreneurship Centers Association (UECA). SMBA was recently reestablished as a new government ministry with a focus on resolving high youth unemployment. UECA is a KEF partner that includes nine Korean universities focused on entrepreneurial research projects, startup incubators and other activities. UECA is a key partner for curriculum development and knowledge sharing, and is coordinating a symposium in Korea for GEW 2017.

Tomás Harmon

Multimedia Project Manager | Vanguard Communications

Tomás is a former multimedia journalist with a background in broadcast television. At the Global Entrepreneurship Network he assists with the… More