28 October 2016

Prime Minister pays visit to Danish startups in South Korea


Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen met with Danish students from the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen Business School on a recent visit to South Korea. One of the primary agenda topics was the South Korean startup scene and the South Korean government’s actions to improve conditions for start-ups – and in particular, for student entrepreneurs.

By Lisa Swan Baltzer Parsberg, Communications Officer, Innovation HUB & Climate-KIC, The Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen with Danish and South Korean students.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen attended the Student Entrepreneurship Seminar in connection with being presented an honorary doctorate from Yonsei University in South Korea.  

At the seminar, Danish startup Bundle and South Korean startup Nara Space Technology pitched ideas and Prime Minister Rasmussen delivered a presentation. He then discussed the startups with the students.

While in South Korea, the students who participated in the Student Entrepreneurship Seminar sparred with their Korean peers and met with Korean stakeholders, businesspeople and professors. The Danish and Korean startups helped each other develop ideas and adapt concepts for their respective Asian the European marketplaces. There was a great deal of sharing cultural understandings, the creation of possible business relationships – and not least – the establishment of personal contacts and networks among parties.

The South Korea trip was organized by the University of Copenhagen, the UCPH Innovation Hub, CBS, Yonsei University, the YES Foundation and the Danish Embassy in South Korea.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has placed the "creative economy" at the top of her agenda. 

“Our President is very occupied with the 'creative economy' – that is, we must play a part in shaping or creating the economy. As such, startups are capturing a tremendous amount of attention from the South Korean government, major South Korean firms including Samsung and Hyundai, and not least, from students and youth interested in staring their own businesses,” explains Yonsei Enterprise Foundation director Hong-Gyoo Sohn.

The YES Foundation is a combined office community and business incubator based at Yonsei University and home to a large number of South Korean startups. Roughly 50 startups are currently associated with the YES Foundation, ten of which are student-based and use the facilities free of charge.

In addition to the Yonsei University office community, the YES Foundation has similar facilities in Seoul and in other large cities around the world where thriving startup scenes are found.

Focus on business

The South Korean Government has decided that students may take a break of up to two years from their studies if they are in the process of starting their own business. Furthermore, increased attention is being paid to soliciting funding for office communities that house startups. At universities, courses focussing on innovation, entrepreneurship and technological development are being established . On the political end, an effort is being made to understand the best means of attracting foreign startups to South Korea.

Foreign startups welcome

Rehoboth is a partially government-funded project that aims to create a community and office community for early stage foreign startups (1-3 years) wanting to come to South Korea. Rehoboth helps foreign startups get going, connects them with appropriate networks and can, for example, help find English speaking contacts, a potential challenge for new arrivals. Besides offering help to foreign startups, the startups receive 10,000 dollars in funding and the chance to participate in sponsored trips abroad. The project is relatively new, and so far, recruitment has been through Younoodle.