In 2021 the number of unicorns in South Korea grew from 13 to 18, according to the Ministry of SMEs and Startups. The government is keen to see that continue, launching a project to find and nurture even more promising new ventures. Many of Korea's unicorns are in the tech space, revolutionising e-commerce and food deliveries, accommodation bookings and house hunting, while the newer fields of fintech and cryptocurrency have also seen much startup activity.
Korea currently ranks in or near the top 10 nations worldwide with its number of unicorns, who are increasingly competing for talent, attracting young college graduates away from the giant, well-established chaebol conglomerates. But chaebol are not about to roll over, acquiring some startups before they have the chance to grow into unicorns or go public.
Despite South Korea's status as the 2nd highest spender on research and development (after Israel), most of the funding comes from the private sector, leading to calls for more government support at the R&D stage and in promoting startup friendly policies. Also, South Korea is not yet able to attract global talent in the same way that Singapore or Silicon Valley can. How can South Korea do better?