Nowadays, more Koreans are looking to become entrepreneurs instead of working for a Korean corporation. One of the main reasons for this is the success of many Korean entrepreneurs who have found great success in Korea’s startup industry. They have encouraged the next generation of entrepreneurs in Korea and have helped create a startup community where they can flourish. Many Korean entrepreneurs are starting their own companies because they are frustrated with trying to climb Korea’s corporate ladder. Those disappointed in the working culture in Korea have decided to start their own working culture. However, starting a startup is risky, so many Korean parents pressure their children to get stable employment with the government or a big Korean corporation.

The entrepreneurs on this list were able to take risks and become successful. They started their own business and helped employ hundreds of future entrepreneurs. Their success has made being a startup entrepreneur in Korea socially acceptable. This decade saw Korean investors and the Korean government invest a lot of money into the startup ecosystem. This trend is likely to continue as Korea becomes one of the leading tech hubs in Asia. Many thanks to those Korean entrepreneurs who took the risk and dared to try something different.

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20 Korean Entrepreneurs to Know

Sophie Kim

Korean Entrepreneur Sophie KimSophie Kim is the founder and Ceo of Market Kurly, one of Korea’s largest and fastest-growing dedicated online grocers. As an investment banker and consultant, Sophie spent ten years working for Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and Temasek. At Goldman Sachs, she was a banker specializing in mergers and acquisitions. While working at the management consulting firm Bain & Co., she came up with the idea for Market Kurly. She has become an expert in startup fundraising, having raised over $110 million during their series D round.

She is now revolutionizing the way food is delivered while at the same time finding ways to make her businesses greener. In 2020, Sophie Kim received the first Pony Chung Leadership Award for young innovative business leaders. The award highlights young leaders under 40 who lead better efforts to meet the 4th Industrial Revolution.

“Market Kurley started 100 perfect from my passion for food. I concluded that a lot of my generation and people even younger wanted a food shopping experience that was not offered from existing retail platforms.”

Joey Kim

Joey Kim Korean Entrepreneurs

Joey Kim is the Ceo of PeopleFund, a marketplace leading platform. He created Korea’s first and only marketplace lending platform fully integrated with a commercial bank. It offers everyday people in Korea an opportunity to invest. Before starting PeopleFund, Joey started his career in the Corporate Finance team at Macquarie Securities’ Investment Banking Division. Then he spent five years in management consulting at Bain & Company, conducting multiple corporate M&A, vision & portfolio strategy, and operation reengineering projects in Seoul and Boston. He joined Softbank Ventures as a VC to discover, invest, and manage numerous startups at various stages focusing on the internet/mobile industry.

“I joined Softbank Ventures Korea looking for promising ventures and startups. To get first-hand experience of startups, I was involved with many of them. There are now over 400 trillion won in floating funds. I want those floating funds to find good investment destinations.”

JH Kim

JH Kim Korean Entrepreneurs

JH is the Ceo of ICONLOOP and the council member for the ICON Foundation. He majored in computer science & engineering at POSTECH University and held a CISA qualification. ICON is expected to play a major role in deploying Korea’s first digital currency, the S-Coin. Before ICON, JH worked in the field of information security for nearly 20 years. He has extensive experience developing patented applications such as PKI, authentication and security protocol, and products applied to the embedded environment to enterprise environment in the finance, public, and private sectors.

“It’s very important to have an open attitude. You need to be modest and admit you’re wrong sometimes and listen to opinions. You also need transparency of information and a strong will to accomplish your goal together with your team. These are three elements that our company culture is based on.”

Daniel Shin

Daniel Shin Entrepreneurs in Korea

Daniel is the CEO of Terra. He is the former CEO of TicketMonster, Korea’s leading e-commerce platform with $3.5 billion in GMV. In addition, he is the co-founder and board member of Fast Track Asia. Daniel is active in helping startups in Korea grow and develop their business. He is considered one of the top e-commerce entrepreneurs in Asia. Daniel has a BS in Economics from Wharton Undergrad. He founded Terra to design a price-stable digital currency that will power the next-generation payment network on the Blockchain. To date, fifteen companies with a total of $25 billion annual transaction volume and 40 million customers have joined the Terra Alliance.

“When I connected with Terra’s other co-founder Do Kwon and started learning about the possibilities of Blockchain and Crypto, I knew that this is the technology that can really disrupt not just payments but also the financial services industry in general.”

Dino Ha

Dino Ha CEO at Memebox Dino Ha is the CEO of Memebox. Since he was young, Dino has always been fascinated by computers. So much so that he taught himself C+ coding at a young age. He moved to New York to pursue a career in fashion. Then he attended Parsons School of Design and graduated with a degree in Fashion marketing. He later joined Tom Ford as an intern. There he worked in the PR department until he was asked to return to South Korea and help launch the brand abroad. After Tom Ford, Dino joined TicketMonster before finding inspiration to start his startup. Memebox has become an enormous success not only in Korea but in the United States as well.

“We want to build the next generation of personal care brands by leveraging Korean technology across beauty categories. We work closely with our strategic partners so that together we can imagine and create the next cult product.”

Sarah Lee/Christine Chang

Soko Glam

Christine Chang and Sarah Lee are the Co-Founders of Glow Recipe. They became famous after appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank back in 2015. They are considered pioneers when it comes to Korean skincare. She is now one of the leaders in the K-Beauty industry. They met while working at L-Oreal Korea in the marketing and product development department before launching Glow Recipe in 2014. Since then, they have been featured in numerous online publications like InStyle and CNBC.

“A lot of companies were testing their products and launching them exclusively in Korea back in the 2000s. The market was so competitive and fast-paced. Basically, if you could make it in Korea, you could make it anywhere.”

Tony Kim

Tony Kim

Tony Kim is the CEO of Studio XID. Studio XID. He has over ten years of experience as an interaction designer and in user experience design. He joined Google China in 2010 and then transferred to Google Korea in 2012. Before Google, he worked at NHN Korea and NHN China for four and a half years. Throughout his career, he directed user experience strategies of corporate services and guided rich interaction design from conceptualization to implementation.  

“As an interaction designer, I always pondered on how to effectively deliver my ideas to developers who have to execute the design. I found the need there. So I left Google and enrolled in the six-month startup incubator program at FuturePlay.”

YJ Min

Korean Female Entrepreneur YJ Min

YJ Min is the CEO and Co-founder of Konolabs, an AI startup for enterprises to manage their time smartly. Before starting Konolabs, she had worked for Daum, the second-largest Internet portal in Korea, for 19 years. Mainly she contributed to developing various online services such as Daum Cafe, Tistory, and many other innovative web & mobile services. Before leaving Daum, she initialized an internal venture acceleration organization and led strategic partnerships with foreign companies such as Yahoo Japan, Microsoft (US), and Twitter. YJ.Min received her M.B.A. from MIT Sloan and B.S. in Computer Science from Hallym University in Korea.

Victor Ching

Victor Ching Entrepreneur in Korea

Victor Ching is the CEO of Miso. He was born and raised in Hawaii by his Korean mother and Chinese father. He moved to Korea in 2005 and was one of the starting members of Korea’s food delivery platform Yogiyo. Miso, a home cleaning service, became Ching’s fourth startup. Furthermore, he raised $2.85 million from Y Combinator, the largest venture investment firm in Silicon Valley, in 2015.

“Through my experience as one of the founding members of YoGiYo, I have learned that working with local people who really understand the market is crucial.”

Saeju Jeong

Saeju JeongSaeju Jeong is the Ceo of Noom Inc. He was an entrepreneur at a very early age. At the age of 19, he established BuyHard Productions in Korea. It was an independent music label chosen as the most promising e-business in Korea in 2001. He expanded into Asia and then New York. He became the sole representative of an international music company. While in New York, he built a team for the Asian tour of the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” without knowing anyone in the industry. He studied electrical engineering at Hong-ik University and worked as an IT specialist in the Korean defense industry for three years. In addition to running Noom, he sits on South Korea’s Ministry of Science & Technology’s steering committee and the board of Chonnam Hospital, South Korea’s largest private hospital.

Hyemin Lee

Hyemin Lee Korean Female EntrepreneursHyemin Lee is the Ceo of Finda. Finda has played an important role in South Korea by offering paperless loans. She went to Korea University and interned at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. After graduating, she worked at STX Corporation as a project manager for new strategic business development and investment for STX Group. Hyemin later joined Rocket Internet, co-founded its first subscription business model, Glossybox, and led expansion to 7 Asian countries. She then established People & Co., Ltd, an e-commerce and marketing consulting startup. Furthermore, she is a venture advisor for 500 startups and a mentor at Google campus Seoul to support and build the Korean startup ecosystem.

Daniel Chan

Daniel Chan Entrepreneur in Korea

Daniel Chan is the CEO of JANDI an international enterprise social software company backed by Softbank Ventures and Cherubic Ventures. Many companies in South Korea use JANDI for office team communication and management. It is considered one of the best collaboration tools in South Korea. Before JANDI, he co-founded and jointly managed client relationship development, underwriting, and execution for Unity Investment Partners, a merchant bank specializing in advising high-net-worth families on long-term investment strategy and operational restructurings. In addition, he was also an early member of TPG Opportunities Partners, where he helped develop its US asset investing and special European situations business units, as well as an early member of Moelis & Company. Daniel was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and graduated from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in finance and marketing.

Sung Un Chang

Sung Un Chang Korean Female Entrepreneur

Sung Un Chang is the CEO at Yolk. She graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and SBC Young Entrepreneurship Academy. She has won many awards, such as the Red Dot Design Award 2009, the IF Design Award 2010 & 2018, M+D+F Design Awards, the CES Innovation Award 2017 & 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Award 2016 & 2018, and more. At YOLK, she started the Solar Cow project, a humanitarian solar charging system for eradicating child labor and providing educational opportunities in developing countries. She launched Solar Paper, the world’s thinnest and lightest solar charger. Furthermore, The Solar Cow project won a 2019 CES Innovation Award in the category ‘Tech for a better world, an AidEx 2018 Innovation Challenge Award, and the iF 2018 Social Impact Award.

Ted Kim

Ted Kim Entrepreneurs in KoreaTed Kim is the Co-Founder and Co-Ceo of Zikto, the company behind Insureum, which uses the blockchain to provide insurance companies with the data they need to create better policies while at the same time rewarding policyholders for sharing their anonymized data. He focuses on the development and engineering behind the Insureum Protocol. Before Zikto, Ted worked in the “Future Device Lab” at LG Electronics, specializing in machine and deep learning. In addition, Ted majored in both electrical engineering and computer engineering (MS) at Purdue University.

Simon Lee

Simon Lee Flitto CEO Simon Lee is the Ceo of Flitto. He was born in Kuwait, then moved to the US, UK, and Saudi Arabia before settling in Korea. He became an investor with SK Telecom and, in 2007, founded a startup called Flyingcane. Then in 2012, he founded Flitto. Simon credits his ability to adapt to new environments as one of his key strengths as an entrepreneur. Korean entrepreneurs can learn much from Simon and his journey into the Korean startup ecosystem.

David Joo

Korean Entrepreneur David JooDavid Joo is the Co-CEO at Knowre. Knowre was named “Best Instructional App” by the New York City Schools GapApp Challenge and was recognized as “The World’s Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in EdTech” by Fast Company. He has built and managed a team of 60 employees ranging from Product Managers, Software Development, Design, User Experience Architects, Content Development (for both US and Korean), and Business Development. He has structured, negotiated, and closed partnership agreements in the US and Korea. Previously, David was involved in investment banking, public markets investing, credit analytics, and sales & marketing.

Chae Yong Wook

Chae Yong Wook

Chae Yong Wook is the CEO of Looxid VR. The startup won the Best of Innovation Award in VR at CES 2018. Chae Yong had formed partnerships with major Korean companies in the advertisement and auto industries for Looxid VR to be their strategic marketing tools provider. He holds a master’s degree in bio and brain engineering from KAIST with a specialty in brain-computing interface technology. His project at KAIST involved developing sensors and algorithms that would enable robots to move by the brain waves of a human controller. Before Looxid VR, Chae co-founded Ybrain, a health-tech startup.

Dave Cho

Dave Cho Korean EntrepreneurDave Cho is the CEO of Classting, the biggest Edtech service for schools. Previously, he was an elementary school teacher and received his master’s degree in computer education from the Seoul National University of Education. He has over ten years of experience combining education with technology. He founded Classting to bridge the gap between Education and Technologies. Classting received the Global K-Startup Award from Google. In addition, he got funding from Softbank Ventures and Samsung Ventures, two of the top VC firms in Korea. Dave is one of the leading Korean entrepreneurs in the EdTech space.

Jenna Lee

Jenna LeeJenna Lee is the Ceo of AIM. She has a background in engineering, investing, and management consulting. Before starting AIM, Jenna was a partner at TheVentures and the chief accelerator at Vingle. She was also with The Boston Consulting Group as a consultant and worked at TIDE Institute as their US director. Jenna has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She also studied Special Studies in Economics at Harvard University. In addition, Jenna took MBA, Finance, Entrepreneurship & Innovation at New York University – Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

Sung-ho Han

Sung-ho Han is the CEO of Olive Healthcare. Dr. Han graduated from Seoul National University in Korea with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics and later received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado. He previously worked at LGE where he developed a medical imaging device for the early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis by imaging the inflammation status at finger joints. In 2016, he set up Olive Healthcare to provide healthcare solutions to customers. Furthermore, he is one of the top Korean entrepreneurs in the field of health tech.