Many Korean Americans visit South Korea to reconnect with family roots and experience Korea for the first time. While they are here, they love to party and have a great time in places like Gangnam, Itaewon, Hongdae, etc. However, besides the aspect of having fun, there are many business opportunities for them, especially in the Korean startup ecosystem. Most of the Korean Americans that come to Korea to work come as English Language teachers. That is a great way to get accustomed to living in Korea.

The first two years of teaching at Hagwons in Korea were some of the happiest times of my life. However, you can only be an English teacher for so long. There are a lot of opportunities for Korean Americans in Korea, from working at a tech startup to working for one of the major Korean corporations.

Silicon Valley to Seoul

Many feel that the Korean startup scene is a year or two behind, say, Silicon Valley. It will not be a surprise to see ideas take off in Silicon Valley, and then a year later, someone starts the same business in Seoul. A Korean American that has been an entrepreneur in the states has much more knowledge and value because they are at the forefront of innovation. They can bring a different perspective, a more global perspective, to Korean businesses. Therefore this is one of the key strengths Korean Americans can bring to the table in Korea. In the states, they are just another typical entrepreneur.

In Korea, they have become a much more valuable global connector. Hundreds of business ideas have succeeded in America but haven’t yet been implemented in South Korea. If you look closely at some of the more successful Korean startups, you will usually find a Korean American founder or a Korean who has studied abroad running the company.

Korean Americans in High demand

More and more companies are looking to hire Korean Americans (Gyopos) that have a deep understanding of how business works outside of Korea. Accelerators and Incubators in Korea prefer startups with a Gyopo CEO because they know there is a larger potential to go global. In addition, Gyopo CEOs are more confident at giving pitches in English (for obvious reasons). Still, also they tend to be more aggressive in their desire to expand outside of Korea.

Also, Korean Americans have a better understanding of Korean culture than westerners. This allows them the benefit from both worlds. If a Gyopo has the ability to turn on and off Korean cultural mannerisms, they will have no issues working with both Korean companies and global companies. Many Gyopos can even speak Korean, which helps bridge the gap between their Korean co-workers. Therefore if a Korean business has a choice between a foreigner and a Gyopo, many will go with the Korean American.

Korean Americans can act as the bridge

Foreigners lack an understanding of Korean culture, making it hard to get along with their Korean colleagues. It is common for Korean workers to avoid hanging out with Foreigners after work and vice Versa. Korean Americans help bridge this gap between them.

Some Korean companies are looking outside their country to find ways for their company to go Global. Going global is one of the main barriers for Korean startups. Many tend to stay in the comfort and bubble of their home country and stick with what has worked so far. Those looking for global talent find it hard to bring foreign talent to Korea. This is because foreigners that come to Korea to work can get shocked by the Korean working culture. Many end up leaving the company after a few months. Just search on Google, and you will find many horror stories from foreigners working for Korean companies. Korean Americans have a much deeper understanding of Korean work culture and can adapt much easier than foreigners.

Changing the Korean work culture

Many young Korean-American entrepreneurs have come to Korea and really changed how companies are run. Startups, Accelerators, Incubators, etc were not terms that were around in Korea before these Korean-American entrepreneurs brought them here. There are hundreds of startups started by Korean Americans. They do not have the intense working culture of the typical Korean company. Many global companies have expanded into Korea.

For example, WeWork has expanded all across Seoul and has over 12 locations and growing. Furthermore, many Korean companies that have not found success through foreigners are now turning their attention to Gyopos to move their company forward. For those Korean Americans struggling in America, they would have a greater chance of success moving to Korea and working in the Korean startup scene.

The Korean Startup Scene

Korean Americans living in Korea might get offers from Korean conglomerates like Samsung, LG, etc.  However, these major corporations are still very traditional, even tho they have made a lot of progress. Lately, there has been a rise in entrepreneurship in Korea as more and more Koreans are going away from the stability of companies like Samsung or government jobs and into working for a startup in Korea.

There are many successful Korean startups like Coupang, Kakao, Viva Republica, Market Kurly, and more. Some of these successful startups were started by Korean Americans who have become role models and mentors. Furthermore, many Korean conglomerates like Samsung and Naver are investing in new startups. Therefore more and more young people in Korea are becoming more attracted to the startup scene. The competition for getting a C-Level position at a successful startup in the States is high. However, many of these global startups have entered Korea and are looking for talented people to help them enter the Korean market.

More Money Flowing into the Korean Startup Ecosystem

Korean startups will start to see an influx of capital not just from Korean VC firms but also from the Korean government. The Korean government has promised to invest billions in Korean startups over the next few years. The Korean government realizes that they need to invest a large amount of money in research and development in the fields of health care, e-commerce, IoT, AI, enterprise software, and even Korean entertainment.

However, overall, the amount of money Korean startups are raising is small compared with what startups can raise in Silicon Valley. This is because of the fact that Korean startups tend to focus only on the Korean market because most of their workers are Korean. This is why Korean startups are looking for Gypos to help them break the language and cultural barriers.

5 Jobs Korean Americans can get Right Away

I know most Korean Americans are looking to work in South Korea but don’t know what or how to get a job. You also don’ fully know what positions are available. To fully take advantage of finding the right kind of job for you, you first need to come to South Korea. Therefore as I mentioned before, coming to South Korea as an English teacher first is not a bad idea. You are guaranteed a job, and for a year, you can adjust to living and working in Korea. Also, teaching English to Korean students can be very fun! Therefore the job you can get right away is…

1. Teach at a Hagwon (after-school academy)

There are different kinds of Hagwons, but English Hagwons are the most abundant. For these afterschool academies, students arrive at around 3 pm to learn strictly English. English is huge in South Korea because it is a major priority for Korean university entrance exams. To teach English in Korea, you will need an E-2 Visa, which is a teaching English visa. However, if you are a Korean American, you can apply for an F-4 (Family Visa) which pretty much makes you similar to a Korean citizen. Many Hagwons rather hire those with F-4 Visas because it is a much easier process for Hagwons.

2. Work in Entertainment

This is a challenging field to get into. However, if you can speak Korean, you instantly become precious to many Entertainment companies that deal with foreign talent. For example, sports teams are constantly looking out for translators that can communicate with foreign players and the Korean staff. Companies that hire or work with foreigners that can’t speak English prefer to hire Korean Americans to bridge the gap. Remember, you are not looking to get hired as a talent but rather to work behind the scenes.

3. Work for a Publication Company

This involves working for a Korean company without having to teach kids! That is right, you will be working behind the scenes creating textbooks/workbooks. For those that love to write, this would actually be the perfect job. Being a Korean American will also make it easier to work with your colleagues and have a better understanding of Korean culture when creating books for students in Korea. Also, if your Korean is a very high level, there are thousands of translating jobs out there.

4. Work for Korean Airlines

There are two major airlines in South Korea, they are Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. Korean Airlines are very active in hiring Korean Americans because of their ability to speak English while also “looking” Korean. This also applies to the hundreds of travel companies that show tourists around South Korea.

5. Work for a Global Company in Korea

Many global companies like Amazon are in Korea. These companies are always on the lookout for workers that can speak both English and Korean at a business level. If you can speak Korean at a high level, then you will not have any problems getting at least an entry-level position at a global company based in Korea. These jobs are popping up on LinkedIn every single week, so keep a lookout for them.