by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
The South Korean technology industry is often dominated by its electronic giants, but the headlines are slowly starting to change. Seoul has increasingly become one of the most promising scenes for startups, thanks to government support, including cutback on regulation on tech-related industries to encourage innovation and Park Geun-hye’s pledge to invest $3.7 billion in startups over the next three years.
This summer, South Korea’s capital will also host Global Hackathon Seoul at the COEX (Convention and Exhibition Center) in Gangnam, Seoul—a region that has quickly become a bright spot for Korean startups. The Global Hackathon plans to bring together some 2,000 hackers, from local South Korean developers to their international counterparts.
But the hacking doesn’t refer to the keyboard-slapping nonsense we see in Hollywood movies. There is a much deeper culture to the “hacker mindset” that the Global Hackathon sees in Seoul champions.
“The ‘hacker’ mindset is the art of building or putting things together in order to create a change or facilitate positive disruption in the world,” explains Ted Kim, Chief Operating Officer of London Trust Media, Inc., which owns title sponsor Private Internet Access (PIA). “In general, the hacker ethos is that nothing is impossible—anything can be hacked, created and conquered.”
PIA features a personal virtual private network (VPN) service that protects users when they are online, has been a leading sponsor of other major hackathons including, UCLA’s popular LA Hacks in April.
“As the advent of the Internet did not take the loss of privacy into consideration as a consequence, our goal is to protect the privacy of a society that has forgotten its rights to it. We hope that many hackers at the hackathon will build products that will enhance end users’ privacy,” Kim added. “We believe that supporting the next generation of startups and hackers is a logical next step to further our goal.”
Opportunities abound for startups at these hackathons, where they can showcase their own technology from wearables, virtual reality, cloud services, big data hubs, online security and other innovative ideas, such as KPOP UNITED‘s crowdfunding-based concert ticketing platform. On the other end, there are plenty of businesses and investors looking to work with the brightest and best hackers.
“Hackathons provide a wonderful opportunity for developers and businesses (and their recruiters) alike to meet each other,” Kim said. “Hosting Asia’s premier hackathon in South Korea is monumental because South Korea has been pumping significant funds into its technology startup scene. I wouldn’t be too surprised if many quick hack projects built during the Hackathon end up receiving investment and becoming new South Korean companies.”
KJ Yoo, the executive director of Global Hackathon Seoul, said he hopes the event will convince even more Korean students and recent graduates to look at the burgeoning startup industry for opportunities, rather than relying solely on established companies.
“Seoul already has an incredible infrastructure (fastest Internet/mobile speed), highest smartphone penetration and tech savvy people,” Yoo said. “What we need is a cultural shift. Through Global Hackathon Seoul and other awesome hackathons, I don’t want to just show people but let them experience the hacker culture, and collaborate with really different thinkers of this world. We have an opportunity to import the mindset and innovative trends of the best hacks from around the world.”
Disclosure: Private Internet Access (PIA) and KoreAm Journal are both owned by parent company London Trust Media, Inc.