Startup Korea: Is Korea Conducive for Fintech Startups?

Startup Korea: Is Korea Conducive for Fintech Startups?

by December 22, 2017

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to the attend the Korean Startup Festival 2017, which is part of the efforts of the Korean Ministry of SMEs and Startups to gather thousands of startups, VCs and international media to shine the spotlight on the Startup Korea scene.

While strictly speaking it is not an event that is focused purely on fintech, I found myself getting a more in depth understanding of the startup  landscape in Korea and whether or not it is conducive for fintech startups to thrive in Korea and in this article I intend to outline the landscape through the lense of fintech startups.

Startup Korea - Startup Festival 2017

Vibrant Ecoystem

While I was at the event I had the pleasure of mingling with many of the players with the space, among those people, Yeji from A-Writers was particularly kind, who went through the trouble of giving me a city tour to get a first hand view of the co-working spaces in Korea.

What I’ve gathered from that tour is a strong sense community and an abundance of co-working spaces for fintech startups (or any startups for that matter) to choose from, ranging from international names like WeWork to local names like Cow&Dog and Root Impact.

Startup Korea - Co-Working Spaces

Community Board at Cow & Dog

Strong Government Support

Ministry of Startup & SME’s

The government as whole is also very supportive of the startup scene with the creation of the Ministry of Startup of SMEs in July 2017 with the specific goal of strengthening competitiveness and supporting innovation within the SMEs and startup space in Korea.

Startup Korea - Ministry of SME and Startups Key Direction

Key Policy Direction – Ministry of Startups an SMEs

Financial Services Commission

Korea’s regulator, The Financial Services Commission has also shown active steps in creating a more conducive ecosystem for fintech to thrive in Korea by introducing reforms in their regulation to lower the barrier of entry for fintech startups.

The regulator has also formed the Korea Fintech Centre to connect fintech startups to financial institutions and investors. Since the formation of the Korea Fintech Centre, we also observe bilateral partnerships between Korea and various other countries. Even more notably, Korea has shown leadership in being one of the pioneers within Asia in issuing licenses for digital only bank which paved the way for the country’s most popular messaging app Kakao Talk to run a digital only bank that managed to secure a staggering 1 million users in 5 days.

Startup Korea - Financial Services Commission Korea Key Policy Direction

Recent Policy Direction – Financial Services Commission Korea


All in all, through the conversations I had with various people at the Korean Startup Festival 2017, I get the sense that Korea is a strong contender for the fintech hub crown. My familiarity with the scene in Korea is still limited but I definitely look forward to the Korean Startup Festival 2018 to dive deeper into the scene.