Once plagued by political chaos and poverty, during the second half of the 20th century South Korea has emerged as an Asian giant whose economy stands tall amidst a number of other competitors. Now it boasts the 11th largest economy in the world, at $ 1.4 trillion in GDP.
It is no surprise that the country's meteoric growth has produced some very successful businessmen. Here we look at some of the most successful and well-known entrepreneurs from South Korea, which include Daniel Shin, Lee Byung-chul and Richard Min.
- The South Korean economy has grown to one of the largest and most important in the world over the past decades, especially relevant in technology and heavy industry.
- While a handful of long-established companies, led by the Samsung Group, dominate the business community several entrepreneurs are leaving their mark.
- Here we look Samsung's founder plus two additional newcomers leaving their mark on the country.
1. Lee Byung-chul
Lee Byung-chul was born in Korea in February of 1910. He attended Waseda University in Tokyo; however, he never received his degree. Byung-chul’s first company was a trucking business, started in 1938, which he named Samsung Trading Co. The company grew, and by 1945, Samsung was responsible for the transportation of goods throughout Korea and to a number of other countries.
The company headquarters moved to Seoul in 1947. When the Korean War began in 1950, Samsung was among the top 10 largest trading companies. After the North Korean army seized control of Seoul, Byung-chul was forced to move his company’s headquarters to Pusan. Later in Byung-chul’s life, he served as the chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries. For some time, he was considered the richest man in Korea. After Byung-chul’s death in November of 1987, control of Samsung was transferred to his sons, and Samsung eventually became the electronics corporate giant it is in 2015.
2. Daniel Shin
Daniel Shin attended Thomas Jefferson High School for Sciences and Technology in Virginia, graduating in 2004. He then began his studies as University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and graduated in 2008 with a degree in marketing and finance. Shin was then hired by McKinsey & Company, as a business analyst. He had already started two companies during college. The first was unsuccessful, and the second, Invite Media, was sold to Google after Shin left.
Shin decided to start another company back in Korea, from where he immigrated at the age of 9. Together with some friends from college, Shin started Ticket Monster, also known as TMON in Korea. This company offered customers deals on events, merchandise, restaurants and other goods. The startup was almost literally an overnight success. The company expanded so quickly that in less than two years, it had approximately 700 employees and more than $25 million per month in revenue. The company’s offerings in 2015 are more diverse and include luxury travel, gourmet food and electronics.
Shin sold Ticket Monster to social commerce site LivingSocial for more than $350 million at the end of 2011. Shin remained the chief executive officer (CEO) of Ticket Monster and retained control of the company. By this time, TMON was so successful, it was a highly desired acquisition. Groupon, the world’s largest and most successful social commerce site, purchased Ticket Monster from LivingSocial for approximately $260 million. At this time, the company had reportedly expanded to the point of employing approximately 1,000 individuals and serving more than 4 million customers.
Shin also serves as the director of Fast Track Asia. This is an Internet-based company that incubates startup businesses, allowing them to grow and succeed, and often provides startup capital.
3. Richard Min
Richard Min, 38, is the co-founder and CEO of Seoul Space. This company, which he launched with two American partners, provides startup businesses with office space, mentorship and introductions to potential investors. In return, Seoul Space receives small equity stakes in the businesses it aids.
Min moved to South Korea in 2001 to explore his heritage and to take advantage of the opportunities he saw for himself as a Korean American. Min’s first Korean company, called Zingu, was the first pay-per-click advertising company in the country. He later turned the company into a consulting firm, aiding Korean companies in the process of marketing their goods and services outside of the country. It was after this that Min determined his next opportunity for success was aiding startup companies, thus leading to the creation of Seoul Space.