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The next wave of innovators

Aug 25, 2018

While chaebols still play a dominant role in South Korea’s economy, they now share the spotlight with small and medium-sized enterprises as important contributors to growth. An established innovator and early adaptor of new technology, South Korea sees these SMEs, along with the government and the academe, moving quickly as the country enters the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution.

A testament to creativity and innovation found widely in South Korea, JENAX, founded in Busan in 1991, recently launched J.Flex, a safety-tested, flexible lithium- powered rechargeable battery that can be bent in any direction.

J.Flex has found its way into various applications in healthcare, medical, fashion, military and Internet of Things. Its versatility has produced innovative products in the wearables, printed electronics and medical devices sectors.

JENAX Strategic Manager EJ Shin addresses participants of MEDICA, the world's largest healthcare trade show.

“This is a revolutionary battery in the industry,” says Strategic Manager EJ Shin, who unveiled J.Flex in the CES trade show in Las Vegas in 2015 and in other trade shows in the United States and the EU.

“Our goal for the next two to three years is to further expand our presence in the EU and the U.S. We want to contribute to the next phase of technology in those markets,” she adds.

Meanwhile, holding company Hanchang has built a stable business in manufacturing and hotel management since 1967, growing consistently because of its ability to adapt quickly to changing market conditions.

Over the past decade, the Busan-based company has diversified its activities to include property development, construction, fishing, entertainment and cruise line operation. And having entered the Russian and North Korean markets, the company is also seeking new investors and businesses to secure its long-term future.

Because of its decision to enter businesses with less competition, Hanchang has experienced much success so far. CEO Choi Seunghwang stresses that while the strategy may be “filled with risk, it also is filled with great expectations.”

“We want to enter the billion-dollar sales club,” Choi said. “It took us many years to reach 100 million dollars in sales. We had to adapt and evolve many times.”

While all these twists and turns are normal for business, Choi said: “Now we are making the right moves and taking the right steps towards the right direction to get to our goal faster.”

At the root of South Korea’s transformation to being an industrial powerhouse are academic institutions such as CMS Edu, which hopes to help nurture South Korea’s future leaders.

Since opening its first center in 1997, CMS Edu has expanded its services to include consultation and management of learning centers, publication of textbooks and teaching materials, organization of school and afterschool programs, as well as online learning programs.

CMS Edu did away with the traditional mindset and encourages its students to think for themselves while adopting a wider perspective that looks further into the future.

“We produce students who are creative and capable of creating their own jobs,” CEO Lee Chung Koog explains.

The group’s learning centers have been franchised and adopted in China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Now, it eyes further global expansion.

“We want partners who care about each student’s future and who share the same philosophy,” Lee says.

South Korea 2018 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

PDF of the printed report

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