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Korea actively seeks Vietnamese IT talent
By My Huyen
Tuesday,  Nov 5, 2019,15:13 (GMT+7)

Korea actively seeks Vietnamese IT talent

By My Huyen

In a recent interview, Jae Hyun Lee, a Korean investor at Northern Light Venture Capital, discussed how Korea is eyeing Vietnam as a source of IT talent to support Korea’s booming technology scene.

Jae Hyun Lee, a Korean investor at Northern Light Venture Capital.

What is the IT and startup scene like in Korea these days? 

JHL: The IT sector has grown tremendously in Korea over the past two decades. Unlike many other Asian markets, domestic players lead in both search (Naver) and messenger (Kakao). Gaming is another major growth engine in Korean tech, while the newest engines seem to be e-commerce and fintech.

I think Korea is now entering a phase of exponential growth in the startup space. Startups have been tremendously successful with their software and service-leaning business models. The conglomerates in Korea Samsung, Hyundai, and LG support the manufacturing arm, but when it comes to services, startups are quickly addressing specific consumer needs and emerging as real forces in the economy. The government has been actively supporting startups for quite a few years now, and we’re now beginning to see results.

This growth is fueled by technical talent, so the demand for technical talent continues to grow.

Is Korea’s domestic talent pool with new technological expertise sufficient in the market? 

JHL: Sadly, it’s not. I think the biggest reason is that schools have been slow to adapt. The computer science (CS) departments in Korea’s leading universities have not accepted more students. Seoul National University, Korea’s top public university, has the same quota for the CS department today as it did in 2011. Yonsei, another top school, has a smaller CS class today at roughly 60% of the 2011 size. The issue here is complicated, and will require a comprehensive approach from the government and academic institutions.

Meanwhile, Korea’s startup ecosystem is in hypergrowth mode. Therefore, the gap between supply and demand is likely to widen. Hence, Korean companies are going to be looking for foreign talent even more.

Which country is Korea is looking to for IT workers?

JHL: Countries in Southeast Asia, for sure. Southeast Asia is popular because a lot of Koreans feel a sense of cultural proximity. Vietnam is especially popular, and you see various Korean companies expanding into Vietnam. Koreans feel that the cultural barrier is low, and the geographic proximity also helps.

Let’s focus on Vietnamese talent. Many companies I met and worked with in Korea have either hired a Southeast Asian developer or wanted to, and Vietnam is often pointed to as a leading source of excellent technical talent. I think Vietnam has a well-educated, disciplined, and highly motivated workforce. As I mentioned, the demand is there, so I would suggest that interested talent reach out to these companies, attend events, and begin a process to find the right match.

What are the benefits for IT talent from other countries to relocate to Korea?

JHL: Two things global access and fast growth potential. Korea is now home to talent from around the world and Seoul is a competitive cosmopolitan city. I think getting to work in such a setting has benefits beyond just the compensation package. Second, as Korean companies seek to expand to other markets, those who come with relevant market exposure will likely be given important roles. That’s a growth opportunity there.

Korea is a great place to work because you can learn faster, receive great compensation, and potentially help expand the company to Southeast Asia, where you can take a greater leadership position. Entry level developers can expect to make between US$3,000 and US$6,000 monthly depending on skill level and employer type.

Thank you for your take. Lastly, what are the opportunities for collaboration between Vietnam and Korea in the technology space?

JHL: If I had to sum it up, it would be this—add Korean technology to Vietnamese sectoral expertise to develop local models that can be scaled across Southeast Asia. The possibilities are endless, and I speak on behalf of all the entrepreneurs and investors I work with when I say Korea is open to partnering with Vietnamese talent and Vietnamese companies for mutual benefit.

Jae Hyun Lee is an investor at Northern Light Venture Capital (NLVC), an Asia-focused tech VC with over US$4.5 billion in AUM. NLVC invests in promising early-stage companies across Asia in TMT, Healthcare, and Advanced Technology.


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