One of the well-shopped maxims that international businesspeople encounter when trying to do business in South Korea is that the market is so unique that most foreigners will fail in it. This maxim is often used by Koreans to explain why South Korean companies dominate their foreign competitors in the country. Of course, it overlooks the country’s long propagation of a policy of import substitution, which often involves the use of well-placed and well-timed rules to help domestic firms. And it overlooks the power of the country’s big conglomerates, or chaebol, to bigfoot into any new business an outsider develops.
Daniel Shin, chief executive officer of Ticket MonsterBut there’s another explanation for why Lotteria is bigger than McDonald’s, Naver is bigger than Google and E-mart outsmarted Wal-mart in South Korea. And it comes from the young CEO of a Korean company involved in one of the most competitive – and interesting – battles in South Korea’s high-tech industry in quite some time.
Daniel Shin, chief executive of Ticket Monster, the online deals and marketing web site, says the uniqueness of the South Korean market that gives an edge to local companies is due the combination of two factors. The first is that it’s not big enough to be a top priority for international firms. The second is that once Korean firms latch onto an idea they can quickly become competitive. In an interview, Mr. Shin said the differences that South Korean firms like to claim for the market are “more pronounced than they should be.”