Hello friends,

It’s been a big month for Yanolja, Baedal Minjok and NXC. It’s also been a big month for me, as I’ve completed my master’s degree in media innovation and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. It’s been quite an interesting experience learning about entrepreneurship after covering it for years, and I look forward to seeing what’s next.

I plan to visit Seoul on July 5-16 and I hope to see many familiar faces. Let me know if you would like to catch up over lunch, coffee, beer, etc.

Here’s a shortlist of news from this month:

  • Big money for Yanolja
  • Baedal Minjok launched in Ho Chi Minh City
  • The NXC (Nexon) sale might be scrapped
  • The government is requiring telecoms to provide hi-speed internet to 100% of the country
  • SKT + Nokia + Ericsson = 6G development
  • SKT + Samsung also = 6G development
  • WeMakePrice filed an FTC complaint against Coupang

This month’s news

News and features on the Korean startup/tech scene from around the web.

MONEY

  • Travel tech company Yanolja closed a $180 million Series D round that takes its valuation beyond $1 billion. The investment is led by GIC and Booking Holdings.
  • Riiid, an AI-based education startup based in Korea, recently raised $17M in its Series C funding.
  • B2B food delivery startup Barogo raised $10M through its latest round of Series B funding. Its market capitalization hence rose to over $86M, triple its Series A funding amount last May.
  • Marketplace lender PeopleFund raised an additional $5 million for its Series B round, continued from last year, bringing the total raised to approximately $21 million. The Series B round last year was led by KakaoPay.
  • South Korean education technology startup Jaranda has raised 3.1 billion won ($2.6 million) in series A funding from six venture investors, including Kakao Ventures, Woori Bank, and KEB Hana Bank.
  • Hyundai Motor Co. will invest in Israeli technology startup MDGo to develop vehicles that automatically call an ambulance after a car accident.
  • Hyundai Motor Group invested in U.S. self-driving car startup Aurora Innovation to enhance its autonomous vehicle technologies.

MOVES

  • Naver introduced a mobile payment system that can be used at stores in Japan, a move that the company said could help Koreans traveling there have a better shopping experience.
  • Naver will develop a map with 10 centimeter-level accuracy for autonomous driving by the year’s end, as it seeks to gain an upper hand in the futuristic technology. It pledged to build a digital layout of streets 2,000 kilometers long by acquiring geographic data via aerial and land devices.
  • Kakao Mobility will develop navigation and call guidance services exclusively for ambulances. The service provides route information not available to regular drivers, such as directing an ambulance to places inaccessible to regular vehicles, in line with the driving characteristics of the ambulance.
  • The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has fined Kakao 2.5 million won ($2,157) for violating the e-commerce transaction law, and ordered Kakao to revise its unfair refund and exchange policies.
  • Nexon Co.’s shares dived as much as 5% after a South Korean newspaper reported that billionaire Kim Jung-ju has abandoned plans to sell down his controlling stake due to unsatisfactory offers from bidders.
  • Samsung Electronics formed a new technology partnership with AMD on low-power and high-performance mobile graphics. Under the multiyear partnership, Samsung Electronics will license AMD’s graphics intellectual property for use in its mobile devices including smartphones.
  • Samsung Electronics and SK Telecom agreed to work together to upgrade the performance of the commercial 5G network and develop technologies related to 6G.
  • Samsung SDS has invested in US API integration platform provider Jitterbit. The investment was made through Samsung Venture Investment, with neither companies disclosing the amount paid.
  • LG Electronics is expanding the number of markets where its premium appliance brand, LG Signature, will be made available. The company began selling its SIGNATURE products in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
  • LG Uplus Corp., will invest 10 billion won (US$8.4 million) to create a wide range of augmented reality (AR) content based on its 5G network to attract more premium service users.
  • LG Chem’s Life Sciences Innovation Center opened in Boston to serve as a base for the company’s life sciences business in the world’s largest bio pharmaceutical market.
  • LG Chem announced its first joint venture with China’s No. 1 automaker Geely Auto Group for the production of electric vehicle batteries, with a plan to secure capacity of 10 gigawatt-hours by late 2021.
  • KT Corp. will launch an advanced smart factory solution based on its 5G network in the third quarter to raise productivity at local factories. KT has been collaborating with local manufacturers and IT solution providers to develop its own smart factory solution, called FactoryMakers, which features artificial intelligence, big data, cloud and security technologies.
  • KT is going all-out to compete both in the public and financial sectors with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and other cloud computing service providers as it plans to invest 500 billion won ($422 million) and nurture 1,000 IT technicians by 2023.
  • SK Telecom has agreed with Nokia and Ericsson, two major European telecom equipment makers, to work together to upgrade the performance of the commercial 5G network and develop technologies related to 6G.
  • SK Telecom launched a smartphone application aimed at helping address the chronic problem of parking space shortage. The Tmap Parking app notifies drivers about available parking spaces nationwide in real time.
  • Hyundai Mobis will open a hydrogen refueling station in Chungju to the public free of charge, a first step towards making the North Chungcheong Provincial city a “hydrogen-powered city.”
  • South Korea’s Woori Financial Group Inc. will establish a venture capital firm within the year and place it under the holding entity to boost its support for promising startups, as part of its plan to invest 33 trillion won ($28.2 billion) over the next five years to incubate startups.
  • SSG.com, the online shopping mall of Shinsegae Group, will roll out a “dawn delivery” service, betting on the fast-growing online delivery market of fresh goods and competing directly against Coupang and Market Kurly.
  • Ecommerce company WeMakePrice filed a complaint with the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) against its major competitor Coupang over a suspected violation of the laws on the distribution business and fair trade.
  • Korea’s largest food delivery app Baedal Minjok officially started offering services in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Baedal Minjok, commonly known as Baemin, had acquired Vietnamese food delivery service Vietnammm from Netherland-based Takeaway.com in February.
  • Baedal Minjok, operated by Woowa Brothers, is being criticized for distributing coupons to the value of as much as 1 million won ($844) to celebrities and social media influencers while rarely offering discounts to ordinary consumers.
  • China’s Huawei Technologies opened its first 5G open lab in Seoul. Huawei plans to invest $5 million in the lab, using it as a base for its expansion into the 5G market in Asia.
  • Starkey Hearing Technologies will bring its latest hearing aid device, reinforced by artificial intelligence (AI) technology, to Korea.

CRYPTO/BLOCKCHAIN

  • ICON made a strategic partnership with Chain Partners to build a “healthy blockchain ecosystem,” which will surpass the ICON’s DApp (Decentralized Applications) ecosystem.
  • Korea Post, South Korea’s national postal service, is planning to apply blockchain technology to its billing system using the blockchain expertise of Coinplug and payment technology of NHN.
  • Major South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges such as Bithumb have updated their terms of service to reflect a new directive from the country’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC). This directive stipulates that exchange platforms be liable for issues caused by hacks or system downtime even if such didn’t occur as a result of negligence on the part of the exchanges themselves.
  • Kookmin Bank signed an agreement with blockchain specialist Atomrigs Lab to explore crypto asset management, which could potentially bridge legacy banking and crypto services to provide South Korean institutional investors with a credible entry point.
  • South Korean crypto exchange Bithumb has been prosecuted for its alleged failure to take adequate measures to protect personal information, which was later presumably exploited by hackers to steal funds from the platform.

INFRA/R&D

  • The Korea International Trade Association (KITA) has opened a “Startup Branch” at COEX, with an aim to provide an open platform for startups to scale up and globalize.
  • The Ministry of Science and ICT will mandate telecommunications companies to provide hyper-speed internet to every part of South Korea. The initiative is designed to provide universal internet access for every person residing in Korea, as those living in far-flung villages have often suffered from limited access due to lack of internet infrastructure.
  • South Korea will build a startup center in Finland and Sweden to help fledgling Korean companies establish networks in the fast-growing startup hubs of Nordic Europe.
  • The Ministry of Transportation has partnered with Canadian blockchain firm Graph Blockchain Inc. in the storage of traffic data as part of its Smart City initiative.