Orange Institute #13

Korea @scale: where speed meets style – Seoul

November, 2015

South Korea is one of the four Asian Tigers and its capital Seoul is a thriving cultural, economic and technological magnet with a unique attractive force that pulls at us on many levels. From afar, we see it as a showcase of the digital experience;  a supplier to many western companies; a model of coordinated growth backed by forward –looking state initiatives; and as a home to global companies with huge product portfolios.

We encountered many surprises there, everything from the world’s greenest data center and advertising agencies that behaved like R&D units, to California-educated geeks returning home to be financed by local entrepreneurs. Seoul is also a very important place for clinical trials of new technologies and treatments. One of the biggest surprises was the modesty and restraint in the business culture and the style of presentation. Several of us were reminded of its neighbor Japan’s reputation for the “Galapagos effect” that can seem at times like an insular ecosystem. This opacity was counter-balanced by a unique sense of solidarity and collective purpose. Several digital executives spoke to a kind of “faith in the people.” In Korea there is a best practice of listening and mining the data traces of the population – and it is a uniquely urban nation – to solve societal-scale issues. This is a strong contrast occidental free-market narratives of individual achievements and disruption. Indeed, the word “disruption” was little heard in our time there, despite clearly disruptive models.


  • Themes explored


National competencies: the City, the Chaebol, the future of 5G

Design & Style

Innovation machinery

Culture & Context: National accomplishments, Regional aspirations

Speed & Connected Life