AI Revolution: Korea’s Bold Steps Toward Digital Transformation

The state of artificial intelligence (AI) and its adoption in Korea have been significant focus areas for the country in recent years. Recognizing AI’s transformative power in various industries, Korea developed a strategy for AI in 2019 and has since implemented measures to drive its adoption and strengthen its digital ecosystem.

March 17, 2024

Advanced Technology, Insights


To stimulate the data lifecycle and address the shortage of data in the public sector, Korea has been working on creating a data dam. This involves acquiring high-quality data for AI training and making public data accessible. The acquired data will be made available to companies and researchers through an AI hub, which will also provide AI training data and cloud-based high-performance computing. Additionally, Korea has provided AI vouchers to SMEs and start-ups, enabling them to purchase necessary AI solutions from AI solution suppliers.

In addition to building a robust technical infrastructure, Korea has been fostering an enabling policy environment for AI. It has amended privacy laws and enacted a framework act on intelligent informatization to promote data use and create a favorable environment for AI adoption. The country is also investing in education and training programs to prepare the workforce for AI, including increasing the number of AI graduate schools and providing basic education programs to enhance AI skills among citizens.

Looking ahead, Korea has set ambitious goals for AI adoption. The country plans to have 30% of local companies adopt AI technologies by 2030. It also aims to foster at least 100 companies that supply AI solutions worldwide. These targets reflect Korea’s recognition of AI as a key driver for the digital transformation of local businesses and the overall industrial system.

The dynamic Korean startup ecosystem was the first to develop solutions leveraging AI across industries such as Healthtech (Lunit, Medibloc, Vuno), Fintech (Toss, Qraft), edutech (Riiid, Mathpresso, ScatterLab), mobility (Socar, 42dot AI) and e-commerce (Trenbe, Coupang, Market Kurly, etc.). Korean conglomerates, however, represent the biggest push, with Samsung, SK, KT, and Hyundai at the forefront of significant projects, often in cooperation with startups.

What Are Business Leaders Saying?

According to Sean Lee, consultant for Ignite Innovation fund, a VC specialized in smart automation investments, “recent advancements in AI is probably the one of the most disruptive we have seen; major Korean corporations which have traditionally been more conservative and slow to change are forced out of their comfort zone. These Korean corporations have been excellent “fast followers,” but because the changes to the AI landscape have been unprecedently fast-paced, they are internally struggling to establish the next course of action. Even just a few years ago, many Koreans viewed jobs at major corporations as secure positions that carried significant prestige (vs. start-up jobs = risky). However, many now view startups as a place where they have opportunities to drive real innovation. Top talents recognize that AI will significantly impact existing business models and want to shape how this unfolds. They are no longer hesitant to leave secure jobs at big Korean corps, which is expected to fuel the growth of start-up ecosystem in Korea.”

The war for AI talent in small and large organizations alike has just started. In June, the local career matching platform Wanted Lab Inc. announced that 39.9% of all its software-related jobs were related to AI. According to a Software Policy & Research Institute survey, 81.7% of companies say the AI talent shortage poses a major challenge to their business.

What Do You Think?

To cope with these needs, corporations need to ready themselves for the next ten years and measure how AI will impact their operations as a whole, from product to internal processes, and initiate the transformation. Is your IT ready to take advantage of AI? Where will you find the AI leaders to drive this change? Does your culture have the agility to innovate?

The skills in demand are related to the application of the technology, but data engineering, deep learning, machine learning, Natural Language Processing, and computer vision are likely to play a major role in the years to come. To drive this transformation, however, soft skills such as agility, creative thinking, strategic management, and a collaborative mindset will be equally important. A balanced, ethical judgment, not often considered by employers, is also essential to better assess the risks and dangers of AI.

Meet the Author

Ghislain Brun

Associate Partner

Ghislain is based in Seoul, Korea and serves as Associate Partner bringing in-depth expertise in advanced technology and ICT. With a dual background in HR and IT, Ghislain offers operational expertise in advanced technology with a focus on digital industries.

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