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[Newsletter] A smart island with work and rest in balance
A smart island with work and rest in balance


"Jeju is an international free city with fast-growing high-tech IT, mobility, and aerospace industries and an environment-friendly island with UNESCO world natural heritages. Don't you agree that the island has the well-balanced two wings of the high-tech industries and the environment-friendliness to best-fit for an IT company valuing creativity the most?" said Lee Jae-seung from the Jeju Relations Cooperation Team at Kakao Corp, who has been working to link up Kakao and Jeju for the last decade.


Improve corporate competitiveness with local engagement


Kakao is a household name in Korea as one of the most well-known mobile and internet service providers, and the very first company (then Daum Communication) to relocate to Jeju. The employees, after the relocation travelled around the island and blogged about their experiences, which boosted their interest in Jeju tourism. Soon Kakao built a webpage for Jeju Olle trails, taking the first step for the digital transformation of the Jeju tourism industry. The digital Jeju content production and the advent of brand-new consumers heralded the transformation of the Jeju industrial structure.


Kakao launched Kakaotrack, a long-term plan designed to develop and hire from the local talent pools, and has been providing local IT jobseekers with internships and on-site job experience along with Jeju National University Engineering Education Innovation Center for 15 years since 2007. More than 80% of the graduates found jobs in IT companies, and 13% have joined Kakao. The Kakao Farmer, which combines and producesmobile technology, recorded 30,000 transactions, which amounted to 750 tons in 100 days after the launch of the service, literally revolutionizing the agriculture sector. That led to the recent Jegabeuchi (meaning the real value) project of Kakao Makers, an idea to resolve the oversupply of local produce. Kakao's relocation has turned out to be a material contribution to the enhanced competitiveness of both Jeju and Kakao.


Lee Jae-seung from the Jeju Relations Cooperation Team at Kakao Corp.


Ecosystem digitally built by business and community


The Kakao Class, jointly launched with the Jeju Center for Creative Economy & Innovation (J-CCEI), has enhanced the digital capabilities of local micro and small businesses. Kakao's activity was introduced to the world via the OECD Digital for SMEs as a successful case of finding sales channels and assisting sales growth for local micro and small businesses. Recently Kakao extensively collaborated with the Jeju Provincial Government for the super-precise public bus service project to locate every public bus in seconds and developa wheelchair navigation service for users in need, taking on the local digital transportation and building the IT ecosystem.


"Jeju has more active startup vibrancy than any other place. Some businesses are creating local value, while other startup are building a new industrial ecosystem. I believe we at Kakao should play an important partner for them to develop diverse local content and build a new industrial ecosystem," said Lee. The next step for Kakao is to grow together with diverse local partners. That is why Kakao created the Creative Finance Shared Growth Fund worth KRW 2 billion in 2016, and contributed to forming a private investors cooperative, leading the startup investments continuously in Jeju.


Fresh changes


"Development of the IT industry has made a paradigm shift in the way of working from analogue to digital a decade ago. Now it is the pandemic that would bring another big change to the way of working. Working from home and the workation have already settled for the MZ Generation," observed Lee. Sensing this change, Kakao is considering the workation seeking for a balance between work and rest as an option of working practices. Lee explained that a new momentum would be created for a new digital transformation not from the perspective of stay but from a relational standpoint while building a workation hub for the whole Kakao community and keeping the Kakao headquarter functions intact.


The 'Dolhareuban (stone grandpa) using the internet,' which is Kakao's social contribution program supporting individual and community growth implemented for the last decade, symbolizes an IT company moving to Jeju. The "Jeju Impact Challenge," a local issue response program that supports local changes and growth joined by more than ten teams, including The "DIPHDA Jeju," an ocean cleanup club consisting of free divers, and the "Jenagae" (Korean phonetical acronym for 'Jeju does not have bad-tempered dogs.'), a team to take care of stray dogs in Jeju, represents the Kakao values.


The partners in wave 2 of the Jeju Impact Challenge


Lee mentioned, "the last decade was a period when Kakao worked for the digitalization of Jeju while pondering if a business could successfully settle down in a provincial area. The next decade will be the period to lay a foundation for growth in the context of building relations." He dearly loves the moments when he takes a walk in the ecological forest near his place for one hour before going to office, brews his own beer after work, and goes camping on weekends, which he had not dreamed of while living in Seoul, the capital city. Diversity created through the creative working environment has certainly been driving the company's fast growth.


It is rather shameful that the public administration hardly looks beyond investment, only aiming at inviting businesses. He believes the phased support system for enterprises is vital for continued corporate growth, a real convincing point to attract businesses. And how to support the employees of a relocating company is another topic that needs thorough discussion at the public-administrative level. Making joint efforts to protect the Jeju values and making a collaborative challenge to the future industries is what Kakao aspires for in its journey to build a better world for the coming decade.