What’s the best wine pairing with kimchi jjigae? 🍷

The anti-Coupang crew, eBay Korea on sale, deregulation, and deals

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A word on solidarity 

We stand in sorrow and solidarity with Asian and Pacific Islander communities, who are facing an escalating series of racist attacks. We must remain vigilant to the many ways that anti-Asian prejudice and bias affect us and work to identify effective and actionable ways to address this and all forms of prejudice, stigmatization, and racism. 

The Anti-Coupang Crew 

Naver and Shinsegae are swapping $220 million worth of stocks to boost their e-commerce business lines. 

Backstory: We can’t talk Korean tech without dropping a line about Naver, but the Shinsegae Group is a rather unusual suspect. They’re the largest retailer in Korea, known for their namesake luxury department stores, duty-free outlets, and discount store chain - E-Mart. Notably, the retail giant has struggled to adapt to the online era. 

Their partnership with Naver will strengthen E-Mart's online presence with SSG.com, while Naver gets a boost in logistics.

What to expect: 

  • Membership integration to provide customers options for Naver Pay at Shinsegae outlets and vice versa, listings of E-Mart products on the Naver Shopping Mall 

  • Introduction of Naver technology into retail services such as augmented reality navigation, AI-driven product recommendations, and autonomous shopping carts

  • Transformation of 7300 E-Mart stores into distribution bases to expand the delivery network, catering mainly to groceries  

Zoom out: Competition in the Korean e-commerce market is fierce. Naver leads it with a 17% market share, trailed closely by Coupang (13%) and eBay Korea (12%). Shinsegae’s SSG.com controls a mere 2.4%. 

Shinsegae is making a bet on Naver with an eye to trumping Coupang. 

Shinsegae’s big moves don’t end there. They’ve also placed a preliminary bid on eBay Korea - more on this in the next section. 

Poetically: As one analyst put it, "Shinsegae's decision to join hands with Naver resonates with the concept of 'Owol-dong-ju' (吳越同舟). It means that he held hands with the enemy in order to counter the larger enemy." 

The symbolic partnership between the leading online and offline commerce players is a clear signal to Coupang’s Bom Kim: watch yourself, boy.

Going once, going twice…

eBay Korea is taking bids. The California-based parent company of Gmarket, Auction, and G9 started looking for buyers earlier this year. 

Price tag: $4.5 billion. 

Who’s buying? Looks like the old boys are trying to figure out how to check out with their virtual shopping carts. Shinsegae’s E-Mart, MBK Partners’ Homeplus, and SK Telecom’s 11st Street all put in non-binding, preliminary bids last week.

Big picture: eBay Korea has steadily lost market share with Coupang’s rise. But while Coupang operates on losses, eBay has cracked the code on profitability ($54 million). 

So why is eBay Korea on sale if it’s profitable? There are two reasons for a company to sell off its assets: it’s suffering losses or it’s the optimal time to cash in. eBay is betting on the latter. Coupang's public debut in the US, prospects that Market Kurly may follow suit, and increasing M&A activity in the e-commerce space are signals that the buyer’s market is smoking hot. 🔥

One word: deregulation

The Korean government has revised legislation relating to the sharing economy. That means new rules for businesses in short-term accommodation rentals, car sharing, and crowdfunding. So, what’s the scene?

  • Accommodations: A central organization is being established to administer shared accommodations. The new legislation will allow Koreans to share accommodations for up to 180 days and also make it mandatory for brokerage platforms to share internal data for compliance. 

  • Car sharing: A revision to the Parking Lot Act designates areas for shared cars, prompting new opportunities for mobility startups.

  • Crowdfunding: Under the new legislation, crowdfunding options will officially be recognized under securities law. That means new capital requirements, distribution structures and legal protection for investors. 

Zoom out: The sharing economy generally refers to the rental of private assets brokered by a digital platform. While there is no clear-cut definition, these ‘asset light’ businesses are perceived as bottomless gold mines. While they’ve been an investor favourite, there’ve also been the subject of many scandals and controversies.    

For a long time, companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and even local companies like TADA and Mr.Mention, have benefited from operating in a regulatory grey space. However, the industry’s explosive growth over the past several years has pushed policymakers to up their game.  

Keep reading: Sharing Economy: Economic Analysis and Policy Implications

On the radar  

Companies raising over $1 million last week. 

  • Musinsa is raising $105 million in a Series B deal from Sequoia Capital and IMM investment for their streetwear curation media and e-commerce platform. 

  • Trenbe is raising $19.5 million in a Series C deal from Korea Investment Partners, Atinum Investment, IMM Investment, and Murex Investment for their luxury goods e-commerce platform. 

  • Solar Connect is raising $18.5 million in a Series C from KDB, Shinhan Venture Investment, Yuanta Investment, BNK Venture Investment, and BSK Investment for their solar power energy management system.

  • Classting is raising $9 million in a Series C deal from Atinum Investment, Korea Investment & Securities, Eugene Investment Securities, and Isu VC for their edutech platform. 

  • Lamda256(Luniverse) is raising $9 million in a Series A deal with an undisclosed investor for their blockchain-as-a-service solution. 

  • Hashed is raising $7 million from Naver for their blockchain investment portfolio. 

  • Hashed itself, along with Samyang Chemical Group, is investing $2.5 million in Block Odyssey in a pre-series A deal for their supply chain management blockchain solution. 

  • Fertailrains is raising $5 million in a Series A deal from Wise Letter Investment and Tigris Investment for their digital marketing services targeting the entertainment and gaming industries. 

  • Alicorn(Rocketpunch) is raising $4 million in a Series B deal from KT Estate for their co-working and recruitment platform. 

More Seoul Hits

  • SK Bioscience’s debut on the KOSPI was stellar, up 160% by the end of the day. But some analysts wonder how the company’s $178 million revenue will meet the expectations that come with an $11 billion valuation. 

  • Hacking Hyundai’s hood. Last month, 9GB of data related to Hyundai-Kia Motors was leaked on the dark web. Now, experts are saying that the combination of flawed cryptography and some old-fashioned hot wiring could let thieves drive away with cars that use chip-enabled mechanical keys. 

  • The BTS of Social Media. Why Bernard Moon, Co-founder and Partner at SparkLabs Group believes the next Facebook will be from South Korea. 

  • Sustainability matters. Korean chaebols agree that ESG ratings matter for sustainable future growth. They’re being urged to go the extra mile to influence SMEs and other subcontractors to adopt ESG standards. 

Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon? What’s the best wine pairing with kimchi jjigae? Drop us a line on that or anything else on the Korean tech scene in the comments section.