Deep underneath the 38th parallel, Team SK advanced across the DMZ not knowing what lay ahead. This was the third of four known infiltration tunnels that had been intercepted thus far and it was up to us to uncover those that remained, sealing them off from the North and enforcing the military demarcation that separated the Korean Peninsula for over 50 years.
Infiltrating North Korea
Ok ok… a little exaggerated, but still an unique experience. During our visit to the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, we explored one of the four known interception tunnels built by the North Koreans in order to infiltrate the south. Part of it sealed off just behind the demarcation line but still extending well into the DMZ. Looking around it wasn’t hard to imagine that over 2 million troops straddled the border across these two countries ready to retaliate as a result of a war 50 years ago that never officially ended. Experiencing the DMZ was an eye-opening reminder that despite all the progress South Korea has experienced in 50 years, war was just a doorstep away. Thankfully we made it back safely to Seoul. Kevin however wasn’t as lucky…R.I.P
Back at ADF this week, we sat down with 2 Korean start ups: Moglue a publishing platform that lets anyone create as well as publish content and BeSuccess an online Technology publication dedicated to covering the Korean startup scene. Both of the founders provided extremely useful insights into how the startup culture in Seoul was significantly different then that in the US, mainly due to a lack of community and investment support that existed for startups in cities such as San Francisco and Boston. We took the opportunity to use some of their experiences in Korea and the US to shape our analysis for ADF’s US expansion efforts. Meanwhile we were aggressively working to meet our deadlines for our meeting with ADF’s leadership. This would be our first company wide presentation on what our initial recommendations were for 2 of the company’s flagship mobile products as well as how we envisioned serving US customers in both the fashion and commerce segments.
Outside the office, one of the highlights of our trip thus far has also been reconnecting with Haas Alumni based in Seoul, most of whom are native to Korea. We had initially reached out to them while in the US and were excited to finally sit down with them in seoul, sharing our experiences at Haas past and present. Throughout the night we bonded over Korean BBQ and Soju while talking business and culture in Korea. We had a great time getting to know them and being wined and dined by them was an added perk.
Finally , We made it a point this weekend to also do a little exploring beyond the Seoul city limit, specifically Incheon, a port city traditionally home to wildlife scattered across the low lying marshes. Getting there was an adventure in of itself that included 3 trains, an extra bumpy bus ride and a ferry boat that took us to Muido Island where we experienced first hand Korea’s version of the salt flats, essentially a low lying coast line where extreme low tides resulted in a deserted beach that extended beyond the horizon. Incredible!
Sea flats outside Seoul