Technology firms rush to Pangyo
Kakao Talk plans to move head office
By Cho Mu-hyun
Korean information technology (IT) firms are flocking to Pangyo Techno Valley to form a new Korean technology nexus.
Pangyo Techno Valley is a district in the satellite city of Pangyo, and construction there has been supervised directly by the Gyeonggi provincial government in collaboration with Korea Land & Housing Corporation. The local administration states that the aim is to create an industry “mecca” or what could be considered a global cluster for IT firms.
“We have been planning the district since 2006 and we are nearly two thirds complete,” said an official at the provincial government. “We have taken tender offers from IT companies that state their business plans and goals. We parcel out areas for them to settle in.”
The official said that 35 companies have completed their bid, while 15 of them have already finished construction of their respective buildings. Others are either building or designing their offices and the government expects the district to be completed sometime after 2014.
Mobile messenger service provider Kakao Talk plans to move its headquarters from its Yeoksam office to the area. The new building it is signing a lease contract for is much larger, reflecting the company’s progress since it launched two years ago.
“Our employees have nearly doubled this year and we have a staff around 220 right now,” said Kakao Talk spokeswoman Lee Kee-yeon. “We are moving to the new place in September.”
The firm has a game platform to be released by next week, and will be within arm’s length of other domestic technology powerhouses.
NHN, the company that manages Web portal Naver, began construction for its building in the area last year in November to be completed early next year. According to NHN spokeswoman Lee Won-mi, it is not yet decided whether it will become a subsidiary or what business it will manage.
Some major players have already settled in the new area and are flourishing. Korea’s largest online security service provider AhnLab opened its new office in Pangyo last year in October.
Its office is ten stories with an open square in front of the entrance that represents “openness and dialogue” according to company officials.
NCsoft, known for online role-playing games such as Aion or Blade & Soul, is building a 17 stories headquarters right across from AhnLab that can house up to 3,000 employees. Construction started in October, 2010, and will be completed in May next year.
“It’s an industry trend to move into the district,” said NCsoft spokesman Lee Jae-goon. “We hope that the firms clustered in the area create synergy to make innovative products and contribute to the development of technology in Korea.”
The game developer’s research and development center is currently located in Samseong-dong, but engineers will move into the new building once it is completed, said Lee.
A semiconductor area is also being planned, where the Korea Semiconductor Industry Association (KSIA) will move its new headquarters. KSIA is the local alliance of semiconductor manufacturers of domestic and foreign offices here with 270 members.
“Pangyo’s location is strategically adequate for the association as it is close to Gangnam where (semiconductor) manufacturing firms have their offices and Suwon and Icheon, where they have their factories,” said KSIA spokesman.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy opened a Global R&D Center there this month, and leading international IT firms Apple and Google also have offices in the area. Around 50 semiconductor businesses already have research centers within a stone’s throw from each other. KSIA, currently headed by SK Hynix CEO Kwon Oh-chul, expects a wide collaboration between firms once the district and the organization’s headquarters are ready to occupy.
“The building of the headquarters will break ground next month and finish next year,” said the spokesman.