Last week, seasoned politician Nam Kyung-pil announced the start of a new innings as an entrepreneur by launching his own startup with 5 million won ($4,400) capital.
His social media post followed by a media interview effectively marked the end to his decades-long career as a politician. The ex-governor of Gyeonggi Province and five-term lawmaker of South Korea’s main conservative party announced his retirement from active politics and said that his next phase of life will open with the startup.
While details about his new business and plans to fetch investments are still under wraps, some industry watchers appear keen on how his debut would empower the entire ecosystem, while others are wary about his past as powerful politician.
“Startups are still regarded as nonmainstream in Korea, and in that regard, we welcome a former politician’s entry in the startup scene,” an official at an advocacy group Korea Startup Forum told The Investor.
Signs indicate that Nam’s change of course was not an abrupt decision.
He has been on a months-long hiatus from the political scene after he failed to serve a second term as provincial governor after losing to Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party.
In January, Nam founded the startup whose name is loosely translated as “Health for Everyone.” It is dedicated to health care consulting and brokerage, according to the company registration documents. It is rumored that he has been delving into blockchain technology to facilitate his business.
Fast Track Asia CEO Park Ji-woong posted on Facebook that Nam has been a regularly visitor at his company’s shared office unit. A company spokesperson, however, said the firm has no knowledge about his business.
Market watchers played down the possibility that his influence as a former politician will have an impact on the startup ecosystem.
“I rule out the possibility that the startup ecosystem and the way firms are valued will suffer disruptions, because it is not a sector where political power works in a certain way to receive investments,” an industry source said on condition of anonymity. “(Investors) in the market will decide whether (Nam’s) startup would survive, because no startup can ultimately rely on government subsidies or other easy-to-go means of funding.”
Nam’s foray into the sector could be seen as an extension of his intimacy with startups. As the governor of a province which is home to startup incubation centers in cities including Pangyo, Nam took the lead in launching “Startup Campus” in 2016 to foster the growth of early-stage startups here.
“Nam is a great addition because he has shown a strong devotion to the startup landscape,” another industry source told The Investor on condition of anonymity. “Also for the sake of diversity of the ecosystem, Nam is a middle-aged former politician, in a scene dominated by the youth.”
But the startup scene will remain supportive of his decision, as long as he does not renege on his pledge not to return to politics.
“Nam’s success should not be regarded as a mere booty to make the case for his return as a politician,” the source said.
“We are keeping wary eyes on whether his journey would implicate a political message in the future,” said the official of Korea Startup Forum.
By Son Ji-hyoung (firstname.lastname@example.org)