I've spent the last couple of days meeting with Korean entrepreneurs and learning about their businesses. I've seen a range of software companies: some are very early stage and others are publicly traded on the South Korean Stock Exchange. In practically every instance, I have been surprised by the amount of revenue the company is making. Companies that are selling "new" technology that has been well established in the United States for some time (e.g., voice recognition software, electronic billing solutions, content management systems) are selling millions of dollars worth of their software in South Korea. Not surprisingly, however, few are selling much software outside of Korea, and fewer still are selling software outside of Asia.
I believe that the level of revenue these companies are making in Korea for technologies that would not be competitive in the United States reflects the nature of Korea itself. South Korea remains an overwhelmingly homogenous place. And Korean business seems somewhat insular -- non-Korean technologies (products in general) face real resistance. As a result, Korean built products have an unfair advantage and can get traction inside Korea where they would not elsewhere. But it also seems clear that despite revenue traction for many companies, it is a major challenge for Korean companies to break out of the local market and build an international business. So these companies are perhaps getting the worst of both worlds -- an inflated sense of accomplishment with a diminished likelihood of long-term success.