Students encouraged to start firms

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Students encouraged to start firms

In another move to stimulate an entrepreneurial spirit among young Koreans, universities and colleges will be encouraged to allow up to a two-year break from school if a student wants to start a new business.

The plan, effective next year, was announced yesterday by the science and education ministries and the Small and Medium Business Administration as part of a five-year plan to foster young entrepreneurs.

The number of colleges that offer “venture” courses (a Korean usage for small, usually high-tech related start-up businesses) will increase from the present 133 to 217 by 2017, and some of those course credits would be transferable to other schools.

Aspiring young tycoons would also be eligible for college credit if they start a business - three credit hours, the government agencies said.

The Small and Medium Business Administration also plans to offer financial assistance of up to 5 million won ($4,550) to 50 university clubs dedicated to launching start-ups, while the Ministry of Education will grant similar amounts as seed money for selected businesses club members whose projects are promising.

The government also wants to get some competition going among young businesspeople through an annual contest called KC (Korea Collegian)-Start-up, with a cash award of 100 million won as the top prize. Proposals will be assessed on the basis of a business’ competitiveness and appeal.

The government’s support for ventures is open to foreign students as well. If a university outside of Seoul operates a venture support center for foreign and overseas Korean students, a joint venture with Korean students in a new business could be eligible for a subsidy of up to 50 million won.

The Education Ministry said it would use a school’s contribution to venture activities when measuring those schools’ competitiveness.

Government officials complain that school policies and the lack of support from some professors have often kept students from trying to become the next Kim Bum-soo.

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