Since the 1997 economic crisis, the main strategy of Korean firms has changed dramatically. Although chaebol groups have been the primary thrust of Korea’s economic development in recent decades, the 1997 crisis has proven that government-backed large firms are no longer the solution for the Korean economy. Many representative large chaebol, including Daewoo, went bankrupt under this unexpected occurrence. In addition, the economic crisis pressured the Korean government to widen the domestic market opening to foreign competitors. The outside shock of foreign competition further forced the chaebol to lose their position in the domestic market. To survive, chaebol needed to undergo a painful restructuring process and massive layoffs. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which provided a bail-out fund for Korea, required strong restructuring as a precondition for the fund. More than 15 per cent of employees of chaebol, which once guaranteed lifelong employment, lost their jobs (LGERI, 1999). For a while, Koreans cynically referred to IMF as ‘I am fired!’ (CNN, 1997). This painful period forced the Korean people to change their attitude toward their own economic structure and promote a strong entrepreneurial spirit (Han, 2003). Strong entrepreneurship encouraged newly ‘forced’ jobless people to start new businesses, serving the changed environment. Also, information
technology (IT) emerged as a new high-momentum sector of the Korean economy (Lee, 2003).