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50 Smartest Companies of the Year 2021



Kono Corporation was established by Kono Kim, an engineer and designer in Seoul, Korea in 1999.  After majoring in business administration in 1991 Kono started a career in a general trading company Hyosung Corporation to export Korean products worldwide.  There were seven general trading companies at that time ( Samsung, Hyundai, LG, SK, Daewoo, Ssangyong and Hyosung ) which were registered by the Korean government to lead the export of Korea.  Kono left Hyosung and established Kono Corporation Ltd in 1999 and started the trading and distribution business of consumer watches.  With a small team of engineers and designers, Kono Corporation created some fashion brands directed at young consumers. The company was successful in the 2000s with its range of consumer products which not only had innovative technology but also incorporated creative designs.

Whilst his experience was in general trading, Kono also had an interest and talent for design.  He then began to design products.   His design and general trading experience built his business and received recognition from business leaders. New technologies were emerging and consumers were demanding innovative new products. Before starting the development of Swing in 2015, Kono had no background in engineering and with a small team developed the idea for Swing. It took 5 years to perfect the development of Swing.  Kono’s interest in developing new products grew together with the rapid advance of technology. LED became a great point of interest. Kono and his engineering team then created products with unique patented technology. 

The motto of the company was to create products “From fun up to security and make people happy and safe,” as Kono Kim then stated.  (Fun & Happy: SWING, Security & Safe: S-Light) As new technologies emerged, the company looked to create products that offered security and were fun to use.  Korea became the new Asian Tiger for technology with involvement from the government and local community leaders who were also determined to promote K Culture.  The main slogan of Mangosteen SEOUL (Kono’s own manufacturing watch brand ) is “Add Seoul to your style”.    This brand is based on K-culture and shows the trendy fashion and culture of SEOUL city which is the center of K-Culture.  And because of this concept, the Korean government approved the project to develop SWING. This started when he got a phone call from a designer friend during a stay in Basel, Switzerland, to attend the watch fair.  This friend explained about a government project and Kono decided to apply and won it.

Kono Corporation Ltd. is now specialized in the design, development and manufacturing of products based on IoT and afterimage effects based on the latest technologies. The company employs a team of engineers who are constantly expanding the technical scope of products. With over 80 patents, awards, and design wins, including the prestigious Red Dot award, Kono Corporation has established itself as a leading innovator of LED products directed at the consumer.

In 2015 The South Korean Government, the emerging technology giant in Southeast Asia, wished to promote K-technology and culture. They provided financial support and incentives for the development of creative new technologies and products of the future. KONO developed the world’s first multifunctional IoT Smart LED stick “SWING”.  Based on motion, the Swing can be programmed and the message displayed through a ‘swing’ or revolving motion.

This product can be used in many ways: supporting artists at concerts, your favorite sports hero at a game, at parties, promotional events and outdoor activities making people happy. This unique and versatile stick can also be programmed to manage traffic in parking lots or other crowded locations. It can also function as a standard bright LED light. Swing works with an app for iOS or Android. Choose your message, the font and color. Once programmed, wave the wand or twirl it around and the message appears. This is primarily a fun product but has some serious applications too.  The Swing is powered via a USB port and can be used for many hours without recharging.


Using a more advanced concept of the Swing LED wand and technology, Kono Corporation developed the world’s most advanced signaling system, the “S-LIGHT“, as a road safety accessory. This is a potentially life-saving device for any vehicle in an emergency on the road.  Data shows that many rear-end or secondary accidents are caused by a lack of visibility of stalled vehicles. This is particularly serious during poor weather and at night.  Traffic approaching stalled vehicles often see the object too late to react. The result is a crash that can be life-threatening.   If we can save one precious life, this is a successful project regardless of sales volume or profit.   This is our basic mind to develop S.Light.  S.Light is a public interest product.

The S-Light attaches magnetically to any vehicle, RV, light truck, or even a boat and sends a bright LED after-image visible for over 200 meters or 660 ft. which can prevent secondary accidents and collisions keeping people safe. The immediate usability in an emergency and all weathers makes the S-Light a compelling accessory for every vehicle. Because of its magnetic capability, the S-Light can be mounted high on the boot or even hood of the vehicle dramatically alerting oncoming traffic to an obstacle. The alternating sign of SOS, Help and the Warning Triangle makes the stalled vehicle extremely visible. Its flexible arm holding the LED can be adjusted to point to traffic. The powerful magnet ensures a secure anchor even during storms, high winds, rain and snow. Data shows that it takes over 30 minutes for help to arrive on most roads. In this period, your vehicle may not be visible, especially at night, increasing the danger to the occupants.

Safety organizations including police, traffic management and public works departments value the S-Light as a safety accessory on all roads in all weathers. As it is powered by AAA batteries it can be deployed quickly and easily. There is no risk that it will run out of power because of USB or other means of power.  Just using battery power, the S-Light has enough power to last more than 120 minutes. The S-Light comes in a sturdy case that can be stored in the boot of your car.

The unique LED and after-image technology developed is progressing further. By late 2021, Kono Corporation will launch a new and innovative product the Mangosteen SHOU. This product has broad marketing appeal in the retail and advertising industry. As with all Kono products, the SHOU is a programmable wand that can be used to promote products at retail or events. The SHOU is mounted on a pole with a stable base similar to the S-Light. SHOU can be attached to a firm base or if they wish to mount it on a wall or show window etc, they can use the air pressure suction without a pole. )  It runs off AC power and can thus be used in a retail storefront overnight or at weekends or even during store hours. SHOU will be a great attraction in retail windows or even in-store. Using flashing text programmable in different colors and not limited by battery power, the SHOU can be a powerful tool to promote a brand, product or service.

The SHOU is a 21st-century innovation replacing the old rolling sign from the 1980s. But those are hard to program and manage and not cost-effective. The SHOU works with your iPhone or Android through an App. This makes the SHOU easy to use, flexible, practical and productive. At a time when the retail industry is under pressure from online sales, any device that promotes a brand, product and store messaging, would be a welcome tool to win back customers.

Kono Corporation is committed to developing products with cutting-edge technologies. The history of innovation and creativity will continue under the leadership of Kono Kim.  The motto of fun and safety in products is as true today as in 1999 when the corporation was formed.

“As new technologies emerged, the company looked to create products that offered security and were fun to use.”