Korea’s bid to diversify its startup ecosystem by offering an  international acceleration program for foreign startups is exceeding all expectations.

The K-Startup Grand Challenge drew applications form 2,439 startups from 124 countries. They are vying for one of just 40 spots in an acceleration program that will kick off a few kilometers south of Gangnam later this summer. The program’s 1.6% acceptance rate makes it 3.8 times more selective than Harvard University and around twice as selective as Y Combinator.

Putting this in further context, the program also drew more applicants than several established startup competitions, including Mass Challenge (1,700 applicants) and French Tech Ticket (1,400 applicants).

Initial assessments are happening now to select 80 startups that will travel to Korea for a week-long pitch camp from August 17 to 23. During that time, they will meet the four accelerators that will take charge of the program – SparkLabs, DEV Korea, Shift and ActnerLab. Each will select 10 startups to participate.

Sponsored and organized by South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP), the 40 startups accepted into the program will participate in three months of acceleration in Pangyo, an R&D hotbed a few minutes south of Seoul. Through a number of large-scale investments, the government along with many of Korea’s top tech corporations are working to develop Pangyo into Asia’s startup hub.

One step in that direction was building a $160 million startup campus, where the K-Startup Grand Challenge participants will have free office and lab space. Other perks for participants include round trip flights for three team members, assistance with visas, monthly stipends for living expenses and mentorship from major Korean tech companies.

After the initial three-month acceleration program concludes with a massive demo day, the top 20 startups will have opportunities for additional grants and investment, and be invited to stay in Korea long-term.

“Overwhelming evidence suggests that innovation is borne from diversity. For example, more than half of billion dollar startups in the US were founded by immigrants. The K-Startup Grand Challenge is one step towards creating a more diverse business environment in Korea,” said Dr. Ahn Changyong, official spokesperson for the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, and the K-Startup Grand Challenge. “The enthusiastic response from so many applicants around the world was thrilling. It demonstrates the global interest in and high expectations for Korea’s startup ecosystem. I have no doubt that the startups that come to Korea will accomplish great things, both for Korea and themselves.”

This is the inaugural year for K-Startup Grand Challenge, and organizers plan to expand it in the future to offer larger opportunities for a greater number startups.

To keep up on the latest news about the K-Startup Grand Challenge, visit the official website (http://www.k-startupgc.org, https://www.facebook.com/kstartup2016/), the newsroom (http://kstartup.g3partners.asia/) and follow program organizers on Twitter (https://twitter.com/startupinkorea).