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February 2010

On Becoming a GyeongGi Province Foreign Investment Attraction Advisor, Part 1

I met GyeongGi Provincial Governor Kim Moon-Soo at his official residence last summer in Suweon and wrote about the meeting in a previous post (Meeting the Governor). With a little persistence, that meeting led to lunch with the governor's office manager and Foreign Investment Attraction Office Director General Lee Hak-Soo in November where I proposed that I could support the foreign investment attraction efforts of the province through my social networking activities in exchange for an official (though unpaid) position. 

The Director General was receptive to the suggestion and as I was getting ready to head to the US for winter vacation, I said I'd do some preparatory work and provide more specifics on my return to Korea in February. I corresponded with his staff a little while in the US but it wasn't until we'd been back in Korea for a couple days that I received an invitation to the semi-annual meeting of advisors to the Foreign Investment Attraction Office of the province... as well as notification that I was to be named to a two-year term as one of twenty-two advisors! 

Realizing that I needed to make an extra effort right off the bat in order to stay relevant with my social networking-based initiative, I asked for and was graciously given ten minutes to present to the group. Here is a link to the presentation I gave in Korean:

2-21-2010 2-08-26 AM

Download 10-02-17 GyeongGi Province Presentation, v2k 

An English version of the presentation:

2-21-2010 2-16-09 AM

 Download 10-02-17, GyeongGi Province Presentation, v2e

Following my presentation, the meeting continued with about an hour and a half of group discussion about the foreign investment situation in GyeongGi Province. This was followed by the official awarding to me (and one other new advisor) of the following Letter of Entrustment:


Letter of Entrustment

Korean Consulting & Translation Service

Representative: Steven Bammel

I hereby entrust you with the position of "GyeongGi Province Foreign Investment Attraction Advisor" based on Article 12 of the Ordinances on GyeongGi Province Foreign Investment Attraction and Support.

(Entrustment period: February 19, 2010 - February 18, 2012)

February 19, 2010

Governor of GyeongGi Province

It is an honor to have received this position. I will work hard to be an effective member of the advisor team.

Business Introduction Provided to Korean Sales Rep (US & Korea)

A translation client for whom I had previously introduced a consulting firm for Korean market entry (through my network at <a href="" target="_blank">Korea Business Central</a>), inquired again, this time for a Korean sales rep and recommendations for recruiting firms in Seoul. Not only could I recommend a recruiter at Korea Business Central, but I also put him in touch with a potential candidate at <a href="" target="_blank">Korea Business Central</a>.

Business Introduction Provided for Korean Translator (Columbus, OH)

I noticed a posting for a part-time Korean translator in Columbus, OH and remembered that the son of a fellow member at <a href="" target="_blank">Korean Business Central</a> is attending grad school at Ohio State University. I forwarded this information to my associate who let his son know of the position.

The North Korean Economy with Marcus Noland

We hosted another installment of the Korea Business Interview Series at Korea Business Central a couple weeks ago. This time, our very own Tom Tucker discussed the North Korean economy with author and economist Marcus Noland. 

Here's the link to the 29 minute podcast interview:

In addition, the discussion at Korea Business Central, along with the full transcript, can be found here:

Marcus' book can be purchased on Amazon by clicking here.

The main points of the interview:


  1. In response to economic collapse and state failure in the mid 1990s, the North Korean economy has moved from central planning to a very highly distorted market economy.
  2. North Korea should be growing at a reasonable rate thanks to economic benefits from the surrounding countries. Its economic problems are self-imposed.
  3. The state is currently trying to reinvigorate state institutions to regain control of market activities in the economy.
  4. The government's recent currency reform was aimed to undercut the market by confiscating people's savings, which has destroyed the working capital of private entrepreneurs.
  5. China functions as North Korea's ultimate guarantor both in economic and political respects but its efforts have not had a positive impact on North Korean behavior.
  6. Unlike China and Vietnam under central planning, North Korea is an industrialized economy. Therefore, it is questionable whether the Chinese and Vietnamese models of economic reform would be effective in the North Korean context. Economic reform in North Korea could be more explosive politically than they were in China and Vietnam also. Thus, reform in North Korea is more difficult.
  7. From a South Korean perspective, engagement with the North makes sense but the North Korean regime recognizes the threat they face from this and have been restrictive in what they allow South Korea to do.
  8. It is unlikely that North Korea will have the same political regime in 10-20 years that it has now. But unification with the South is not a foregone conclusion as North Korea could still end up over the long term as a tributary state to China that remains independent from South Korea.
  9. The solution to the North Korean nuclear issue will require convincing North Korea that they can achieve their goals without nuclear weapons. But it is almost impossible to envision a deal that is grand enough to convince the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons.

Business Introduction Provided for Dutch > Korean Translator (Netherlands)

A client of mine needed translation of Dutch into Korean. We don't provide this language pair; it's just too rare. However, I did check with a European contact on <a href=""></a><a href="">Korea Business Central</a><a> (</a> and she forwarded this information to a capable Korean associate in the Netherlands.

Business Introduction Provided for Print Shop (US and Korea)

A client of mine is looking to get some large-scale printing done in Korea but hasn't been able to find a reliable printer to handle the work. For me though, it was just a matter of inquiring through my network at Korea Business Central and I was able to get project quotes for the client and put them in touch directly with the Korean printer.

Business Introduction Provided to Korean-American Scientist (US)

An executive recruiter in my LinkedIn network asked me to introduce her to another connection of mine for a lead research position in San Jose. I connected the two parties without delay so that they could make the necessary arrangements.

She also mentioned another position with the following description:

I am also seeking a Stragic Planning Manager with a Technical background who fluent in Korean and English. Possibly you would know of someone who would fit into that catagory? Ideally,. we would like to see them come from IBM, Apple, Nokia Research Center, Palo Alto Research Center...

Interpreter Approach Recommended for Moving Company (Dallas Area)

I got this inquiry today: 

I will be moving several Korean speaking families to the Dallas area and i am interested in finding out how much you would charge to be on site as an interpreter. Some days you may need to be on site for 3-4 hours and some days it may be 6-8 hours.

We won't be here for the work so I'm not available, but a job like this isn't well-matched for a professional interpreter and so I didn't refer it. 

Here's how I responded to the prospect:

Unfortunately, we’re heading back to Korea tomorrow morning and I wouldn’t be able to support you on the project. Your best bet is probably to check with one of the Korean churches in town and see if they have someone available. You’ll be able to take a more “pocket change” approach with them whereas the rates for a professional interpreter would likely have been considerably over budget.

Book Review: Ethnic Nationalism in Korea, by Gi-Wook Shin

For some reason, I never really took much notice of the nationalism that pervades Korean society. I mean, Koreans are patriotic. But who isn't? Where I come from, the US (well, Texas, actually) is the center of the world, so why should I be surprised by Koreans who think their country is where everything important happens? Koreans fly their flag, sing the national anthem and talk about their long history. Back home, we do the flag and singing things (not me, but most everybody else), though the history's a bit shorter. The Korean sense of nation is just like everywhere, isn't it?

Apparently not. And apparently this sense of nationalism is still as strong as ever so I can't reconcile my ignorance of the obvious by just contrasting the "old Korea" with the "new Korea" and saying I missed out on the old version like I did recently in my review of The Koreans. As a result, Ethnic Nationalism in Korea was enlightening to me in many ways.

2-4-2010 5-08-43 PM First of all, the Korean version of nationalism is based on ethnicity. In other words, Koreans define the greater Korean nation in terms of a shared bloodline. In today's world, the fact that Koreans are of a single ethnicity is almost too obvious to need pointing out. But the basic premise of this book is that Korean nationalism that defines the nation based on this ethnicity is a product of factors in the modern era. Shin repeats often that the Korean ethnic nationalism of today was not a foregone conclusion but rather emerged out of the Korean experience. 

Korean ethnic nationalism started as one approach to dealing with encroaching Western influences at the turn of the 20th century. With Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910, pan-Asianism gave way to ethnic nationalism as a means of resisting Japanese cultural domination. Through the 1920s and 1930s, the ethnic nationalistic approach competed against international socialism -- which divided society based on class, rather than ethnicity -- as well as agrarianism.

After the colonial period, Korean nationalism had to deal with a divided nation and Shin describes the dynamics of this in fascinating detail. Since 1945, no Korean government on either side of the ideological divide has questioned the ethnic nationalistic premise. Thus, in spite of the radically different economic systems in North and South Korea, the underlying social justifications are remarkably similar. As Shin explains (p. 24):

"...the kind of nationalism developed in the South was quite similar to what appeared in the North. Both sides recognized ethnic unity of the Korean nation, accepted the premise of the primacy of nation over other cleavages, and competed over the legitimacy of their own system as representing the whole nation. Nationalism became a key resource in the politics of postwar Korea, both North and South, despite contrasting political ideologies and incorporation into competing world systems (communist and capitalist)."

Today, South Korea, as a nation, is justifiably proud of its achievements and this sense of "one race-one-nation" is as strong as ever. The book cover incorporates a photo of one of the most memorable demonstrations of Korean national pride: mass gatherings during the 2002 World Cup in Korea. We were there too and for a fortnight, I was an "honorary" part of this unforgettable Korean experience:



The author appears to wish Koreans had a more nuanced view of the nation; that they didn't just assume history was what they think it is and that an ethnic approach to defining the nation is the only way. He does seem resigned to how things are though and acknowledges the constructive role nationalism has played and continues to play in Korean society. 

Shin writes as a scholar and the reader should not expect to finish quickly. There's even some statistical analysis of survey data and many references to literature by others in the field. I didn't get lost in the concepts but came pretty close a few times. This book isn't written for a newbie to the field and it assumes the reader has a background in cultural studies in general and in Korea specifically. 

For the reader willing to make the effort, this book is packed with new information and insights about Korea and Koreans. I thank my associate, D. Bannon, for kindly recommending this book for my winter reading this year.