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May 2011

About Dialects of Korean and Deciding Which To Use For Your Korean Translation Projects

7-17-2011 4-41-09 AMStandard Korean used in Seoul is the only acceptable form of written Korean for 99.9% of translation projects

Of course, the North Koreans would disagree with this and the forms of South and North Korean have changed a lot over the years such that they are really two different dialects now. But considering that there is virtually no translation being commissioned for the North Korean market, it is safe to ignore the North Korean dialect in all cases.

In South Korea, there are three major regional dialects, mostly differing from the Seoul standard in terms of spoken accent, but none of these would be considered a proper form of written Korean for any kind of business, legal or technical purpose.

Clients will sometimes ask that a particular translation be matched to a specific overseas Korean community, such as Korean-Americans or Korean-Australians, but regardless of the way overseas Koreans have come to mix their spoken Korean with the local language, the only acceptable written version of Korean in these communities would also be the Seoul standard.

This keeps things simple since it means that there is only one dialect of Korean that you need to be concerned about for your Korean translation projects.


A Recap of Dick Warmington's Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central - "Uncovering Korean Potential at Chadwick School in Korea’s New City of Songdo"

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When Korea Business Central asked Dick Warmington to do an interview for us, we just expected that he'd have great insights about Chadwick International School, Korean education and Songdo city. We didn't realize he'd also previously run the operations of Hewlett-Packard in Korea during the late 80s and early 90s, and then HP's entire Asia Pacific operations through the Asian IMF Crisis of the late 1990s. We also didn't realize that Chadwick School breaks the mold for international schools by mostly educating Koreans AND bringing a new, pioneering model to education in Korea. One also can't help but get a little more excited about Songdo after listening to Dick gush about its uniquenesses.

This interview is inspirational as well as enlightening... It covers lots of ground as Dick shares insight after insight about Korea, Korean education and Korean business.

Click here to listen to the interview, download the .mp3, subscribe in iTunes, read the transcript and or discuss this interview and this topic with other members of Korea Business Central visit the English-language discussion link.

Click here for the full list of interviews in the 2011 Korea Business Interview Series, or here for the 2010 interviews.

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Background to Joining Chadwick International in Songdo

  • Dick graduated from Chadwick School in Los Angeles fifty years ago, before going on to study at Stanford and Harvard. He joined Hewlett-Packard, spending 33 years with the company.
  • Under Dick's leadership, HP established a joint venture in Korea with Samsung Electronics. In 1997, HP bought out Samsung's share and now owns 100% of HP Korea. Later, Dick finished his career in Hong Kong as CEO of HP's Asia Pacific operations, guiding the company through the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.
  • During retirement, Chadwick approached Dick to run their new branch school in Songdo, which he joined in early 2010. This was a perfect match for Dick thanks to his background in Korea and Asia, as well as a long-term interest in independent education, including the fact that his two children are Korean adoptees.

Topic #2 - Setting the School Up in Songdo

  • Songdo is a new, architected city, the center of which is being developed by Gale International, a private US-based corporation. It was started around 2000, very close to Incheon Airport. Songdo is also an economic free zone for drawing foreign direct investment into the area and an international school was a prerequisite for attracting international families.
  • Setting up a school in Korea requires close work and licensing from the Korea Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. This process was more complicated than expected, meaning that the school opened about five months later than planned.
  • Chadwick International in Songdo currently offers grades K-7, with 280 students and 40 international educators. The official opening was September 10, 2010, and most students are ethnic Koreans. 
  • The Songdo school is a branch of the K-12 Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California, which has enrollment of about 850 students and which has a 75-year history.
  • Support from the city of Incheon, which is the larger metrolitan area under which Songdo city is chartered, continued smoothly even when the mayor who had previously championed the city lost in the 2010 elections and was replaced by a new mayor from the opposition party.

Topic #3 - Education at Chadwick and Korea At Large

  • Koreans put a lot of emphasis on education and this comes from the Confucian background where education is fundamental to success. It is traditionally a rote-based system and objective testing is the means through which universities admit their students. 
  • Chadwick, on the other hand, focuses on teaching critical thinking and creative thought processes. The program is experiential-based and rather than lecturing; teachers are facilitators. There is a lot of group work. Chadwick is using the International Baccalaureate program structure to deliver the subjects, and technology is heavily incorporated into the learning, with every student from the first grade required to have and use a computer.
  • The school hopes to be an example in Korea of alternative ways of approaching education and a lot of effort goes into educating families on this progressive approach. The kids enjoy their education and it's sometimes hard to persuade Korean parents that this is a good thing and will lead to them to become lifelong learners.
  • Because English is not the first language of most students in the current Chadwick International student body, the school is having to put an extra effort into bringing up their English skills, and computers are an integral part of this process. Things are still a work-in-progess, though.
  • Within the traditional Korean school system, class sizes of 30-40 are about average and after-school learning in private "hagwons" is prevalent. This means kids often study all day and then all afternoon and into the evening in order to cram as much learning in as possible, stunting their social skills, creative skillsand critical thinking skills development. 
  • In fact, up to 25,000-30,000 Korean families have moved to other countries, such as Southeast Asia, the US, Canada, Australia and other places to give their children alternative learning environments.
  • Because of these realities in the Korean school system and the difficulties in changing them, the Korean government has been active in attracting international schools, such as Chadwick, into the local market.
  • Chadwick is engaged in sharing about its approaches within Korea, including ongoing communications with the Ministry of Education and the filming of documentaries about the education being delivered.

Topic #4 - About HP Korea and Korean Business

  • Setting up the HP subsidiary in Korea was a fascinating experience for Dick as HP was trying to introduce a Socratic Western business culture into a Confusion-based society. For example, in the Confucian structure mistakes are punished; in the HP approach, if you don't make mistakes, you're not doing your job. In a typical Korean company, decisions don't get made at low levels but in HP, employees get a lot of authority in their jobs.
  • Samsung was uncomfortable with the chaos in the HP Korea workplace, but HP was also their most profitable, fastest growing operation at the time and they learned a lot. HP started with 130 employees from Samsung Electronics when forming the company and when given the opportunity to return to Samsung after five years, not one person returned.
  • Success comes from getting agreement on objectives, but how those objectives are accomplished can vary. This lesson is serving Dick well in his current position at Chadwick, too.
  • In 1997, with the Asian Financial Crisis, HP top management saw the potential in the market and made the company's heaviest investments in Korea. HP bought a building, bought out the shares from Samsung and made other investments totally close to $300 million in 1997.

Topic #5 - Korean Challenges for the Future

  • Challenge #1 for Korea is the low birthrate of just 1.12 children per family. Overcoming the issue of a declining population will be difficult.
  • From a business perspective, another challenge is finding ways to support the growth of smaller companies. This is necessary for maintaining a good, healthy growth rate in the country.
  • And moving the education from traditional approaches to a more experiential-based method is a third major challenge for Korea going forward.

Topic #5 - Songdo City

  • The city is currently about one third built out and is still following its original architected plan drawn up in the early 2000s. Total area is about 1,500 acres, with 85,000 people expected to move in eventually. Avenues are wide; parking is underground. The city is built on filled-in wetlands. Buildings are modern; lots of glass. The city is built to environmentally-friendly standards, including areas like transportation, trash, sewage and materials used. Communication and transportation are integrated. POSCO Engineering & Construction's new headquarters, which is being built in Songdo, will be Korea's tallest building. The city is safe, people ride bikes and the air is clean. Getting to Seoul takes about 45 minutes. There is even a Jack Nicklaus golf course built here.

Topic #6 - Winding Up

  • The top goal for Chadwick over the next 5-10 years is to graduate the first class in 2015 with the same characterstics as the school's students graduating from Chadwick in Palos Verdes. The school is also striving to get parents to truly appreciate what their kids are getting at Chadwick.
  • To understand Songdo, visit Songdo. This "aerotropolis" will serve as an example to city developers in the future

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Korean New City Development Along the West Sea

We recently interviewed Dick Warmington on KoreaBusinessCentral.com. (Click here to listen and/or read the fascinating interview.) Dick is President of Chadwick International School in Songdo, Korea, which is a new city built entirely on reclaimed land in the West Sea south of Incheon. It's a dramatic testament to the Korean drive to develop new living spaces on a peninsula with very high population density.

One member of KBC took exception to the development in Songdo, pointing out that it has destroyed a lot of the natural ecosystem in the area. His criticisms also extended to Chadwick, and I wanted to answer his concerns, because there's no doubt that a lot of trade-offs are getting made in the process of the Korean economic miracle. (Click herehere and here for his comments.)

The following is my reply:

Vince - I'm surprised by your hostility toward Chadwick International (not Songdo International). There are international schools all over Korea and the world and have been for a long time, at costs roughly similar. Mainly the only thing Chadwick International is doing differently is to base their program in Songdo on the seventy-five years of history and expertise they've built back in California. Private schools like Chadwick are expensive everywhere.

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I understand Chadwick jumped into Korea only after other educators had abandoned plans to run an international school in Songdo, leaving the city high and dry (I'm not 100% certain so others can confirm whether I'm right about this fact). What's notable is that Chadwick International has a higher proportion of Korean students than other international schools in Korea; this point is significant to me because it gives them more of a connection to Korean society at large than most of international schools, and a means to influence the education debate in Korea.

But even if you're not impressed by this, your position on Chadwick still seems hard to understand and so I sense it stems mainly from misgivings about Songdo itself. Further, I'd say that these misgivings are actually based on a fundamental rejection of the Korean property development model in general, not simply that too many rich people live there or that they could have razed neighborhoods in older areas of Incheon instead of building out into the West Sea.

The reason I say this is that Songdo is different only in degree and timeline, not in kind, from other development that Korea's been engaged in for at least thirty years. My town of Ansan is just down the road from Songdo and over 50% of it was built on reclaimed land from the West Sea. In fact, if you want to know how far the water line used to run in my neighborhood, read my post History of the Area Around Nojeok Hill to get the translation of the historical marker pictured above, and be sure to check out the map at the bottom of that post. Everything between the current waterline and the old waterline is reclaimed land!

Also, if you think beaches are being destroyed just for rich people, then hop in the car and drive a few minutes to Shihwa, which is halfway from Songdo to Ansan, This happens to be a working-class Songdo; dirty, small apartments, factories... and nearly 100% reclaimed land, just like Songdo.

As you know, Songdo's not the end of the line either. They're working on new city plans for Yongjongdo! Or should I say, half-next, since the airport's there already. (I visited Yongjongdo back in 1994 when you had to take a boat to get there and it was still relatively unspoilt.) 

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So this is the runaway development you refer to. Fair enough; there is a certain irony in all the talk about being eco-friendly in Songdo and elsewhere when so much ecology was destroyed in the creation of these places (One of the mottos I've seen for Ansan lately is "Eco Ansan"....)

But if you take a step back and acknowledge that nice cities are being created where millions of people enjoy things like the 2011 Ansan International Street Arts Festival (Click here for photos of the event, all on reclaimed land!) or where we can relax with the beautiful parks and views (Click here for some recent views), then is it a bit easier to understand the trade-offs that Koreans have been making to develop the outer edges of the Seoul area, and to appreciate that it's not just a monster out of control? And if they're going to build a city like Songdo, don't they deserve some credit for giving it a low carbon footprint?

Songdo's only 1/3 finished so they've still got a ways to go before it's done, but I've heard from Koreans who live there that it's a great place to live already. To be honest, I've visited a couple times and not been terribly impressed, but maybe that was because I was seeing it in its 20% completion state and because I barely got out of the car. I've also heard from non-Koreans who live there that it lacks "vitality", but to each his own. They probably wouldn't like my Ansan either.

I'll also also point out that these Korean new cities satisfy some mysterious Korean urge to try to build new utopias, but that's a whole different chapter of whatever book I ever decide to write.

Since I don't think Songdo itself is the problem, but that it's the whole Korean approach that's bothering you (and since I only have photos of Ansan, not Songdo), here are some links about the development of Ansan that you (and others) might find interesting, as well as a photo of the city from the top of our daily hiking course.

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Click here to read the rest of the discussion, including insightful comments by other Korea Business Central members.


A Recap of Didier Chenneveau's Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central - "Global Expertise Within the Korean Business Framework at LG Electronics"

4-30-2011 7-50-38 PMFrom 2008 until the end of 2010, LG Electronics did what’s never been done before in Korean business. The company brought in five foreign executives to help bring the company up to international standards in a variety of areas. The experiment is over though; all the non-Korean executives have moved on, and LG Electronics is back in the hands of Koreans only, leaving a lot of unanswered questions about how prepared Korean multinationals are to become truly multinational.

Didier Chenneveau was one of the foreign executives and he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer for over two years. His insights from the experience are valuable for anyone interested in doing business in Korea, because they explore the limits of Korean business culture, the ways for Korea to improve and implications for others in making a success of their positions within Korean corporate business.

Click here to listen to the interview, download the .mp3, subscribe in iTunes, read the transcript and or discuss this interview and this topic with other members of Korea Business Central visit the English-language discussion link.

Click here for the full list of interviews in the 2011 Korea Business Interview Series, or here for the 2011 interviews.

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Background to Joining LG Electronics

  • Didier started at Caterpillar in Switzerland for three years and then moved to HP for about 17 years, both in Europe and the US.
  • He wanted to work in Asia and the vision of LG Electronics' new CEO Young Nam in 2008 to globalize the organization was inspiring enough for Didier to join as Chief Supply Chain Officer. Around that time, other foreign executives took C-level positions in marketing, procurement, strategy and HR.

Topic #2 - Getting Started at LG Electronics

  • LG's intention by bringing in foreign executives was to improve the Korean model by making the company management reflect the global nature of LG's business. The need to do this is well illustrated by the fact that almost no Korean executives have moved on from Korean companies to successfully run foreign corporations.
  • Didier's primary role was to aggregate the supply chain function across the organization, which included creating a vision for the function, bringing in best practices from outside, promoting more outsourcing, setting up KPIs and building an IT system to support it.
  • The CEOs globalization vision was good and public statements by the company about it were sincere and correct. There was push-back within the organization though from those who didn't understand or who felt threatened by the changes.

Topic #3 - Supply Chain Management from a Korean Perspective

  • Korean company supply chains are similar to a Japanese model. Those of large Korean conglomerates are generally run through an internal logistics company. Supply chain management operates through an end-to-end approach rather than being open and collaborative with other partners.
  • The biggest achievement Didier accomplished was around inventory management and supply/demand matching, as well as outsourcing.
  • The lack of IT systems was a major non-cultural issue for improving supply chain management since information technology wasn't a strategic priority in the company. 
  • In regard to smartphones, Korean companies have tended to focus too much on manufacturing, where little value is added. Instead, outsourcing these portions to others and focusing on product development would be more advantageous. LG smartphones have succeeded in the area of design, and leadership can be regained by focusing on innovation, understanding customer needs and creating better partnerships.
  • LG's position on Garner Group's index of the world's best supply chains went from 65 in 2007 to 27 in 2010, a notable outside confirmation of Didier's success in his position.

Topic #4 - Cultural Challenges of Working in the Korean Workplace

  • LG is still a very hierarchical organization with huge respect for authority. The foreign executives had trouble getting into that culture. Evening social drinking was not easy to go along with on a continuous basis.
  • Language was also a big barrier. Even with interpretation, there's a lag in the conversation, and it's difficult to pick up all the nuances. Staff meetings started out in English, but this stopped early and went back to Korean. Efforts to introduce English into the workplace were not as robust as was widely publicized outside the company.
  • The concept of an open door policy was not generally accepted even though Didier worked hard to get his subordinates to follow it.
  • Relationships with peers were professional, but not warm, in part for language reasons and the unwillingness of foreign executives to engage in the after-hours drinking. The foreign executives were respected for their knowledge and expertise but Korea still remains a very close, structured and hierarchical culture.
  • Consensus in Korea often felt like a one-way thing. To achieve results, the foreigners had to build consensus with the Koreans, but they didn't always feel that the Koreans made the same effort to bring the foreign team into the consensus process for Korean-promoted initiatives.
  • Didier's was able to get his direct approach to discussion and decision-making across to his staff. The first time he asked "What do YOU think?", they were surprised. The reaction was, "You're the bosss. You tell me what I'm thinking. You tell me what to do." With time though, they grasped it, understood it and achieved good results.

Topic #4 - The Departure of the Foreign CEOs

  • When word got out at the end of 2010 that the foreign executives were all leaving, many outside the organization were surprised. The simple answer for the changes is that a new CEO came in and decided to take a new direction. In fact, the new CEO never even met the foreign executives for the last three months of their contracts, even though they were still on the payroll.
  • Overall, Didier's time at LG was very positive for him. If he had to do it over, he'd want to have been sure that the CEO had a long enough mandate to achieve his changes. The rotation of executives in Korean companies every three to four years is institutionalized and puzzling.
  • Korean companies need to look at the markets they serve and ensure they have people in positions of responsibility who are able to understand those markets. This is what CEO Young Nam understood.

Topic #5 - Wrapping Up

  • Living in Seoul as a foreigner is OK, but not great. It's a hard place to speak English, in spite of the efforts Koreans make to learn English. It's hard to make local friends. There are lots of great restaurant and museums. Spring and fall are beautiful. The skiing is nice.
  • Asia is where exciting things are happening in the world in terms of supply chain management, thus Didier is now running and expanding CEVA's operations in Asia.
  • New graduates looking to excel in Asia should make sure to work in companies from more than one country.
  • Korean companies are great at manufacturing, but there's still the question of innovation and whether Koreans can excel in the businesses of the future.