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November 2012

Build a Business in Korea: "How would I go about forming a corporation and starting a business in Korea?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to build a business in a Korean company.


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"How would I go about forming a corporation and starting a business in Korea?"

"We’ve actually got an interview on Korea Business Central with Korean accountant Young Ham that explains the nuts and bolts of this very topic. Basically, fees come to around US$1,000 or so if you do it yourself, or a bit more if done through an accounting provider. Setup is just a few days and with a lot of free consulting available to foreign investors from the Korean government, it’s not all that hard.

This is just a quick overview; we’ve got full details on all of this on Korea Business Central, including links to the free resources I’ve mentioned and the interview with Mr. Ham."

 Visit Korea Business Central for more information on doing business in Korea, including the full video of this interview.



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Learn more about the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your career in Korea.


Thrive in a Korean Company: "Every company in every culture has office politics. Tell me what's unique about office politics in Korean companies."

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to thrive in a Korean company. 


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"Every company in every culture has office politics. Tell me what's unique about office politics in Korean companies."

"Because of the top-down orientation of Korean companies, your boss will often be constrained in the ways he can guide you in your work. You often won’t be aware of what’s going on here and Korean organizations are not known for their clear and well-explained communications with non-Korean employees.

This is true whether you’re working for a Korean company overseas or in Korea and the problems are compounded by language and culture.

Try hard to leverage your understanding of Korean business culture to connect with those around you -- particularly, those at a higher level -- and discuss your frustrations and challenges with those that you build trusting relationships with. You’ll find that Koreans overseas are often homesick and they will appreciate and respect your efforts to do business and communicate with them in their way.

I remember that when I first started working at my position in the LG Group many years ago, I experienced a great deal of uncertainty about how my role was being perceived. It was only after I established a friendship with a general manager in a different department than mine that I was able to make sense of things that had bothered me before and gain a new sense of stability that ended up lasting for nearly five years."

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on working in a Korean company, including the full video of this interview.

 

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Learn more about the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your career in Korea.


Get a Job in Korea: "What are some of the landmines I need to avoid when applying for a job in Korea?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to find a job in Korea. 

 

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"What are some of the landmines I need to avoid when applying for a job in Korea?"

"Korea’s quickly becoming one of the most advanced countries in the world, but you shouldn’t think that Korean think and act the way we do back home. Of course, learning the language is a key step in connecting with and understanding the cultural context; it’s also a great way to order a meal and connect to your co-workers in and outside the office.

If I had to point out a specific suggestion, I would emphasize that you must make the effort to understand and adapt to the local situation. While seeing areas for improvement in Korea is inevitable, finding ways to excel within the current context is both an incredible personal journey, and a good business and career strategy."

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on getting a job in Korea, including the full video of this interview.


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Learn more about the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your career in Korea.


Korean Translation Tip: Use a Korean-Style Holiday Greeting; Don't Just Translate Your English One

Today I want to help you get ready for the holidays...

You know how those Chinese fortune cookie messages can sound a bit quaint when translated into English? Don’t you think a Korean fortune cookie (if such existed) translated into English might sound funny, too?

The same thing happens when translating other culture-laden messages.

For example, English greeting cards...

Toward the end of the year, Koreans are a whole lot more focused on the New Year than they are on Christmas (though modern greetings -- especially involving non-Koreans -- often do work a Christmas message in). And they phrase things on greeting cards differently than we do in English.

Best Practices Tip - If you are looking for a good end-of-year greeting for your Korean clients or other contacts and are willing to depart from the text of your English card, then use or adapt a greeting from one of these two posts:

 


Build a Business in Korea: "Let's say I wanted to start a company in Korea. First of all, what's in demand? What industries offer the greatest chance of success?"

The following was extracted from a recent interview with me about how to build a business in a Korean company.


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"Let's say I wanted to start a company in Korea. First of all, what's in demand? What industries offer the greatest chance of success?"

"There are a few approaches you can take. A good number of non-Koreans enter the English instruction market. Others set up companies that cater to the needs of the expat community or internationally-minded Koreans.

Focusing on larger businesses, some of the best opportunities come from providing services to Korean firms, and for that, the key is usually to have globally competitive technology. I’ve worked as a consultant to the Province of Gyeonggi, which is the area that surrounds the Seoul metropolitan area, and there are nearly 1,000 foreign-invested companies in this province alone. On closer observation, it turns out that most are involved in supplying technology-related products and services to the large Korean business groups.

Finally, thanks to the rapidly increasing number of free trade agreements that Korea has signed with the US, the EU and other countries and regions, tariffs are falling in a wide range of industries. Koreans import a lot of food from overseas, as well as raw materials and these also represent opportunities for foreign companies wanting to sell in the Korean market.

We did a case study with Tom Brown, former executive at Homeplus, one of the largest retailers in Korea, and completely foreign owned, and it was fascinating to find out what had worked for them and his suggestions to other companies that are breaking into the Korean market."

Visit Korea Business Central for more information on doing business in Korea, including the full video of this interview.


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Learn more about the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your career in Korea.


The Korea Herald Quotes Steven Bammel in "Opaque, top-down system leaves some expats bitter"

I was quoted in the following article from the Korea Herald on October 29, 2012.

Opaque, top-down system leaves some expats bitter

Expert says problems more common at SMEs without HR departments

Last year saw the total number of foreign workers in Korea surpass 700,000 for the first time, a consequence of an ever-rising demand for foreign labor. 

For many, Korea offers the chance to earn a living and acquire new skills in an exciting new environment. For others, however, thriving in a work culture often vastly different from their own is a constant struggle.

One skilled worker from India found the rigid, hierarchal company culture at his workplace, one of the country’s biggest semiconductor makers, extremely difficult to deal with.

“It is very top-to-bottom-driven. You are supposed to be the ‘yes man.’ Especially if they (colleagues) are higher up in the rank, you cannot argue with them. If you argue with them, you are considered to be very rude or very inconsiderate,” said the former employee of six years who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

The top-down culture at the chaebol affiliate, described by the former employee as “dictatorial,” asserted itself when he went to make a complaint against his manager for demanding a share of extra earnings the employee had earned for in-company training. Rather than being approached from a neutral standpoint, his complaint was treated with bias by the human resources staffer responsible, he said.

“Instead of being a neutral body, she actually started taking sides with that local person and she actually tried to put me in a bad spot and made it look like I was making up something,” said the former employee.

Frustrated at the handling of his complaint and denied a meeting with his CEO, he attempted to contact the company head directly. But after sending his CEO an email, he found himself called into a meeting of senior human resources staff. 

“That HR person explained very politely that I made a mistake as an expat to write an email directly to the CEO of the company. He said that this is not Korean culture … and that I should be extremely careful with my actions.”

In an email seen by The Korea Herald, an HR staffer at the company told the employee that legal action would be taken unless he stopped calling and emailing about “unreasonable matters.” The email referred to correspondence by the employee on two different dates about his grievances with the company. 

He ran into further problems, he said, when he later began the process of leaving the company after six years there. His boss demanded to know what company he was going to work at before he would cooperate with arranging the paperwork for him to leave. 

Contrary to the former chaebol worker’s experiences, however, Yi Seong-ok of Seoul Global Center said that the majority of problems foreign workers encounter are at small and medium-sized companies.

“The big companies take care of their own issues; also, there are experts to support employees,” said Yi, adding that non-payment of wages and industrial accidents were the most common issues brought to her attention. 

“But at small and medium-sized companies there are no small special programs for employees and no special experts that can help employees.” 

Yi added that many conflicts between employers and foreign employees are primarily failures of communication. 

“In arguments between employers and employees, the bottom line is they cannot communicate. That’s the reason for (many) arguments between employers and employees.” 

Steven Bammel, the creator of Korea Business Central, an information resource and support service for foreigners doing business here, said that non-payment of wages was the most common issue that he came across.

“The most common issue is probably non-payment of wages by institutes to their teachers,” said Bammel. “It’s probably not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen and I get contacted from time to time by folks needing interpreting or translation for such issues.”

Familiarization with the culture, however, goes a long way toward a smooth work life, he added.

“Foreigners who want to work or are working in a Korean workplace must understand Korean business culture and without that background, they are sure to cause offense, look silly and get frustrated,” said Bammel. 

By John Power (john.power@heraldcorp.com)

Link to original article.