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New CAT Software; New Certification - memoQ translator pro

I just purchased memoQ translator pro which I am hoping will be a replacement for SDL Trados 2007, which I've been using for way too long. This is my certificate for the beginner course... As far as I know, the beginner course is the only one they currently offer as I can't find an advanced one to take... 

4-7-2013 8-08-09 PM


Email Interview with Reporter from the Donga Ilbo Newspaper

I much prefer email interviews to verbal ones; that's because I can keep and post my exact answers here even if the reporter ends up using only bits and pieces of what I provide. This is from an interview with the Donga Ilbo. 

<스티븐씨의 소개>

Q. 동아일보 독자들에게 스티븐씨에 대한 간단한 소개 부탁드립니다.

Q. KBC외에 다른 직업이나 직책이 있다면 알려주세요.

제가 한국에 처음 온지 20년 되어 가는데, 그중 10년 이상 한국에서 살았습니다. 지금은 안산에서 가족이랑 거주하면서 미국 법인인 Korean Consulting & Translation Service, Inc.를 운영하고 있습니다. 개인사업자로 미국법인을 서포트를 해 주는 한국회사도 차렸습니다. 그 이외에는 Korea Business Central을 운영하고 안산에 있는 한양대학교 ERICA캠퍼스에서 경상대학원에서 박사과정을 공부하고 있습니다.

더 자세한 내용은 - www.StevenBammel.com 

<KBC에 관하여>

Q. 독자들에게 KBC에 대해 간단히 소개해주세요.

KBC를 시작한 목적은 외국인들이 한국에서, 그리고 한국사람들하고 비즈니스을 잘 하고, 한국회사에서 취직하여 잘 살아남을 수 있기 위한 것입니다.

이 목적을 달성하기 위해서 여러 방법을 동원하고 있는데, 주로 한국 비즈니스에 대한 지식, 토론 및 뉴스 마당을 만들면서, 멤버들의 서로간 네트워킹 기회를 제공하고 있습니다. 그리고 개인의 한국 비즈니스에 대한 지식 및 취직하는 과정에서 자신에 대한 신임을 받을 수 있기 위한 KBC Professional Certification Program (http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/certification)도 작년부터 개발/도입하여 운영하고 있습니다.

Q. 왜 한국과 관련된 사업을 시작 하게 되었습니까?

Q. KBC를 시작하기 전에 한국에 관심이 있거나, 관련이 있었습니까?

제가 한국에서 오래 살고 한국에서 가족도 있고 한국을 사랑하기 때문에, 한국과 인연이 있어서 KBC를 시작한 것은 그리 어려운 결정이 아니였죠.

Q. KBC를 이용하는 외국인과 한국인은 몇 명쯤 됩니까?

한국인 멤버들이 있기는 있는데, KBC의 콘테츠가 주로 영어로 되어 있고, 외국인 대상으로 만들어져 있기 때문에  한국인 멤버들이 KBC에서 그렇게 활발하지 못 한 것 같습니다. 그래도, 한국인의 멤버가입은 언제든지 대환영합니다.

Q. KBC의 큰 도움을 받은 외국인이 있나요? (에피소드가 있다면 알려주세요)

그럼요, 멤버들이 공유한 다음 추천의 글은 있습니다: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/testimonials

그리고, 한 에피소드를 멤버의 말로 알려 드립니다.

I would like to share with you my experiance concerning my recent job search in the Netherlands..

I am a Polish girl that obtained a Master degree in Korean languge in Poland and also studied for one year at the Yonsei Univeristy in Seoul. I`ve worked for more than 6 years in 2 Korean companies in Poland and had various experiance in translating, interepreting, managing many variuos tasks.

To be honest with all this experiance and also my Korean language skills I was sure it would be quite easy to get a job at such an international and opened job market as it is in Amsterdam.  But after some time I realised it was not easy at all. I sent my CV to most of the Korean companies in the Netherlands. I tried to apply for certain positions or ask for internships - maybe half of the companies replied and it was always a negative answer. It seemed that my Korean language skills were not very important. At some point I was almost ready to give up.

However, just then it happened that I contacted KBC Ambassador in the Netherlands Ms. Eun-Shil Boots and mentioned to her about my job-search situation.  She assured me that it is possible to find a job in a Korean company, but just I needed to know how to do it. I agreed with her that Koreans rely on the opinion of others and tend to hire people that are recommended. She mentioned to me that there is a logistic company that is very international and has its branches all over the world and might need someone like me. I changed then my CV, made it more easy to read and understandable for Koreans and she send it to the headquarters of the company in Korea.

To be honest I did not believe it would work, but surprisingly very soon I was invited for an interview and got the job! I was so happy, because it seemed that my Korean language skills got appreciated!

I live 15 minutes away from the company, but  my CV had to travel long way - to Korea and back so that I could get the job!

I would say that it is definitely possible to find a job in a Korean company. Don`t be shy, tell as many Koreans you know that you search for a job and sooner or later you will find a job you like!:)

 Greetings to all memebers!

 Ewa 에바

<아래의 질문들은 '서울에서 외국인이 창업을 하는 것'에 대한 질문입니다. 

가능한 구체적으로 사례들 말씀해주시면 매우 감사하겠습니다.>

Q.서울에 창업을 원하는 외국인을 아십니까? 알고계신 사람들에 대해 간략히 설명해주세요. (ex.업종, 국적, 인원 수, 규모 등) 

한국에서 창업하고 싶은 외국인들이 많습니다. 제가 몇 명을 소개해 드렸는데, 저에게 길고 정리한 리스트가 없습니다. Seoul Global Business Support Center에 문의하시면 이 질문과 관련한 유용한 정보를 아마 많이 입수하실 수 있을 것 같습니다.

Q.서울에 창업을 한 외국인을 아십니까? 알고계신 사람들에 대해 간략히 설명해주세요. (ex.업종, 국적, 인원 수, 규모 등) 

제가 이미 소개해 드린 3명을 이외에 1-2명을 더 인터뷰를 하고 싶으시면, 말씀하세요. 제가 찾아서 소개해 드릴게요.

Q.서울에서 창업에 실패한 외국인을 몇 명 아십니까? 실패한 원인이 무엇입니까? 그들은 다시 시도했습니까?

아마 있겠죠. 그런데, 대부분의 창업하고자 하는 외국인들이 이미 한국에 와 있고 크게 시작하지 않기 때문에, 실패했다 하기보다는 큰 손해없이 그냥 포기하고 자기의 나라로 돌아가든지, 어디서 취직을 하든지 했을 것 같습니다. 구체적으로는 지금 생각이 나는 사례가 없습니다.  

Q.서울에서 외국인이 창업을 할 때, 어려움이 있습니까? (ex.제도적, 문화적, 경제적, 언어적 문제 등) 

제가 보기에는 가장 큰 어려움은 자본금/비자 문제입니다. 많은 외국인들이 자기의 나라에서 할수 있는 것처럼 큰 자본금없이 집에서 혼자서 무엇을 시작하고자 하는데, 한국에서는 자본금이나 풀타임 일자리가 없으면 비자도 못 받기 때문에 천천히 시작하는 방식은 어럽습니다. 대부분의 한국에 오는 외국인들이 아파트 전세금조차도 없는데, 한국 법인을 설립할 1억원에 달하는 자본금까지 모아서 창업하는 것이 그림의 떡이다. 그리고 한국은행은 외국인들에게 신용카드를 주지는 않은데 사업 자본금을 대출하겠습니까?

Q.한류가 외국인의 창업에 영향을 미쳤습니까?

한류덕분에 한국에 와서 창업하거나 취직하고 싶은 외국인이 증가하기는 했을 것입니다. 그런데, 실제로 창업/취직할 능력이 있어서 한국에 와서 취직/청업한 사람은 그정도 늘어나지 않았을 것 같습니다.  

Q.외국의 도시(싱가포르, NY, 도쿄, 베이징 등)와 비교했을 때,

서울의 매력이나 특징이 있습니까? 특히 창업과 관련한 특징입니다. 

저는 그 다른 도시들에서 살아본 적이 없어서 직접적으로 통찰을 공유할 수 없지만, 제가 다른 사람들의 말을 듣고 생각해보니까 서울은 싱가포르나 NY이 외국인들에게 주는 매력을 비교하는 것이 좀 무리한 것 같습니다.  북경이나 도쿄하고 비교 대상이 될수 있습니다. 그래도, 저같이 한국을 사람하는 사람이 아니면, 서울의 특별한 매력이나 특징을 깊숙히 고려하는 외국인들이 많을 것 같지 않습니다.

Q.외국인이 서울에 창업하기 좋은 업종은 무엇입니까? 그 이유는 무엇입니까?

아무래도, 영어와 관련된 업종은 영어권 나라에서 온 사람들에게 가장 유리하겠죠…

Q.외국인이 서울에 창업하기 좋지 않은 업종은 무엇입니까? 그 이유는 무엇입니까?

그거는 모르겠습니다. 아마 한국내 인맥이 필요한 업종은 외국인들에게 불리하겠습니다. 한국에서 비즈니스가 크게 인맥에 의존해서 음직이니까, 보통의 외국사람들이 자신의 회사를 크게 할래면, 다른 나라에 가서 할 수 밖에 없을 것 같습니다.

Q.서울이 '아시아의 실리콘벨리'가 되기위해 어떤 노력이 필요합니까?

어려운 질문입니다. 한국은 “아시아의 실리콘벨리”가 못 될 것 같습니다. 이미 싱가포르나 홍콩은 있는데, 서울이 그렇게 될래면, 엄청많이 변해야 할것입니다. 차라리 한국의 독창적인 매력이나 장점을 제데로 살려서 새로운 입지를 만들어 나가야 할 것 같은데, 그 답은 쉽게 풀리지는 않을 것 입니다. 그런데, 실리콘밸리가 이미 있는데, 서울은 왜 또 다른 시리콘밸리되고 싶어요? 질문의 발상부터는 잘못 됬다고 생각합니다. 

Q.그 외 외국인의 서울 창업에 관해 조언하실 것이 있습니까?

한국은 외국인들에게만 창업하기 어렵지 않습니다. 한국의 SME들도 죽어가는데요… 일부러 외국인들 위해서 창업하기 좋게 하는 것보다 모든 사람들에게 평등한 시장조건을 조성해서 한국인이든 외국인이든 누구나 창업하고 비즈니스를 잘 할 수 있는 환경을 만들었으면 합니다. 서울은 꼭 외국인이 많이 살고 창업해야 살기 좋은 도시가 되는 것이 아니라는 것은 저의 생각입니다.


Q&A with Korea Herald About KBC and Starting or Running a Business in Korea as a Foreigner

The following is the bulk of the email interview on which much of today's article published in the Korea Herald is based.

-----------
1. Based on your years of experience doing business here, how would you assess the level of support that the government (local or federal, your choice) provides for entrepreneurs, particularly for foreigners who set up their own businesses (ie non-MNCs) in Korea? Did you witness a noticeably more aggressive push by the government for aiding entrepreneurs, and when?

I'm not in a great position to comment too much on this because I just set up my Korean business through a local accounting firm here in Ansan. But my main market isn't Koreans and/or people living in Korea, so it would be tough to call myself a local entrepreneur. The Korean company for me is mainly a vehicle for processing funds that come from my US-based translation and consulting services. I'd probably have found the various government services more helpful though if I was actually setting up something new in Korea and for that, as far as I know, before the Seoul Global Business Support Center was established in 2010, there weren't any specific government efforts being made to help foreign entrepreneurs do business in Korea. So, before we started getting the discussion going and collecting resources on KBC in late 2009, I'm not sure there was anything organized and available at all. Today, there's no question that the Korean government (especially at the city level in Seoul and provincial level in Gyeonggi) is trying to encourage entrepreneurship by foreigners.

2. Before you started KBC (and of course, before the Seoul Global Business Centers were launched) what was the foreign entrepreneur community/environment like?

The chambers of commerce from various nations have been around for a long time and they've been important resources for the foreign community. Before say, 2009, I'm not aware of other organizations that existed other than those.

3. Did Korea have a foreigner-business-friendly environment when you first launched your own business (the translation service)?

I should clarify that I don't serve many Korean clients at all; my clients are mainly in North America, with a few more in Europe and elsewhere in Asia. I guess the reason is that my rates are somewhat higher than the standard Korean market rates. I think this is reflected in the level of English translation many Korean companies put on their marketing and other materials, but there doesn't seem to be a focus on high quality in translation. I think this partially reflects a Korean view that translation is a relatively low-level occupation, best suited for people who have lost their "real" job.
Here are a couple links that illustrate this phenomenon: 
As for whether Korea has a foreigner-business-friendly environment, I would say that Korea is generally a particularly difficult place for foreigners to do business. There are cultural reasons for this, but I think language issues also make it very difficult for outsiders to understand and network. Even if they can, the importance of long-term relationships amongs Koreans makes it tough for foreign businesspeople to penetrate business networks in Korea. Further, government regulations have often obstructed the efforts of foreign companies, as well.

It's not just foreign companies that have trouble doing business in Korea though; Korean SME who don't have strong business networks struggle too, and I would say there are a lot of similarities between the difficulties of foreigners and of Korean small business people. Korea's just not a great place for the small business-person of any country.

4. Is KBC itself now profitable (through premium services, etc.)?

Our flagship product is the KBC Professional Certification Program, which we've developed to help foreign business people overcome the challenges of business in Korea mentioned above, has gotten a great reception. We've had over a dozen graduates so far and the graduate class continues to grow. KBC has also been a way for me to serve the community with free services, at the same time that I present my professional language and consulting services to members and visitors from around the world. We are still working on developing additional services that will be valuable for non-Koreans wishing to do business in Korea.

5. You said once that you didn’t expect KBC to grow into what it is now. What were your initial intentions for it then? Why do you think it has picked up so successfully?

My initial idea was to build a community to organically support member networking efforts both online and offline. However, it became clear that the effort was too high and the ROI too low to run things as just a gather place for member to connect and so we've been working hard to provide tools and content that will help members solve their immediate needs for services and knowledge. I would say that the "community" aspect of KBC has been de-emphasized this year while we've focused on the "solutions and tools" aspect.

6. What services do KBC provide that government-provided support, ie the SGBC, do not?

The SGBSC is focused on small-scale foreign entrpreneurs in Seoul. On KBC, we're able to serve a much wider group, including those both in and outside Korea, as well as those looking for jobs and/or working in Korean companies. From the beginning, I have supported the work of the SGBSC and they offer services and have a funded budget that we don't have on KBC, or plan to add. So, there's a lot of opportunity to help fill in the gaps on KBC which aren't easily filled by others.
One issue with the government-provided support is that it's sometimes provided from a Korean-perspective, and from a government perspective. On KBC, we have a lot more freedom from an agenda set by a government official, and we're in a slightly better position to see things from a foreigner perspective rather than Korean perspective of what they think foreigners are interested in.

7. What are your plans for KBC’s expansion?

I would like to add more content, tools and services which solve the interests of our members, which are mainly broken up into three groups: foreigners looking for jobs in Korea, foreigners working in Korean companies both in Korea and overseas, and foreigners wanting to do business with Koreans. One vehicle for that is the Business Accelerator pages, which are are both working to improve now, and add to later.

8. It seems that KBC’s forum threads often turn into discussions that span several months or even years. Do you think this is a pro or a con in terms of content relevance?

I've made a deliberate effort to keep useful discussions around by linking to them in the business accelerator pages. That's because the discussions often have remarkably valuable information and I want that to be available indefinitely. Just letting a discussion die and disappear doesn't seem like a good way to treat the insights which members have taken the time and effort to share.

9. The idea has been discussed on KBC forums that despite its business-pushing initiatives, Korea still lacks an entrepreneur-friendly environment. Do you agree? Do you think this can be remedied somehow, and what are your suggestions?

Korean business culture and the Korean business environment are what they are. Korea's never going to be an easy place for non-Koreans to do business, and the Korean economy is structured around the large business groups. As I mentioned before, it's not just foreigners who are struggling to compete in the local market; Koreans without capital, connections or advanced technology struggle too. These are issues the Korean government is working to solve, but they won't be easy to get past.

10. In a nutshell, what can you suggest for Korea to become more business-friendly for foreigner/expat entrepreneurs living here?

I'm not sure why Korea needs to be friendlier for foreigners that want to open up a small service business. If they can make a go of it, great.. But Korea's not short of restaurants or English institutes. On the other hand, the government is already going to great efforts to attract MNCs having large amounts of capital and advanced technology. It's a competitive environment out there for that and Korea's not achieving the levels of success they'd like. Organizations like GAFIC are helping with this, particularly in helping foreign-invested companies get over red tape issues, and it would seem that further Korean efforts to reduce regulations and free up the market would be beneficial for foreign businesses in Korea.
Do you have any thoughts about favors/benefits/services that foreigners/expats shouldn’t expect from the government? (If the question is confusing, I’m thinking about availability of content in English—whether that is something foreigners should expect or if they should be expected to learn the local language—and want to know if you have any other ideas.)
I don't think foreign expats should expect the Korean government to provide services that aren't going to provide Korea with an ROI on the investment. Translating laws and regulations might be great, but if there aren't enough businesspeople out there to read and take advantage of them, then what benefit is it to Korea? Those companies with the resources to truly make an impact in Korea (versus those who wish they could set up a sole proprietorship without capital and get a free visa out of it) are already paying companies like me to translate the stuff they really need to know.

11. Do you think foreigner-friendly initiatives here are mostly geared toward Western businesspeople, versus those from Asia, Africa, etc.? If so, is that problematic?

I supposed foreigner-friendly initiatives are more geared toward Westerners. It's not just Korea though that does this; since the money's in the West, you'd expect Korean efforts to follow that cash. I'm not sure though that capable Asians and Africans are really at a disadvantage if they can meet the requirements set by the government for business.

I think there's an overestimation among the foreign community of just how much Koreans need them. If someone comes to Korea to do business, they need to be ready to make the sacrifices to achieve success. Korea's not the land of the easy money; it's a great place to do business if one loves the country, makes the effort, holds realistic goals and/or has something unique to offer Korea that can't be found elsewhere.

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.


Some Recent Client Testimonials

It's always encouraging to hear nice things from clients...

“Hi Steven,… Our Korean HR director looked over everything and says it all looks good. Thank you very much for your accurate and timely services. I will recommend you to other people in our company. Thanks,”

Katherine Chapman, HR & Employee Development Representative at National Oilwell Varco (Cedar Park, Texas)

“Our Korean contact said, ‘Whoever did the translation did a good job.’”  

Joel J. Crampton, Marketing Manager at the Cartwright Companies (Grandview, Missouri) 

“Hi Steven, Thank you very much. We just finished integrating the new strings into the app, along with the new EULA text, and the final result looks polished and perfect. I want to express how happy we are with the business service you and your firm have delivered us – your turnaround on issues has been extremely quick.  We will definitely return to you for Korean translation work in the future, and will recommend you to others when they need Korean translation performed.  Please express our appreciation to your staff as well.”

Erik Geidl, CEO at GoldenShores Technologies, LLC (Moscow, Idaho)

For lots more: http://www.koreanconsulting.com/testimonials.php


Interview on 1013 Main Street - "Essential Tips and Information for Doing Business Here in Korea"

2011-10-17 오후 8-56-18
I was recently interviewed by Ahn Junghyun of 1013 Main Street on TBSeFM 101.3Mhz here in Seoul. We discussed a number of topics related to business in Korea. 

Click here to listen to the radio interview

Interview Transcript

Interviewer:  Steven Bammel came to Korea in the mid-1990s. Since then, he has become an expert of sorts on Korean business practices.

He is currently a GyeongGi Province Foreign Direct Investment Advisor as well as a consultant to the GyeongGi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies and the creator of an online community called Korea Business Central.

In addition to that, he runs his own business weblog, Nojeok Hill: My View from the Top, and writes a monthly business column for Seoul Magazine.

He joins us now armed with essential tips and information for doing business here in Korea. Morning Steven.

Steven:  Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Interviewer:  Thank you for joining us today. You’re a busy man. How do you find the time to do all this?

Steven:  Well, I work more than 40 hours a week. I’ve gotten used to the Korean workweek, I guess. I did realize recently that I have hit my limits when I tried to start classes again at Hanyang University a couple of weeks ago.

I took a year off after a few days of classes and decided I’m going to think about it for a year, get my priorities arranged and maybe arrange some of the stuff that I do and try again in a year.

Interviewer:  You’ve gotten into the habit of the Korean way of not wasting any minute.

Steven:  Exactly.

Interviewer:  How would you describe the business environment here for foreigners today, perhaps compared to when you first got here over a decade ago?

Steven:   Korea has become a lot more open in the last ten years or so. I think a big factor in that was the end of the 90s with the economic crisis and all. Koreans really changed their outlook on things, realized they needed to open up to the world, and they did. It’s pretty amazing.

Today, so many more Korean young people go overseas to study than did even ten, twenty years ago. Korea’s a much more open place, more understanding of the ways that foreigners do business, and much more up to the international standard in many ways.

Interviewer:  What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in a positive way?

Steven:   The government. A lot of regulations have been relaxed for foreigners.

You see a lot of efforts by the local governments to make opportunities for foreign companies to do business. You see a lot of free economic zones. You see a lot of industrial areas for privileged investing conditions for foreign companies that come in.

You find a lot of sectors that have not been open before are open now. These would be some of the big positive changes.

I’d say the success of Korean companies in and of itself has been a big factor. As we look at companies like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai having so much success overseas, I think that also opens up opportunities in Korea for foreign companies to find opportunities.

Interviewer:  Then in your capacity as GyeongGi Province Foreign Direct Investment Advisor and consultant to the GyeongGi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies what are some areas where you think we could use some more improvement?

Steven:  One thing that has been on my mind since I started in this position is when I look at all the opportunities the government has set aside just for foreign companies, for foreigners, it really does reinforce the separation between Koreans and foreign companies.

If you’re going to set aside a block of an area in an industrial complex down outside of Pyeongtaek or many other places just for foreign companies and give them special rights for investment, for tax purposes and all that, there are side effects.

The fact that if a company does come in, invests, and then they decide to pull out, where do they go? Who do they sell it to? There’s nobody available to buy it because it’s only authorized for certain foreign companies.

It reinforces the idea that, “The foreign companies go here. The Koreans do business over here.” I don’t think that’s a totally positive thing. I think foreigners already find it hard enough to do business in Korea sometimes and setting things aside and pushing them off to the edge has its drawbacks.

Interviewer:  So we need to make more efforts to integrate them into the Korean economy?

Steven:  Well it’s a very difficult question, actually. The easy answer is, quite simply, just make Korea an easier place for everybody to do business. I was in a discussion a couple of weeks ago and the subject came up. “Is Korea that hard of a place to do business for foreigners?” and I said, “Well, yes it is.” But it’s not just for foreigners. Middle, small, and medium size companies have a tough time too.

I think if the Korean economy can develop in a more fluid way that’s not quite as based on these very large Korean multinationals that there would be more flexibility and more opportunities for everybody.

Interviewer:  Let’s start talking about some specific Korean business tips, if you will. You have a monthly column in Seoul Magazine and recently you wrote about things to remember about Korean job titles. So what do foreign businessmen need to know about job titles in Korea?

Steven:  The key point here is that his Korean job title is the one that matters, not what his English business card says.

I’ve seen all kinds of translations of Korean job titles for everything. A “Cha Jang” – I’ve seen that translated as Director, I’ve seen it translated as General Manager, as Assistant Manager, all kinds of stuff. Koreans do have this tendency to “interpret” their job titles when they translate them into English.

I did a translation job a few years ago where it was actually a Korean Cha Jang. He had gone over to the U.S. to do business and it was a lawsuit of an investment gone bad and I was working on the internal documents.

To the Americans, he was a Director but when I was doing the work it was clear he was not anything close to a Director.

So the key point here is if you want to know what rank the Korean is, and he or she does have a rank – every Korean company has them – that you need to know the correct Korean version of the job, not the English name that they choose to use.

Interviewer:   By that token should Korean companies and employees start printing their Korean titles in English, like Cha Jang?

Steven:  I don’t know that that would communicate too well. They’re doing fine. There’s a certain advantage to be had from maybe not sharing everything about your job title.

I’m not sure that I would change it from the Korean’s perspective but I’m saying that if you’re not Korean and you’d like a small advantage, a little more insight into the person you’re working with, figure out some of this stuff.

Interviewer:  You need to know exactly where they are in their company. How would you translate Cha Jang, just out of personal curiosity?

Steven:  The way I’ve always translated it –and I will say that I have written the definitive guide on business cards in Korea – Deputy General Manager seems to be the most common term that I’ve seen used. That’s what was used when I was at LG many years ago.  Assistant General Manager is another one that’s used.

Interviewer:  You also talk about how the position of the employee representing a company that you’re working with can give you clues on what the company thinks about you or your business.

Steven:  This connects with what we were talking about on understanding the rank of the Korean you’re working with. If you’re interacting with a Korean company, they should send someone to meet you of a rank similar to you. 

If they come to you with a business card that says “Director” on it and you’re a Director in your Western company that’s a good start but what if you were to turn the card over and notice that they were a “Cha Jang” or a “Gwa Jang” or something?

It could represent a number of things, but for certain, it indicates they don’t recognize your position. That’s something that if you hadn’t been aware of these internal facts you would not realize. It should change your strategy on how you deal with them.

If you’re being dealt with with as much respect as you deserve, you’re going to deal one way. If you’re not, you’re going to have to reassess.

Interviewer:  I think things are changing a little bit. I know that there are a growing number of companies trying to kind of go horizontal instead of hierarchical and vertical, for example, by removing all titles internally and just calling each other with the suffix “nim”.

So I would call you “Steven-nim” instead. I know one company that calls their people “masters” and “pros” – they’re professionals.  What do you think about this sort of trend?

Steven:  Well, are those the successful companies in Korea?

Interviewer:  I would say so. Yeah.

Steven:  Are they? I was talking to someone not all that long ago about this topic also and he was mentioning Korong. Korong is one of the companies that’s doing this, but I’m not sure that they are recognized as one of the leaders. Samsung, Hyundai, LG – they’re not changing theirs and they’re the ones that are really being successful.

I would not discourage it but I wonder if it’s even possible in the Korean language. The Korean language itself is so hierarchical-based that just to put “nim” on the end of every name, are you going to start speaking to each other in Panmal?

Interviewer:  It wouldn’t be Panmal. 

Steven:  I don’t think a Korean company could have the speech be the same for everybody. I can’t imagine the employees speaking to their boss on the same level that he speaks to them. It’s a good start. I’d be interested to see what kind of results it achieves.

Interviewer: Another one of your columns talked about building business networks in Korea. Is it very different from how you would do it elsewhere in the world?

Steven:  Back home I think cold-calling is a lot more effective than it is. It’s easier to establish a business relationship in the West for some reason or other. A Korean business relationship, once it’s established, is worth more but it takes more investment and it takes more effort.

If people come to Korea and expect that they’re going to do a networking session here and there and that’s going to be enough, I don’t think they’re going to get the same results.

I’ve had some phenomenal results from just one-time meetings back home and I don’t think that you could recreate that. I think Korea is a society where it takes an extra degree of trust and that has to be built. It has to be built in the Korean way.

Interviewer:  How would one go about building that level of trust?

Steven:  Koreans use the word “jeong”. You have to show the person that you’re dealing with that you have an element of jeong in your relationships – that you can give as much as receive.

Going out for a meal dutch is so uncommon in Korea. It’s apparently becoming more common but amongst co-workers at the office perhaps when they’re going out every day it would be one thing.  But if you’re dealing with somebody trying to build a network, trying to build a business relationship, you should never go dutch and you should never make it clear that you’re going to let them pay.

Things like gifts – my next column for Seoul magazine will be about gift giving.  Gift giving in Korea is on a whole different dimension. Koreans don’t give gifts. “It’s the thought that counts.” That may a nice thing to say back home but price is pretty important around here too. A cheap gift could actually work against you.

We were given a Chuseok gift from one of my business colleagues of $150 of beef. We’d never buy that for ourselves, and I think we gave him some red ginseng socks and towels that cost about $100 for that. You’ve got to show that you’re not pinching pennies in your relationships.

You’ve got to show that you’re not pinching time. If you’re going to say, “Let’s go out for lunch. I’ve got 35-45 minutes,” if you’re setting limits right out of the chute when you’re trying to build a relationship with a Korean, you’re going to hit some walls.

Interviewer:  I understand the need to respect local traditions and practices and so on but at the same time when Korea wants to attract more foreign investors, wants to do more business with foreign partners, shouldn’t we be changing our way as well?

Steven:  It depends on who you’re talking to. If you’re going to talk to Koreans, I might be giving them a different spiel. When I’m talking to Koreans, I’m going to tell them, “You’re going to have to learn to do things the Western way.”

If I’m talking to Westerners doing business in Korea, they’re going to get a totally different side from me. I’m going to tell them, “You’re going to have to do it the Korean way.”

No Westerner is ever going to do it 100% the Korean way and no Korean is going to do it 100% the Western way, but if you can push them halfway each you can find that happy medium.

Interviewer:   You run an online community website called Korea Business Central where you hold some interesting discussions. What have you found are some of the most common business related issues that people have?

Steven:  I would say number one is getting a job in Korea. It’s been a surprise to me how many foreigners want to work in Korea. Number two, how few jobs there are outside of English teaching for foreigners in Korea.

There’s a huge mismatch. We’ve got an intern database on our site and I think I’ve had 100 people sign up for it on the intern site and as far as companies hiring interns I don’t know that we’ve had more than a handful.

There’s this huge mismatch between the numbers on each side. People want jobs in Korean companies. There are a lot of them and that’s a major reason that people are joining the community.

Interviewer:  What would be your advice for people who want to come work in Korea?

Steven:  English teaching is a great way to get started. I started that way. If you stay in that position, it should be a stepping stone. Once you get to Korea you need to start working very hard to network as we’ve talked about. Two, learn the language, learn the culture, and figure out what you can do next and what you can contribute next.

It’s a long-term process. A lot of people join our community hoping for some kind of a short-term solution and, unfortunately, as of yet I have not found any short-term solutions for them.

Interviewer:  You need to invest time and effort.

Steven:  Exactly.

Interviewer:  I understand you have a business networking invent in Suwon on this coming 8th of October?

Steven:  Yes we do, and it’s going to be very big. The GyeongGi Province is co-sponsoring it. The GyeongGi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies and Korea Business Central, we’re co-hosting it. We’ve got CEOs coming from many foreign-invested companies in GyeongGi Province. We’ve got food catered by a five-star hotel there in GyeongGi.

It’s actually the weekend of the annual Hwaseong Cultural Festival and the venue is right at the Hwaseong palace, so it’s right in the midst of all that from 5:00 to 7:00.

It’s going to be 30,000 won at the door and you’ll get far more than 30,000 won of food and networking opportunities if you come.

Interviewer:  Just some quick advice for perhaps Koreans not necessarily used to these business networking occasions.

Steven:  It is interesting how this networking meeting thing does seem to be a Western import. However, last year I was at a networking event which I think may have been modeled on a previous event we had on Korea Business Central. It was all Koreans and they seemed to know what to do. It wasn’t that hard.

We sat around the tables for a short while, had a speech which, that might have been the Korean part of it, but then once the moderator said, “Okay we’ve got about an hour here of networking. Stand up and pass out cards,” our people knew what to do.

Interviewer:  So all you have to do is go armed with your business cards?

Steven:  Yeah bring business cards. That’s a good thing to do.

Interviewer:  What other plans do you have whilst you’re working here in Korea?

Steven:  I’m here semi-permanently. I love Korea. I’ve been here for quite a while. My goal right now is to figure out how to simplify my life enough that I can go back to school next September so I’m thinking through that process very hard right now.

Interviewer:  I hope that works out for you. Thanks very much Steven for spending time with us this morning.

Steven:  Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.

Interviewer:  We spoke with Steven Bammel of GyeongGi Province, Foreign Direct Investment Advisor and Consultant to the GyeongGi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies about doing business here in Korea in particular.


I Just Picked Up My Certificate of Translation Competence, Grade I

As mentioned in a previous posting, I recently passed the highest level certification exam for translation of Korean into English. Until now, I only had the online confirmation, but today I picked up the original certificate at the office of the Korean Society of Translators.

Certificate Level 1


Certificate of Translation Competence, Grade I

In April I posted my Certificate of Translation Competence, Grade II. I went back for the Grade I test last month and just got notification online that I passed. Until I receive the official certificate by mail, this screenshot from the Korean Society of Translators will have to suffice as evidence (my name is the one shown with the red box near the top). Only two people passed at the top level of Grade I this time around, and I'm not aware of any other non-heritage translators who have passed at this level before.

* September 19, 2011 - I just picked up my certificate. It can be viewed here.

8-10-2011 4-42-41 PM


Test of Proficiency in Korean, Level 6

I took the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) last month and I passed at the top level, which is Level 6. This test is the leading Korean counterpart to the various standardized tests non-English speakers take to prove their ability in English, such as the TOEFL and TOEIC tests.

8-10-2011 4-52-42 PM

 [April 24, 2013 - I finally downloaded and printed out the full certificate. Here it is.]

Untitled


I Was Quoted in the Korea JungAng Daily About Entrepreneurs in Korea

Here's what I said in an article in the JungAng Daily on July 21, 2011 about foreign entrepreneurs in Korea:

“Most foreign entrepreneurs are setting up businesses that support the international community. There aren’t many who are doing business in Korean society and serving Korean consumers,” said Steven Bammel, founder and head administrator of Korea Business Central, an online community supporting expats doing business in Korea. 

“Even companies investing in Korea through FDI are generally setting up operations to support the chaebol, so aside from the foreign community and chaebol, there don’t seem to be many foreign companies doing business directly with the majority of Korean consumers.”

Link to original article.

Download Expats blaze new trails in business in PDF format

This article is also featured on Korea Business Central with accompanying member discussion.


The Korean Immigration Service Published This Article About Me In Their Quarterly Magazine, Gongjon

"Gongjon" means "to be together" and the Korean government is working hard to help Koreans understand about the many people from other countries who live together with Koreans in Korea. Gongjon focuses on publishing articles about non-ethnic Koreans living in Korea and they interviewed me for a recent article.

2011-09-07 오전 1-38-09
 2011-09-07 오전 1-38-22

2011-09-07 오전 1-38-34

 Download Gongzone201106


Certificate of Translation Competence, Grade II

I've got to admit, it's pretty irritating that they put "Semi-professional Level" in English on the certificate. It doesn't say anything like this on the Korean side and it has no correspondence with anything mentioned on the Society website. It was merely the second of three levels offered for the test. They didn't even offer a level three test for Korean > English, nor do they allow Korean > English translators to choose the topic area. These options only exist for English > Korean linguists. Anyway, I hope to have a level one (that's the highest, apparently) certificate soon!

Sept. 19, 2011 Update - Click here for my Certificate of Translation Competence, Grade I.

Certficate


"I'm Just Happy to Help Anywhere I Can" - Article About Me In the Chosun Ilbo Newspaper Today

The following short article about me appeared in the Chosun Ilbo today:

[수도권I] [경기도 이 사람] "내 도움 필요한 곳이면 어디든 OK"

입력 : 2011.03.10 23:01

[경기도 이 사람] 외국인투자유치 자문관 스티븐 밤멜
한국은 우리가족의 나라… 안산, 특히 살기좋은 곳

"잘 다니는 산이 있고, 길 안 막히고, 집값은 서울보다 싸고, 서해안 고속도로가 바로 옆에 있어서 지방여행 갈 수 있고, 서울 오가기도 편하고…."

경기도 안산시 상록구 성포동에 가면 "경기도와 안산은 나의 한국 고향"이라고 말하는 푸른 눈의 외국인이 있다. 지난 1993년 처음으로 한국 땅을 밟고 안산시에 살고있는 스티븐 밤멜(41·미국)씨다. 경기도와 안산시가 어떤 이유로 살기 좋으냐고 묻자, 대답이 끊이지 않는다. 밤멜씨는 "안산 지리를 잘 알아서 나중에 택시기사도 할 수 있을 것 같다"며 웃었다.

2011031002657_0

▲ 스티븐 밤멜씨는“매주 주말이면 한국 곳곳에 여행 가는 것을 즐긴다”고 말했다. 사진은 밤멜씨가 부인, 자녀들과 작년 10월 서울 상암동 억새축제를 찾았을 때의 모습.
밤멜씨는 경기도와 안산시에 대한 애정이 크다. 안산시에서 산 지는 18년째가 됐고, 작년 2월 경기도 외국인투자유치 자문관, 같은 해 4월 경기도 외투기업협의회 자문위원으로 위촉돼 활동 중이다. 2008년 우연한 자리에서 김문수 경기도지사를 만난 게 인연이 됐다고 한다. 한국어와 영어 통·번역 사업을 하고 있어 활동이 많은 편은 아니지만 지난달 25일 김 지사의 트위터에 "앞으로 경기도를 위해서 열심히 노력하겠습니다!"라고 글을 남길 만큼 경기도에 대한 열정이 웬만한 도민 못지않다. 밤멜씨는 "지난 2월에는 안산에 있는 한양대학교에서 석사학위(경영전략)도 땄다"고 했다.

미국에서 대학을 졸업하고 '색다른 삶'을 꿈꾸던 밤멜씨는 1993년 한국에 들어와 안산에서 영어학원강사로 일했다. 1994년 무역회사(LG상사)로 옮겨 5년 반 동안 일했는데 이 과정에서 지금의 한국인 아내 유명희씨를 만나 1996년에 결혼, 딸 유트레저(12·영문이름 Treasure Bammel)와 아들 유카버리(11·영문이름 Cauvery Bammel)를 낳아 함께 살고 있다. 자녀들의 한국 성(姓)은 부인 유씨의 성을 땄고, 이름은 영어이름으로 지었다. 자녀들이 어릴 때는 미국과 한국을 오가며 생활하기도 했지만, 3년 전부터 딸과 아들을 외국인학교가 아닌 한국 초등학교에 다니게 하면서 키우는 중이다. 밤멜씨는 "딸이 처음 한국에 와서는 한국어가 너무 느려 고생을 했지만 지금은 잘 지낸다"며 웃었다.

밤멜씨는 회원이 1200명가량인 웹사이트도 운영하며 한국에서의 삶의 '폭'을 넓히고 있다. 주로 한국에서 일하는 외국인들이 모여 정보와 이야기를 나누고 모임도 갖는다고 한다. 밤멜씨는 "한국에 와서 좋은 사람들을 만나 도움을 많이 받으며 즐겁게 살고 있다"며 "경기도 외투기업협의회 자문위원이 된 이후 많은 활동을 하지는 못했지만, 언제든지 부탁이 들어오면 도와드리고 싶다"고 말했다.

Link to original article posting.


I Was Quoted in The Korea Times about Investors in Korea

Here's an article from the December 20, 2010 issue of the Korea Times:

Chinese investor pulls out due to tension

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia 

Some prospective foreign investors are increasingly becoming concerned about the escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula, with one Chinese investor already postponing plans to invest in a major property development project in Incheon.

The brouhaha over South Korean military’s live-fire artillery exercise Monday further increased the tension between the two Koreas. Last month North Korea opened fire on Yeonpyeong Island, killing four people ― two South Korean marines and two civilians. 

Joseph Chiang, president of Lippo Incheon Development, said the situation between South and North Korea has affected the company’s marketing efforts for Midan City, a leisure and tourism-oriented project on Yeongjong Island. 

`` (The situation) does affect our marketing efforts. One large investor in China made up their mind to invest, but due to this situation, they had to postpone action till further developments,’’ Chiang told The Korea Times. 

Several Chinese investors had earlier expressed interest in investing in Midan City, which is part of the Incheon Free Economic Zone. The project is envisioned as an ``all-in-one-city’’ with shopping malls, resort hotels, medical facilities, a golf village and entertainment facilities.

It seems the extensive international news coverage on North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last month has made a dent in South Korea’s image.

Steven S. Bammel, president of Korea Consulting & Translation Service, said the situation between the two Koreas is certainly affecting the nerves of foreign investors in South Korea. 

``There’s no doubt that foreign investors looking at Korea hesitate when they see the situation. With so many other less risky but attractive investment destinations elsewhere in East Asia, Korea loses out. For example, after the Cheonan (navy boat sinking) incident in the spring, I had a client cancel a trip to Korea and other clients have asked me nervously what’s going on,’’ Bammel told The Korea Times. 

However, for many expatriate businessmen already living in Seoul, the current tension on the Korean Peninsula may not make much of an impact in their daily lives and future business plans. 

Bammel, who also runs the website KoreaBusinessCentral.com (KBC), said there has been surprisingly little concern shown by KBC members in the North Korean situation. 

``I’d say the average member is thinking more about day-to-day business and life than about war; this mirrors the views in Korean society at large. I’ve been posting to a discussion on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War for several months now but it gets far fewer comments than a discussion about the challenges of foreigners working in Korean companies,’’ Bammel said. 

A European businessman, who declined to be identified, admitted that his business partners from abroad have called to check on the current situation. ``I assured him it was business as usual, but it’s difficult to say what North Korea will do,’’ the businessman said.

The timing of South Korea’s live-fire artillery exercise coincides with the start of the annual Christmas holidays for many expatriates in Seoul. This means foreign officials at the various chambers of commerce have left or are planning to leave for abroad this week. The Korea Times tried to contact officials at the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea and Australian Chamber of Commerce in Korea, but was told that they were out of the country.

cathy@koreatimes.co.kr

Link to original article.

 


The Final Version of My Masters Thesis

I finally finished the final version of my masters thesis. The topic is a little academic, but I'm posting it here for the record. Not that I expect a lot of general interest in this, but feel free to download the PDF and share your thoughts. Note that the thesis is written in Korean and there is no English version other than the Abstract on the second-to-last page.

8-10-2011 6-30-51 PM

Download 2010 Masters Thesis Draft, FINAL


Introduction of ESL Teacher to Reputable Institute Chain That is Growing FAST! (Korea)

I was invited to the Gunpo Global Education Center of PowerStudy last week to serve as an English contest judge in my capacity as a GyeongGi Province Foreign Direct Investment Advisor. It was the first time I've ever done something quite like that and listening to 38 kids give speeches did take a long time. Still, it was nice to support the event and to visit the beautiful campus there in Sanbon right next to Suri Mountain, which is only about 20 minutes from our place in Ansan.

CIMG1065Anyway, the PowerStudy chain of institutes is growing extremely rapidly, based on a business model that uses the existing infrastructure provided by non-profit organizations to provide affordable English training to area children. With 2,500 students at the Gunpo Center alone, they are aiming for tens of thousands of students across Korea within the next two years.

As part of this growth, PowerStudy is hiring lots of foreign teachers and when I was contacted by an American in Korea who's been having trouble finding a proper job, I sent him to my contact at Gunpo. Thanks to my introduction, my American associate got a prompt reply and is working through the application process.

(Photo: Sokcho city, taken from the overlooking hills on the way to Sorak Mountain a few days ago.)


Double Introductions from Client to Client and Client to Colleague (China, Korea and USA)

P1020607 A client of mine in the education field is looking to increase his organizations Korean clientele. I introduced him to a colleague who is well-suited to work as his Korean agent. His organization also graduates students who go on to top universities around the world and I connected him with another client of mine, a well-reputed private university in the US.

(Moving-in day at Dongsuh Core, where I have an office. The desks being unloaded from the truck were moved into a new computer institute opening on the 3rd floor.)


Introduction of Asia-Based Location of UK Company to Potential Korean Representative

CIMG0789A client of mine is trying to recover their presence in the Korean market for gradeschool students studying in an English-language international school environment in Asia. It's an interesting value-proposition and I was able to introduce them to a Korean colleague (and fellow member at KoreaBusinessCentral.com) with excellent connections and background in the Korean English market.

[Photo at a bridge in the Korean countryside somewhere in Cheollabuk province. Exact location is unknown to me.]


Introduction to Japanese Translator (USA)


P1020503 A US associate of mine asked me if I could help her Japanese client with Japanese>English translation of academic papers. Of course, since we specialize in Korean, I could not handle the work myself. But I referred her to an associate in the American Translators Association who does handle this kind of work.

[Photo at Homeplus in Ansan on a recent Sunday evening. Must be nice to have so many customers!]

 


Article About Korea Business Central in The Korea Times

Here's an article from the August 13, 2010 issue of the Korea Times:

Website offers info on Korean businesses

 

100813_p09_website

Steve Bammel
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia 

Trying to find information about doing business in Korea just became a bit easier, thanks to the Korea Business Central website. 

The website (www.koreabusinesscentral.com) is a source of information about how one can do business in Korea and build a network of contacts. 

Steven S. Bammel founded the website in September 2009, with a long-time colleague Don Southerton, with the goal of creating a community for non-Koreans who are doing business in Korea and Koreans doing business with non-Koreans. 

``This is a place where they can get information about how to be successful in Korean business. Being successful means understanding the Korean mindset in business,’’ he said in an interview with The Korea Times in downtown Seoul.

The website offers interviews, podcast discussions and reports on the ins and outs of doing business in Korea. 

Several prominent business experts and figures have been featured as part of the Korea Business Interview Series. Amy Jackson, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, talked about the efforts made to promote American business interests in Korea. Tom Coyner, president of Soft Landing Consulting, discussed marketing strategies for the Korean consumer, while international branding expert Martin Roll spoke about how Korean companies can better promote their brands overseas. 

Another section is the KBC 9.9 podcast, hosted by Daniel Lafontaine and usually joined by four other KBC members to share their thoughts on a particular topic. Korea Economic Slice is a weekly financial report written by independent analyst Robert Eberenz. 

``Creating content serves as an anchor for the community. Every piece of content we have comes with a discussion forum. The discussions take the content and give it a dynamic dimension... Every time we have an interview, you can listen to it and you can also download the transcript,’’ Bammel said. 

The discussion forums allow members to talk about various topics, share information, ask questions and post announcements. 

While the main focus is business in Korea, Bammel understands that it is also helpful to include non-business-related topics. ``Once, a former American GI, who was in Korea in 1961, contacted me about some 500 photos he had taken during his stay in Korea. He asked me if I could translate some of the Korean signs... So every week from January to May, I uploaded 10 to 20 of his photos.

“The idea is that to understand Korean business, it is good to see how far Korea has come over the last 40 to 50 years,’’ he said. 

Korea Business Central has been slowly gaining ground, thanks to social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. In less than a year, it has attracted over 600 members, but Bammel hopes to hit 1,000 by the end of the year. 

The members are a mix of Americans, Koreans and other foreigners living in Korea. ``The most active members are the American English teachers who would like to move into business. Getting a job that does not involve teaching English is the number one priority of the active members... What I would like is to get more companies who want to enter the Korean market and learn about doing business in Korea,’’ he said. 

Around 30 to 40 percent of the members are Koreans, but the level of participation is still quite low perhaps due to the language barrier. So Bammel is planning on including more Korean content, including a Korean-language podcast about doing business with foreigners. 

``My goal is not for (Korea Business Central) to be just an expat community, but I’d like it to be a community where expats and Koreans can communicate,’’ he said.

 

cathy@koreatimes.co.kr

 

Link to original article posting.


Introduction to PR Company (Korea & Singapore)

PR I was contacted by a consulting firm in Singapore looking for a PR agency in Seoul to help with a road show for a Middle East destination. I discussed this with a colleague (and member at KoreaBusinessCentral.com) and he suggested I forward the inquiry to an associate of his in Hong Kong (also a member at KoreaBusinessCentral.com) who also works in Korea. The Hong Kong company is pursuing the opportunity.

[Photo of Soong Huh campaigning for mayor of Ansan on May 31. Mr. Huh did not win the election.] 


Another Business Introduction to Potential Korea Representative for US Investment Firm (US & Korea)

Another After a previous post, I was contacted by a Korean-American looking to invest in the US retail market. After getting permission from my US contact, I put the two parties in contact for further discussion. It turned out they are both interested in the same types of real estate, too.

[Photo of falling cherry blossoms at Nojeok Hill. (Taken April 24, 2010)]


Suggestion for Locating Korean-Speaking Customer Service Reps (Korea and the Philippines)

PhilippinesSomeone in my network emailed to ask if I could refer him to any Korean-speaking customer service reps in the Philippines. Unfortunately, I don't have a good network there, but we do have members at KoreaBusinessCentral.com who are Filipino and so I suggested he post a question to the discussion board there.

[Photo at duck restaurant at Mulwangri Lake near Ansan. (Taken April 24, 2010)]


A Missed Opportunity by a US Company in Korea

Missed Opportunity We were contacted recently by a US company whose supply of products from Korea was abruptly discontinued. They had invested a lot of money in the business (tens of thousands of dollars) but were left without even a proper explanation of what had happened. My team did some preliminary research which yielded fruitful results immediately. We would have been able to get complete answers within days. 

Unfortunately, the US company, unfamiliar with business in Korea, was not prepared to find out not only the history and current situation, but also proposals by the Korean side for resolution. 

[Photo at the Ansan Tulip Festival. (Taken April 24, 2010)]


Introduction to Korean Investment Firm (US and Korea)

P1010325 I was contacted by a US currency investment firm looking for partners in Korea. One member of my network was of particular interest and I gladly forwarded this introduction on. In the meantime, I also suggested that my contact join Korea Business Central (KoreaBusinessCentral.com), which he did. He was then able to get a great deal more information from the membership in the discussion forum. (Click here to view the discussion.) 

[Photo at the Seongpo Elementary Field Day. (Taken May 1, 2010)]


A Very Satisfied Client for Design, Translation, Printing and Delivery (US and Korea)


6a011279704a5b28a40133ed783f7a970b-800wiA US company getting ready for a show in Seoul needing creative design, translation and printing of brochures, posters and a banner on very short notice. We were able to bring it all together in-time and the client even sent us the following thank-you note just days ago:

Steven,

We received the banner and posters and they look fantastic!  Thank you for your patience with us, your flexibility, and the quality of work you provided for us.  You, Dennis, and Catalin truly went beyond the call of duty in getting this done in such a professional and timely manner.
We look forward to working with you again in the near future.

<Client's name redacted>

[Photo at traditional tea shop in Insadong as I waited to leave for my next appointment. (Taken April 30, 2010)]


About the Gyeonggi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies and My Role As Advisor

Following my designation in February as a Gyeonggi Province FDI Advisor (For more information: Post #1, Post #2, Post #3), I was invited to become an advisor to the Gyeonggi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies, too. This organization, based out of Pyeongtaek in south Gyeonggi, is funded by the Gyeonggi Province government, member company dues and fee-based services. Its purpose is to provide support to the foreign-invested companies of Gyeonggi Province and it is an honor for me to serve as an advisor to the Association. 

Here is a copy of the Letter of Commission which I was awarded at the directors' meeting:

6a011279704a5b28a401348012a31d970c

The directors' meeting was held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Suweon but I had travelled down to Pyeongtaek a couple weeks before on March 24 in order to meet Secretary General Jake Kim at the GAFIC office to find out directly from him about the work of the Association. Here are some of the notable facts I learned in my meeting with him.

  • There are something like 800 foreign-invested companies with a presence in GyeongGi Province. Of these, roughly 1/3 are Japanese, 1/3 American and 1/3 European-invested.
  • When I asked why the GAFIC website has not been translated to English, Secretary General Kim explained to me that even though the member companies are foreign-owned, most are run by Korean management teams. 
  • Even though most member companies are managed by Koreans, there are still a number of Korean production sites which have foreign heads and the Association offers Korean lessons, Korean culture field trips and other services from time-to-time to these non-Koreans staff.
  • The Association provides services to GyeongGi Province-based foreign-invested companies regardless of their membership status with the Association. Many of these services are free and often involve interfacing with the Provincial Government bureaucracy to resolve issues unique to foreign-invested companies.
  • There are a half-dozen or so industrial complexes designated for foreign-invested companies in Gyeonggi Province and they are mostly concentrated in the southern region near Pyeongtaek, which explains why the GAFIC office is located there, too.
  • The federal and provincial governments offer a number of incentives to foreign-invested companies that set up a manufacturing presence in these designated industrial complexes. To qualify as a foreign-invested company requires foreign ownership of 10% or more (which was a lot less than I would have expected).
  • The vast majority of the foreign-invested companies in Gyeonggi Province are suppliers to the Korean chaebol, such the automobile factories of Hyundai/Kia, the LCD display production of LG and the semiconductor operations of Samsung. Very few (if any!) of these companies are selling directly to Korean consumers or non-chaebol companies.
  • I found it interesting to learn that once the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is passed, Gyeonggi Province is expecting an influx of Chinese-owned companies. This is in order for them to take advantage of tariff loopholes in KORUS. Currently, there are very few, if any, Chinese companies of note in Gyeonggi Province.

The Directors' meeting which I attended on April 7 was actually three meetings in a row. I had not realized this in advance, but I learned a lot of helpful information about business in Gyeonggi Province by sitting through the entire four-hour event.

  1. The first meeting was held to sign an MOU between GAFIC and the Ramada Plaza Hotel agreeing to special rates and conditions for GAFIC members. The Ramada Plaza Hotel is the only five-star hotel in Gyeonggi Province and I got the feeling even non-members, if introduced through GAFIC (or me!), could get those discounts on a case-by-case basis.
  2. We then met with representatives of Invest KOREA, which is the agency under KOTRA charged with promoting foreign investment into Korea as a whole. Several GAFIC members were in attendance, asking for help from the Invest KOREA representatives in solving issues unique to foreign-invested companies. One of the main issues what what a foreign-invested company should do with its facilities when it wished to withdraw from Korea; if those facilities were not easily movable off of the zones designated only for foreign-invested companies, then they could not often find a buyer.
  3. Next, over a catered dinner by the hotel, the directors and advisors of GAFIC discussed ways to assist the foreign-invested companies in Korea. 
  4. Finally, we got a tour of the Ramada Plaza Hotel. (Click here for photos of the suite where Former US Vice-President Al Gore stayed last year when he attended a conference on the environment in Gyeonggi Province.)

Secretary General Kim and the GAFIC team are ready to help. If you want information about GAFIC, you can reach the team through the GAFIC website. Or if you wish to do things in a bit more Korean way, contact me and I would be glad to introduce you directly.


Business Introduction to Potential Korea Representative for US Investment Firm (US & Korea)

Potential Representative I had been introduced to an investment fund manager in the US who is channeling funds from Korean investors into US real estate. A colleague of mine and member at Korea Business Central indicated his interest in discussing the business with the fund manager and I gladly introduced the two people to each other.

[Photo at Yeongok temple south of Jiri Mountain National Park. (Taken February 28, 2010)]


Introduction to Source of Information about Korean Companies (Korea)

Korean CompaniesA member at Korea Business Central asked me if I could introduce her to contacts at a certain class of company in Korea for a market study. While I personally don't know anyone directly, one of my contacts through my position as GyeongGi Province FDI Advisor provides service to hundreds of companies in the GyeongGi province area and is getting some of the information my colleague needs.

[View of Gwacheon city from top of Gwanak mountain. (Taken on April 11, 2010)]


Business Introduction Provided for Phone Interpreter (US & Korea)

Phone Interpreter  I was contacted by a company in the US looking for a phone interpreter for a business call. I was not able to handle this request at the time but I forwarded his information to a colleague (and member at Korea Business Central) who was able to follow-up and offer him this service.

[Photo of the Yeonju Hermitage at Gwanak mountain south of Seoul. (Taken April 11, 2010)]


Introduction Provided for Translation Resource in Specialized Field (US and Korea)

Translation ResourceA client recently contacted us about translation of an analysis of old Korean literature. This subject matter is outside the fields in which our team is skilled and so I referred the client to a competitor of mine, who happens to also be a member of Korea Business Central (KoreaBusinessCentral.com).

[Photo of the UN Memorial on the road south of Suweon toward Osan which marks the spot of the first engagement of UN (i.e. US) forces with North Korea in 1950.]


Business Introduction Provided for Korean Agent in Construction Industry (US/Korea)

ConstructionI was contacted by a businessperson in Canada looking for buyers in Korea for products of a manufacturer of specialized materials used in the construction of hotels, concert halls, universities, apartment complexes and other large buildings. 

I referred him to a member of KoreaBusinessCentral.com with connections in the Korean market who can help this Canadian businessperson find Korean buyers.

[Photo is of the Gojan-dong area of Ansan as taken from my office window.]


Business Introduction Provided for Commercial Attache' (Korea and USA)


Attache 
I was contacted by a US company looking to acquire a Korean maker of medical equipment. Since this is outside the scope of Korean Consulting & Translation Service, Inc.'s work, I initially proposed our Panel of Experts service, where we arrange an online meeting of specialists to advise the client on its areas of interest.

However, this company already has a good idea what they want and they just want someone to contact potential acquisition targets in Korea and arrange meetings for them. I was able to refer him to a member at Korea Business Central (KoreaBusinessCentral.com) to provide this service.

[Photo of Sangroksu area of Ansan taken from top of Nojeok Hill.)


More Business Introductions Provided to Print Shop (Korea and US)

Since my recent introduction to a US client of a print shop in Korea through the personal connections of a fellow member at Korea Business Central (KoreaBusinessCentral.com), I've had two more companies (one is already a client; the other is a potential client) ask how they can get printing done in Korea.

Of course, I am arranging for both of them to get quotes on their projects and am putting them directly in touch with the Korean printer (which is one of the top printers in Korea).


Business Introduction Provided for Export of Korean Service Business (US, Singapore, Korea)

A company from Singapore contacted me about consulting services to introduce a new service product from Korea into the Singaporean market. A colleague of mine at KoreaBusinessCentral.com had already had contact with this Singaporean company a couple years back and was further able to introduce yet another associate of his (a Korean national doing business in SE Asia) to the Singaporean company to make a perfect match!

On Becoming a GyeongGi Province Foreign Investment Attraction Advisor, Part 2

The advisor meeting on Friday, February 19, 2010 was held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Suweon. As this was my first time to hold an official title in Korea and I didn't have any idea what to expect in advance, I was apprehensive before the meeting. In particular, I had volunteered to give a presentation even though it was my first time to have attended.

The advisory committee meets twice per year and is made up of a cross-section of the Korean business world, each specializing in a particular subject matter. There are four advisors with expertise in the large Korean conglomerates, six focused on strategic global regions (two for the US), two from think tanks, six in miscellaneous areas (finance, accounting, law, services, FDI and PR (that's me)) and four from academia. No advisors, as far as I know, are paid for their support and so each of us was in attendance as volunteers. Several government officials from the Foreign Investment Attraction Office were there, too.

3-7-2010 10-46-52 PM  I was very impressed at the calibre of people in attendance. Though the meeting was held in Korean exclusively (except for the Japanese head of JETRO in Korea, who participated through an interpreter), I doubt many advisors would not be easily conversant in English; many have studied and worked overseas. I recall that the Director General has a Ph.D. from an American university and worked for something like 10 years in the research department of a US multinational corporation. 

There are apparently 2-3 other Americans, but they were each represented by a Korean representative at the meeting so I didn't meet them. I was the only Westerner there and every advisor is male.

I spent the meeting mostly listening. And coming from a US perspective, it was interesting to note that foreign investment in Gyeonggi Province doesn't only mean American or European investment. In fact, a great deal of the group discussion was taken up by the topic of attracting FDI by Japanese companies. In particular, with the recent Toyota quality issues, which is apparently top-of-mind in Korean business today, advisors were asking what kind of value proposition GyeongGi Province could offer Japanese companies so that they can escape the high costs of Japan while still maintaining quality. The conclusion was that while Korea is not a cheap country anymore, the cost/quality ratio is competitive. 

I noted also how the pitch being given by GyeongGi Province when it courts the CEOs of multinational companies is that, rather than trying to sell in the Korean market directly, they should simply use Korea as a production location for re-exporting elsewhere. This is interesting to me on various levels because it almost came across to me as an acknowledgement that the Korean market is too small and/or too difficult to crack and that foreign companies shouldn't bother themselves with trying to export into it.

I think this overlooks a very important competitive point about the Korean market, which is that it is probably one of the best test-beds for foreign companies before or during their entry into other Asian markets (i.e. China) and that Korean offices of MNCs punch above their weight in terms of introducing innovations that are then applicable globally. I cut an article out of the Korean version of the Jungang Daily back on November 19, 2008 ("다국적기업, 한국서 배운 '성공 노하우' 들고 세계로 간다") which describes this in detail. 

This is a profound advantage that Korea offers and I may suggest giving a presentation at the next advisor's meeting in August about this very topic. I don't remember anyone at the meeting mentioning this and I bet such a Korean advantage may not be adequately recognized in the efforts of the province to attract FDI. By being able to emphasize the creativity of its people and dynamism of the market helps the province move beyond the quality/cost dimension and truly give substance to the catchy slogans that every city and province in Korea keeps coming up with.

Overall, the meeting was a fascinating opportunity for me to experience Korean business from the inside and continue building my network. 


Business Introduction Provided to Korean Business Culture Trainers (US)

I was contacted by a leading US multinational looking for Korean business culture training for a team being dispatched to a site in Korea. I was able to refer her to two excellent associates of mine at Korea Business Central (KoreaBusinessCentral.com) who have deep knowledge of Korean business and culture, as well as extensive corporate training background.

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:

위촉장 

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="http://KoreaBusinessCentral.com" 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="http://KoreaBusinessCentral.com" 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="http://KoreaBusinessCentral.com" 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.

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="http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com"></a><a href="http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com">Korea Business Central</a><a> (KoreaBusinessCentral.com)</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.