korean business savvy Feed

Korean Translation Tip: Don't Just Use a Dictionary to Translate Job Titles into Korean

If you're translating English business cards into Korean, work with a professional who understands the intricacies of the task and asks enough questions to be able to translate job titles correctly.

For example, here are many (but not all) of the possibilities for translating "director" and its variants:

  • 이사
  • 전무
  • 전무이사
  • 상무이사
  • 대표이사
  • 원장
  • 회장
  • 실장
  • 소장
  • 센터장
  • 협회장
  • 부장
  • 국장
  • 청장
  • 총장
  • 사무총장
  • 사무국장
  • 감독
  • 디렉터
  • 지휘자
  • 중역
  • PD
  • 심의관 

Some of these correspond with other possible English job titles, too. For the full run-down, check out "How Do You Write 'Director' in Korean?

"Director" is not the only confusing job title (admittedly, it is one of the harder ones though). This is not just because Korean organizations are structured differently than Western ones; you'll also find that even the same jobs at the same level in the organization can sometimes imply different responsibilities.

I'd like to point out too that Koreans aren't always helpful here since they tend to inflate their English job titles. I was at a (very well-known!) company recently where, of the ten business cards I was given by my Korean counterparts, every one but the president's card listed him or her one rank higher in English than his/her card in Korean! It takes an honest broker to work through all this sometimes.

Korean Translation Tip - Don't consider a business card translation a throw-away job just because the job title is only one word. Get professional help (such as from someone with a masters degree from a Korean university in management strategy).

BTW, I've even written a guidebook for this, which can be downloaded free: The Definitive Guide to Business Cards in Korea


What You Need to Know About Korean Holiday Greetings and Gatherings

Christmas is a national holiday in Korea and the many Korean Christians do celebrate the day. In addition, the holiday season comes to stores across the nation, just as in the West, though shopping for gifts surely does not reach the frenzied level you'll find in places like the US.

Having said that, Koreans don’t generally hold Christmas parties.

Instead, Koreans are much more focused on the new year, and every self-respecting Korean attends several end-of-year parties (called 송년회 or 연말 모임) each year. These get-togethers are generally held on a personal basis and for business throughout the month of December (not much at all happens on December 31, though). Because the end-of-year gatherings are frequently scheduled months in advance, it can be hard to arrange evening meetings with several people at once during this time because of prior commitments, so try to plan as far ahead as possible if wanting to meet Koreans on business in December.

I'll also point out that because of all the partying (and other factors, such as not knowing what sudden administrative changes the new year will bring), very little business gets done in Korean companies in December, and no important outward-focused decisions at all get made during this navel-gazing time.

Koreans don’t commonly wish each other “Merry Christmas” (though this greeting is becoming more popular, and it is usually expressed in English). Instead, they focus on the new year… Both the Western new year on January 1, and the lunar new year (aka Chinese New Year) in late January or early February. Thus, new year’s greetings are often given twice!

You can't go wrong wishing Koreans a “Happy New Year” and there's really only one way to say it in Korean: “Sae hae bok mani baduseyo” (새해 복 많이 받으세요)

However, in writing, "Happy New Year" can be expanded out in many ways. For ideas, check out these collections of holiday greetings in Korean.


“One of our investment professionals will be traveling to South Korea for a meeting and would like to make a few general opening remarks in Korean."

*** Visit the related discussion on Korea Business Central.

I received the following two questions last week, and as these aren't the first inquiries I've gotten on the subject, I figure'd I'd post some thoughts on the topic here.

The Questions

#1 - “One of our investment professionals will be traveling to South Korea for a meeting and would like to make a few general opening remarks in Korean; thus, he is looking for someone to assist with crafting the remarks and learning to say them properly. Can you… assist?”

#2 - “[An executive of our company] is going to be giving a presentation in Korea next month at a conference…. He is a keynote for the general session with [a lot of] people. I’d like to open up his presentation with a cultural greeting and 'thank you' to the organization that is hosting him for this event.

Can you help me understand the cultural awareness around such a greeting? Is it appropriate at the beginning or should it go at the end? Can you help with a quick thank you greeting in Korean that I could include in the presentation?”

My Answer

These questions are based on the following assumptions:

  1. Speaking in Korean to a Korean audience will contribute to the experience.
  2. A greeting to Koreans in English may require input from a cultural expert in order to say the right things.

But it’s really not necessary to over-think this thing. For starters, here’s how I answered question #1:

"You don't generally have to worry much about giving a culturally correct speech in Korea if the same speech would be culturally correct back home. Once you've written what you want to say, I'd be glad to review and make sure that you won't offend anyone with it, but as long as you stay away from political commentary, you're probably OK.

"As for giving the speech in Korean, unless your associate has had some training in the Korean language, I wouldn't recommend it. Just parroting back a bunch of sounds that he's practiced a few times isn't going to sound much like proper Korean and the audience is unlikely to understand it.

"If you feel it's important that your associate's comments be shared in Korean, then prepare a version in Korean and give it to someone (perhaps an interpreter) beforehand to have him/her read it aloud in Korean after your associate shares his message in English. If your audience speaks English well enough to understand without an interpreter, then the need for your associate to speak in Korean is doubly unnecessary."

A very basic greeting like “Anyeong haseyo (Hello)” at the beginning or “Gamsahamnida (Thank you)” at the end is appropriate. The Korean audience will appreciate the effort and this will certainly generate a few smiles in the audience.

However, trying to put together full sentences and paragraphs just based on memorized sounds is not going to result in a speech that anyone will understand. If, as in the case of Question #2, the purpose of the greeting is to express thanks, it’s important that the audience understand what’s being said and for that, an English greeting which is then repeated through a Korean interpreter is the best option. I was in the room once when a Westerner tried to express a long idea in Korean (without learning Korean first) and the audience didn’t understand what he said and this resulted in quite a bit of social discomfort.

As for the second premise, there’s certainly no harm in running the remarks by a consultant after they’re written in order to be absolutely certain nothing inappropriate gets in, but the same rules apply in Korea as elsewhere: avoid crude humor and stay away from political opinions. Korea is not a black box of hidden cultural codes and there is not a uniquely Korean way to give a speech that is distinct from any other way. 

You might, however, review a couple recent business tips I wrote recently, including:

The KBC Professional Certification Program also contains a wealth of information about communicating and interacting effectively with Koreans in business.

And as mentioned above, I would be glad to review the content of your speech and provide feedback and suggestions on improving it for a Korean audience.

*** Visit the related discussion on Korea Business Central.


Expanding on the Korean Business Etiquette Guide, Chapter 1 - "Understanding and Correctly Using Names and Titles in Korean Business"

6a011279704a5b28a4017eea0ccb4b970d-800wiOnce again, I have the privilege of sharing feedback from Rich DeBourke, principal consultant at SBF Consulting, about a lesson in the Korean Business Etiquette Guide (back when it was the Business Culture Fundamentals Specialization of the KBC Professional Certification Program). Rich's comments and questions about the materials give me an opportunity to share a richer perspective and deeper insights about the subject matter.

The following are some of his responses to various points in Module 1 of the program; I've also included my own clarifications and answers, where appropriate.

----------------

1. "Even though Koreans will often let this rule slide when working with foreigners, addressing someone with "Mr." in a business setting generally indicates that his rank is very low." - (from the "Main Points" portion of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: Regarding the use of Mr., I was always told it was okay to start with calling someone Mr. Kim, and then letting them tell me to call them by their Korean name (e.g. Jin Ho) or use initials (e.g. J.H.) or to use an English name. (I’ve met Koreans that use an English name, although they won’t always have it on their business card (and their co-workers don’t know the English name, so it can be confusing).

2. "At least 70% of the Korean population has one of the top seven surnames (which are, in order from most common: Lee, Kim, Park, Jeong, Yoon, Choi, Yoo)" - (from the "Main Points" portion of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: What do you recommend for the pronunciation for Choi? (Korean version or English).

Steven: This is a tricky one but the correct pronunciation is something close to "Chway", since this is how it's pronounced in Korean. The common English spelling is just weird and it may not communicate well if pronounced as it looks: "Choy"

3. "Your Korean counterpart's business card will almost certainly have an English side." (from the "Main Points" portion of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: People at the big companies have English sides, but maybe 5% of people from small and medium companies have Korean only cards – need to cover what to do (being handed the Korean side, I tend to flip the card to see the English side. If it’s not there, I can go back to the Korean side and pronounce out the person's name in Hangul.) Another option is to look at the email address for the name.

Steven: That's a good point about small companies. While non-Koreans will usually meet Koreans having double-sided business cards, some Koreans do not carry cards with English names spelled out. It should be possible to ask them or someone else around who speaks English how to address them.

4. "In social relationship (as opposed to business relationships), Koreans often "lose" their names when they have kids. They are then addressed in relation to their children. (e.g. Min-Ju's mom, or Kyeong-Jin's dad)."  - (from the "Main Points" portion of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: I thought the Min-Ju’s mom title was only used when people have a relationship through the kids?

Steven: Yes, good catch. The titles used do reflect the basis of the relationship. So, it would generally be necessary to have a relationship with someone through their kids in order to use the So-and-so's Mom/Dad title.

5. "Probably one of the hardest areas for foreigners to grasp when learning Korean is the ways in which the language requires the speaker and listener to understand and express how players fit into the social hierarchy. This is far more complex in Korean than the “tu/usted” concept of Spanish; Korean speakers must be aware of and reflect the relative positions of the speaker, listener and third persons being spoken about at all times." - (from the executive report "Succeed in Korea by Understanding Company Hierarchy", an online resource of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: It would probably be a good idea to explain the tu/usted distinction for readers not familiar with Spanish.

Steven: In Spanish (as in French, Italian and the other Romance languages) there are two forms of "you". "Usted" is used formally and with people one doesn't have a close relationship with; "tu" is for informal situations with children, close friends, etc.. My point is that Korean has this distinction, too, but then goes way beyond it in in terms of further complexity to reflect the relationships between speaker, listeners and third parties. This is what I mean about hierarchy being built into the Korean language and about how this is reflected in Korean company hierarchy.

6. "Typical large Korean companies stick strictly to a traditional model of promotion... These tendencies are less pronounced today than in the past and not every Korean organization puts as much emphasis on age and structure." - (from the executive report "Succeed in Korea by Understanding Company Hierarchy", an online resource of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: Traditional companies and managers use the hierarchical way. But are you saying that others use a blend of Korean and Western? I’m not sure any Korean company is completely westernized.

Steven: The leading Korean companies all follow the traditional model strictly. But I've heard about experimentation in some less well-known conglomerates and in smaller companies. For example, I'm told that Kolon is trying to do away with many job titles in their official internal communications. Some smaller Korean firms run by (mainly younger and Western-educated) managers are also adopting flatter and more merit-based systems. It'll be interesting to see if any of these companies become standard setters in Korean business in the future but for now, the traditional corporate structure remains the only defining standard in Korean business.

7. "Foreigners are, by definition, outsiders. Thus, you can expect to be treated at the highest level of respect and care by your Korean counterparts." - (from the executive report "Succeed in Korea by Understanding Company Hierarchy", an online resource of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: The situation here can become complicated as many foreigners who come to Korea for business come through a local agent. The foreigner is treated with respect, but the local agent is stuck in the Korean hierarchical system. This causes confusion for many Westerners. Also, dinners are confusing when there are three groups (foreigner, agent, customer).

8. "Rank in Korea can be is based on many things, but in business it starts with job position. Age is nearly as important, mainly because job position and age generally go hand-in-hand. And educational level and relative time spent in the company are considerations, too. In addition, the relative standing of different companies can come into play when people from two companies get together." - (from the executive report "Succeed in Korea by Understanding Company Hierarchy", an online resource of the Korean Business Etiquette Guide.)

Rich: What about which university someone attended, such as Seoul National versus Backwater U? Does that impact the level? Harvard people always let you know they went to Harvard, expecting that it gets them more respect and credibility. What about someone with an MBA versus just an engineering degree? What impact does buyer/seller have on the relationship (in Japan, the seller is always lower – Dave Barry’s book, Dave Barry Does Japan has a great chapter on salesmen in Japan where he describes how the salesman starts a visit by apologizing for taking up the customer’s valuable time).

What about when Koreans have two relationships at different levels? I attended a Korean Culture seminar a while back, hosted by the Seoul Global Center and given by a Korean university professor, and she told the story of a Korean teacher whose husband owned a floral shop in a neighborhood that was near to her school. One Saturday, the parents of one of the teacher’s students wandered into the floral shop, not knowing that their child’s teacher’s husband owned the shop. When the parents saw the teacher there working in a floral shop, they became quite flustered and left the shop. The key take-away is that Koreans, once they feel they have a relationship established (teacher is a high level position), anything that goes against that relationship (working in a floral shop is a low level position) causes them to be uncomfortable.

Steven: Interesting and valid insights. The real world is seldom as straightforward as the rules would lead us to believe and these examples show how things can become complex in situations that don't fit "the rules".

In reference to the differences in levels based on backgrounds, such as what university one went to or whether one has a masters or undergraduate degree, this shouldn't affect levels of speech directly. However, though these factors will influence one's career path and thus where one falls in the hierarchy.


Expanding on the KBC Professional Certification Program, Module 4 - "Gift-Giving in Korea"

Header_main
I wrote the Business Culture Fundamentals Specialization of the KBC Professional Certification Program to help non-Koreans make sense of Korean business culture and be more effective in Korean business. To date, we've had dozens of students sign up, with many of them having graduated.

RichDeBourkeBut one person who doesn't need to take the course is Rich DeBourke. As a member of Korea Business Central and principal consultant at SBF Consulting, Rich has been working in business for over thirty years and in the Korean market since 1995. He was kind enough to critique and add valuable comments and insights for much of the content in the lessons of the KBC Professional Certification Program.

The following includes selected excerpts from the KBC Professional Certification Program materials, along with Rich's comments and a few of my additional responses.

Visit the related discussion on Korea Business Central.

 --------------

1. "Gifts are generally wrapped and if so, don't open until you leave (or unless they tell you to open it)." - (from the lecture email send to students of the KBC Professional Certification Program)

Rich: Open the gift but don’t try it out. One time I was given a pen by a Japanese guy, and the pen wouldn’t write – embarrassing!

2. "Small souvenirs from home show great consideration to your Korean hosts for a business meeting or when getting together with friends... Example souvenirs... a Disney toy for your counterpart's children if you live anywhere in central Florida... a nicely framed photograph of your city’s skyline with a small metal plate engraved with the company name on the bottom... Some duty-free alcohol" - (from the executive report "Top 10 Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression", part of the KBC Professional Certification Program and also available free from the KBC Business Library.)

Rich: What about hats from prestigious universities or famous golf courses, if near the home office?

I think the brought-from-home and wrapped-at-home gifts go over well. A gift that was clearly wrapped in Korea looks too last minute. (We gave a senior guy a Montblanc pen and he clearly couldn't care less, I think in part because he figured out we bought it at the hotel gift shop.)

I’m not sure about the Disney toy – we used to bring Disney videos years ago, but everything is now available in Korea. So bringing something like Mickey Mouse may convey the feeling the giver thinks Korea is a poor country (Koreans are sensitive about that).

I’d recommend a city photo if the client visits your city. I'm not sure about giving a photo of a city he’s never seen (framed golfing pictures are usually well received, though).

On the liquor, it should only be Scotch whisky, and a guide as to what level of whisky for which level of contact would be helpful. Johnnie Walker Blue retails in New Hampshire for $210. A Macallan 30-year retails for much more... A bottle of good rum or vodka doesn’t go over well with Koreans. I generally recommend sticking with whisky. While some Koreans drink bourbon, it’s not as common.

... Chocolates that can be eaten during the meeting have gone over well, but expensive chocolates didn’t. Boxes of common but nice chocolates were appreciated.

... As an isolated situation, a foreigner working for a Korean company and going on a trip should bring back something. Generally it doesn’t have to be a “souvenir”. It can be almost anything that was purchased while on holiday (my wife has bought socks).

3. "You must never arrive at a Korean's home without a gift... It is also accepted practice to stop by the supermarket or convenience store on the way to pick up... juice or fruit." (from the executive report "Top 10 Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression", part of the KBC Professional Certification Program and also available free from the KBC Business Library.)

Rich: Juice? Never seen it done. I’ve seen Koreans give the vitamin drink, but I’m not sure that’s good coming from a Westerner. Fruit should be a gift box (not a bag of apples).

4. "Still, it is better to give a gift when not expected than to not give a gift when one is expected." -(from the lecture email send to students of the KBC Professional Certification Program)

Rich: I can't think of a situation of giving a gift when not expected. Gift-giving is one way (vendor to customer, junior to senior). But what happens if I give a gift to someone who, under Korean cultural rules, should also give me a gift, and they haven’t prepared one? I would embarrass that person – possible? Likely?

Steven: Gift-giving in business isn't always required. In fact, other than social-based gift-giving that is also observed in the workplace (such as for weddings, funerals), there aren't a lot of situations where a gift is absolutely required. Visiting for the first time on business would certainly be expected, but what about the second visit? Or third visit? The obligation goes down... As for gift-giving from vendor to customer, there's surely plenty of that going on, but it's not 100% one-way; vendors should at least try to show gratitude for customer gifts by giving a few back.

Overdoing the gift-giving can also be a bit of a problem. I remember a few months ago my family got together for lunch with a business associate and his family. They brought two rather nice gifts for us, and even promised tickets to a couple of upcoming concerts that they had extras for. I managed to pay for lunch, but that was still not quite enough to "balance accounts". When I met my associate a few days later, I took a Coach handbag for his wife that my wife had bought on a recent trip to the US and set aside to give to someone else. By that time, things had actually gone a bit overboard and it'll be awhile before we need to exchange gifts again.

As for embarrassing a Korean by bringing a gift that's unexpected or where he/she should also have brought a gift, I don't think this is a big issue. The Korean can just make sure to bring something next time (or at least promise to do so).

5. "An invitation to visit is an excellent "gift" to give after your hosts in Korea have shown a great deal of hospitality to you. It is unlikely that the invitee will take you up on the offer and extending invitations that aren't intended to be claimed is a common practice of etiquette amongst Koreans too." (from the executive report "Top 10 Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression", part of the KBC Professional Certification Program and also available free from the KBC Business Library.)

Rich: I think in a business situation, it is very likely that they will be visiting your office, especially if it’s a significant deal. So it is likely they will remember any offer of “come over for Sunday dinner” and will expect to have it happen.

6. "Money is the standard gift at weddings or funerals and one-year birthdays of babies." (from the executive report "Top 10 Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression", part of the KBC Professional Certification Program and also available free from the KBC Business Library.)

Rich: 60 or 70,000 won should be sufficient for a wedding/funeral/one-year birthday gift – sometimes foreigners get invited to a number of these functions, and you don’t have to be that close to be invited (more people equals more money for the couple)...

Weddings versus funerals – Generally, my wife will send money if a friend has had a death, but we only give money for a wedding if we attend, and we decline more invitations then we accept.

Steven: Wedding invitations don't necessarily need to be declined; just not going is often enough. You can apologize later for having had other plans that day, and a gift won't be expected since wedding gifts are usually only given if attending. The exception to this would be if you miss a wedding of someone that you absolutely should have attended.

Also, the standard gift for a one-year birthday would actually be a gold ring. Not just any gold ring though; they sell these one-year birthday rings at any jeweller at various price points.

7. "A gift certificate to a local department store makes a great birthday or friendship gift to someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship."  - (from the executive report "Top 10 Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression", part of the KBC Professional Certification Program and also available free from the KBC Business Library.)

Rich: I’d recommend an American Express gift card – it’s upscale but can be used anywhere AMEX is accepted.

8. "On the Death of a Fellow Student's Mother and Figuring Out How Much Condolence Money to Give Him" - (recommended reading for the KBC Professional Certification Program and available in full as a weblog post here on Nojeok Hill)

Rich: The story’s good, but how does it apply to business? If a business acquaintance has a parent pass away, how much should be sent? Possible to put together a table?

Steven: In business, I think about W100,000 would be a good base amount if the recipient is someone with whom you've got a relationship that deserves a gift; it would seldom go lower (and not below W70,000, I don't think). If a business partner or someone close, then a higher amount would be appropriate.

Just hearing about the death of someone's relative at the office isn't enough to have an obligation; you've got to be relatively close, such as in the same department or office, unless it's a small company, in which case you might be obligated regardless. Also, the death of someone's sister is unlikely to require a gift, whereas a parent, spouse or child is a different matter.

If you've been told about the death promptly, it probably means a gift is in order. It's also likely you'll have heard about the death through a third-party so it's fine to ask about the appropriateness of a gift and how much to give. The other person may say you don't need to give anything, but if you do think you should (or would like to), then keep pushing for information. Even if you can't make it to the funeral, you can still ask about the details of the bank account to which gift payments are being collected and send your money there. (Don't ask for a receipt!)

If you hear about a death weeks or months after the fact, it's generally too late to give. It means you weren't expected to give anything.


Answers to Questions about Korean Company Hierarchy

The following snippet is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

From the extra reading in Chapter 1 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"I was recently contacted by an international executive recruiter who is working to fill an executive position in the Korean subsidiary of a multinational company. Here are some answers to his questions about how Korean companies work.

"1. What is the most common job title(s) for someone reporting to the CEO/ Country MD?

"2. To what extent does this vary between companies? Do you know the most typical title for someone at this level at [Company]?

"3. Does the title depend also on age, or is it just dependent on where the person sits within the organisation and who they report to?

"4. To what extent are Koreans usually willing to move for a role with the same job title?"

Get the answers to these questions in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Q&A with American Businessperson about Gift-Giving in Korea

Having published my executive report "The Top Ten Gifts to Give in Korea to Make a Great Impression", I get a steady flow of questions asking me for advice in specific gift-giving situations. Here's a question I received recently:

"I am an American businessman meeting with a Korean company Chungbuk and want to bring appropriate gifts for the meeting. We are meeting to finalize the terms of a contract... hopefully. We have met before in the US. I was thinking about giving Godiva chocolate in a brown box with eight truffles. I was also thinking to have a brown ribbon around each box with customized gold printing on it with a personalized message of success. Is this a good idea? If it is, what should the message on the ribbon say? Can I use our company names together or would that be too presumptuous? If not, what would you suggest?

And my answer:

The gift of chocolates is a fine idea; I would encourage you to give those. But given alone, they may be more suitable for a future visit after business gets rolling. 
The reason is that this visit is a very special one, since it (hopefully) represents the beginning of business. The most effective gift would be something that remains as a reminder, not something that gets eaten or drunk. What we'd recommend is a gift that compels your Korean counterparts to remember you on a regular basis. A nicely framed photo of you and your team standing out in front of your US office, with a message written over the photo itself or onto a metal plate on the frame would be good. The message might say something like "[Your company] - Korea Visit 2013" on the first line and "We Wish You The Best of Business Success!" on the second line. (You don't necessary want to include both company names here since that could look presumptuous.)
If you're like me and work a bit more virtually so that you don't have a big office with 25 employees, then the alternative could be a framed photo of something that would be worthy of hanging on the wall and that could be associated with you. As you're out of Chicago, I like the idea of a nicely framed photo of the Chicago skyline, along with the metal plated message in the frame. This is the kind of thing that would definitely be hung on the wall, observed and remembered, which is exactly what you want.
You mentioned the ribbons; the concept in Korea may be a bit different than you're thinking though. If your negotiations were completed and you were just coming over for the signing ceremony, then flowers with ribbons might be a part of the ceremony. These are also used for the opening of a new office or retail establishment. Here are a few examples - 

However, these types of flowers are generally given by others; not the actual parties to the transaction. Anyway, since you're not done with the negotiations, it could look a bit odd to start acting like it's a done deal.
On the other hand, if you were to wrap the gift (it should be wrapped) in extra nice ribbons on which you include an extra gold-lettered message, that would also be a nice touch. Perhaps this could have a slightly more assuming message, something like "We look forward to a long, successful business relationship with XX Company!"
And BTW, there's nothing wrong with bringing a few chocolates too; I just wouldn't make that the main gift at this point. In the future though, you won't need to upstage consumable gifts with something permanent like I've described above.


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.


2013 New Year's Greetings

Untitled

1.

희망찬 새해를 맞이하여 만사형통을 진심으로 기원드립니다.

-----

2.

희망 가득한 새해를 맞이하여 언제나 건강과 행복을 기원합니다.

올해 베풀어 주신 은혜에 깊이 감사드리며

2013년에도 [our company] 에 변함없는 성원을 부탁드립니다.

새해 복 많이 받으십시오.

-----

3.

지난 한 해 [our company]에 보여 주신 사랑에 고개숙여 감사드립니다.

올해도 기대에 보답하는 [our company]가 되겠습니다.

밝아오는 2013년 새해에는 모든 일들이 성취되기를 기원하며

언제나 건강하시고 새해 복 많이 받으세요.

----

4.

안녕하세요!

 

올 한해

저희에게 베풀어주신 배려에 깊이 감사합니다.

 

새해에도 늘 건강하시고

하시고자하는 일 모두 성취하시어

복 많이 받으시고 날마다 웃음이 가득하시기를 기원합니다.

 

아울러, 가정에 만복이 깃들기를 바랍니다.

-----

5.

즐거운 연말 연시 보내세요.

-----

6.

이번 2013년에도 [recipient's name]의 하시는 모든 일이 잘 이루어지고 가족 모두에게 건강과 행복이 늘 함께 하기를 기원합니다!

-----

7.

즐거운 성탄절 보내세요

-----

For lots more options from previous years: #1, #2 & #3

 


Build a Business in Korea: "Knowing Korea has a reputation for being difficult, what do I need to be "warned about" when it comes to working with vendors, suppliers, and service providers in Korea?"

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


Button_buildbusiness

"Knowing Korea has a reputation for being difficult, what do I need to be "warned about" when it comes to working with vendors, suppliers, and service providers in Korea?"

"We’ve covered this at length on KBC too, in particular in our interviews with Peter Bartholomew, Peter Underwood and Tom Coyner (all of which are available for free in the KBC community.)

Perhaps the #1 challenge foreigners face is in the different concept of contracts in Korean business culture. While Korean multinationals operate at global standards, once you get down to the small to medium-sized company levels, you’ll find that agreements often require ongoing attention and interpretation. This is also why business networking is so important and why knowing how to build and maintain business relationships in Korea the right way is a key success factor.

I would also point out that Korean customers frequently have exceptionally high expectations for the speed and quality of service and you should be prepared to provide these in order to compete effectively.

Finally, in the consumer market particularly, there’s a fine line between an interest in foreign products, and a preference for local goods. Therefore, aligning your marketing message to the local market is a crucial step."

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


Mainbanner

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. 


Button_thrivein

"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.

 

Mainbanner

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.


Thrive in a Korean Company: "So, it's my first day at my new job in a Korean company that just moved into my town. What do I need to know so I don't ruin my chances the very first day?"

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


Button_thrivein

"So, it's my first day at my new job in a Korean company that just moved into my town.  What do I need to know so I don't ruin my chances the very first day?"

"In many cases, managers of local Korean organizations try to adapt to the local culture. But frankly, the results of these efforts are limited and local employees often feel frustrated.

One key reason is the influence of head office, which restricts how much flexible the overseas office can be. For example, Korean companies are very top-down hierarchical, and established plans frequently change. Employees dispatched to run those overseas offices are sometimes switched out with surprisingly little advance warning. All this can be unsettling to a non-Korean employee without access to what’s really going on.

On your first day on the job, and probably for quite awhile after that, you’d be well-advised to watch and learn. You’re going to see some things you don’t understand; maybe a few aspects you don’t like and want to change. Trying to achieve change in the wrong way is likely to cause trouble; you should be looking for resources and a network to help you reach your goals within the existing structure.

Remember that help is only a few clicks away on Korea Business Central, where you can find information and reach out for support, training and advice."

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

 

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


Build a Business in Korea: "Why do you think non-Koreans have challenges doing business in Korea with Koreans?"

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


Button_buildbusiness

"Why do you think non-Koreans have challenges doing business in Korea with Koreans?"

"There are a lot of reasons for that, and as you’ve mentioned, language and culture are the most obvious. But other factors also conspire to make things difficult.

For example, not all Korean computer systems are set up for non-Korean ID numbers, which can be a problem when handling paperwork.

Also, finding affordable accounting and tax prep resources, legal advice and other professional and consulting services in Korea that are knowledgeable about international business matters and speak English often requires a little extra effort.

Pre-established business networks among Koreans can be difficult to penetrate, which leads to both marketing and supply challenges.

Even things like foreign-investment friendly regulations may be tricky to sort through, not to mention the regulations that aren’t foreigner-friendly and are only accessible in Korean. I recently interviewed a government official about business visas for non-Koreans in Korea and amazingly, he explained to me that the business visa laws are not readily available in English, nor is there an English-language document anywhere that explains them in easy terms in one place. This makes the information I put together for KBC members after that interview all the more valuable."

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

 

Mainbanner

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


A Comparative Study of Organizational Commitment in Korea, China and the US

An article published in Korea (조직몰입 선행변수의 효과에 대한 국가 간 비교연구: 한국, 미국, 중국을 중심으로 - 심원술, 김진희) a few years ago studied the factors leading to organizational commitment in companies of Korea, China and the US. 

To me, the most interesting point of the article was its conclusion that the effect of horizontal relationships of workers on the commitment of those workers to their organizations was about the same in all three countries but that the authors gave different reasons for each.

  • Korea is a group-oriented culture, but workers find that relationships with coworkers are important because of the trend in Korea toward a more individual outlook on life, as well as the need to get work done through informal channels in an office environment where work roles are ambiguous. Korea was the only country of the three to show that vertical relationships between workers were also an important influence on organizational commitment, which would reflect the strongly hierarchical corporate and social structure of Korea.
  • China is also a group-oriented culture, but as it is a socialist society, corporate hierarchies are relatively flat and lower-level workers wield a relatively large amount of authority when compared with the authority of workers under a capitalistic system, in terms of decision-making and goal setting. Therefore, horizontal relationships are important in China.
  • Of course, US workers are described as being more individualistic than those in either Korea or Japan due to American ideology and the US capitalist economic tradition, and so, because of having independence and high job mobility, relationships with coworkers are important to the American worker, both in one's current job and in furthering one's career going forward. 

I'm not sure these conclusions are all warranted just from the data in the paper, but it is important to note that Asians in general (and Korean, in particular) see large social differences between themselves and other countries in Asia and don't think of themselves as just "one more Asian country".


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Koreans and First Names of Foreigners"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

From the lecture in Chapter 1 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Today I want to start out by talking about the use of first names in Korea and how this is an example of things getting a little mixed up in interactions between Koreans and foreigners. 

"The main lesson alludes to this, but it is still a bit strange to me that Koreans tend to feel particularly at-ease in referring to foreigners by their first names only, even in business, even in situations that would not allow them to do this in a Korean context with each other, and even (yes, another “even”!) when speaking in Korean to those foreigners."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Koreans Break Their Own Rules a Lot of the Time, Too"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 7 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"You’re not a Korean and Koreans know this. You could call Professor Lee, Dr. Lee, and he wouldn’t bat an eye about it. If you say Mr. Kim when speaking to President Kim of a company you’re doing business with, he’ll be fine. (Don’t call Professor Lee, Mr. Lee, though.. But you wouldn’t do that in English to a professor back home, anyway!)

"Koreans realize that their approaches are a little more complicated than we use in the West and so nothing bad will happen if you act out of sincerity. Of course, making that extra effort is even better.

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Paying for a Meal in Korea"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 7 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"If you’ve been in Korea for awhile and you haven’t been culturally astute (I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you, since you’ve gotten this far into our course!), you may have thought that eating out with Koreans is surprisingly cheap... It seems the Koreans are always arguing amongst themselves to pay for the meal, but nobody ever puts their hand out to collect from you, right? 

"Oh boy.... I hope you don’t think Korea is the land of the free meal... Because if that’s what you think, then for you, it’s also the land of the short relationship... 

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "What Do You Call a Doctor in Korea?"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 6 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"What do you call a Korean named Kim who is a Ph.D.-holder and a university professor? Professor Kim or Dr. Kim?

"What do you call the president of a large company named Lee who is also a Ph.D. holder? Is she President Lee or Dr. Lee?

"What should you call the owner of a one-person company named Jung who has a Ph.D.? President Jung or Dr. Jung?

"What do you call your physician named Yoo? Dr. Yoo?

"Bonus Question #1 - What do you call a professor named Choi who holds a Ph.D., but whom you are currently talking with at a meeting of an association on which the professor is serving as head of the board of directors?

"Bonus Question #2 - What do you call a professor named Ryu whose son named Jaeweon is on your son’s basketball team, who’s about your age and who you’re meeting for dinner at a get-together of all the parents of the basketball team members?

Get the answers to these questions in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "About Drinking in Korean Business"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 6 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"One of the things that surprised me when I first came to Korea was that there really isn’t a social stigma against frequent drinking.Perhaps this reflects my upbringing, but the amount of drinking Koreans freely own up to would generally be frowned upon back where I come from.

"I remember when I first started work at LG International back in the mid-90s and was being introduced to the director of our division, it came up in conversation that Director Kim was a big-time drinker. This was offered as a compliment, which the director proudly acknowledged to be true.  And what I find remarkable about this story is just how unremarkable it is in Korea, even nearly twenty years later.

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Gift-Giving in Korean Business"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 5 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Asians are renowned for giving lots of gifts. Since I mentioned my Mom in the last lesson, I’ll go ahead and bring her up again by saying that she comments regularly about how generous my wife is because my wife always shows up with gifts when we visit. But I keep telling my wife to slow down on the gift-giving because she’s frequently disappointed that others don’t reciprocate as she expects (or that our family caps the price of Christmas gifts at $25 since “it’s the thought that counts” - OK, so maybe we’re a little extreme.)

"The core disconnect here though is..."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Where the Boss Sits"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 4 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"...Moving on to the main lesson, item #3 in the Textbook mentions that the boss usually sits at the head of the table. There is a significant exception to this... it’s when the boss is trying to act egalitarian (or at least "employee-friendly", and especially at meals). In that case, if it’s a long table, he’ll often sit in the middle. At this point though, the hierarchy kicks back in..."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "About the Rapid Relationship Building in Asia Video"

The following was extracted from one of my lectures in the Business Culture Fundamentals Specialization of the KBC Professional Certification Program. Visit Korea Business Central for more information on the program and to register and get certified.


7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

"I want to discuss the Rapid Relationship Building video, which is the additional required resource for the lesson. It’s a bit long, I know, and isn’t about Korea specifically, but the content is solid, and I encourage you to watch it to the end (at least until the advertising kicks in) since it’s instructive to observe how certain things in E. Asia really are the same from country to country (though plenty is different - which reminds me of my Mom asking me a question a few years ago about culture in Vietnam since she figured things can’t be all that different there than in Korea...).

"I ran this video by a fellow Korea-focused American professional of mine back in 2009 when I made it and he had some helpful feedback that I’d like to share with you. Here’s what he said:

  • “Many Asians (especially Asian-Americans) don’t like the word “Orient”. Better terms would include E. Asia and the Far East.” OK, noted.
  • “If one doesn’t want to drink in a business setting, blaming it on the doctor is a good approach. It’s much more effective to say, “My doctor has put me on a non-alcoholic diet due to recent outbreaks of gout” than “I’m not really feeling like drinking today”.” Yes, indeed!
  • “Cut out the advertising about your website! Nobody wants to think you’re selling them something.” Well, OK. Sorry... Please skip that part. The content stands on its own without it, though.

"Alright, this brings us to the end of today’s lecture. What did you think? Did anything I mention bring up a question or comment? Have you noticed something about Korean culture that doesn’t quite square with my perspective?

"Please share with the class! (And you don’t even have to raise your hand before speaking!)"  

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

Sign up today for the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your business and career in Korea.


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Korean Business Problems Have Business Solutions; Cultural Problems Have Cultural Solutions"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 4 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Do you remember that I mentioned in a previous lecture about the company that contacted me recently because their Korean operations were giving them a lot of trouble? I used that as an example of how Korean business culture can be hard to penetrate and why a foundation in business culture can go a long way.

"I want to use the same example to also make the opposite point today, which is that culture isn’t everything. The executives at the company that contacted me (a European-Asian joint venture, no less!) wanted some culture training to help them understand what makes their Korean team tick. But then they went on to tell me about..."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Making the Most of Your Korean Business Cards"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 3 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Alright, so I’d like to jump into today’s lesson on business cards by pointing out that the Essential Handout for this module is the only ebook in existence (as far as I know) about nothing other than Korean business cards, entitled “The Definitive Guide to Business Cards in Korea”. In that book, I really give you the skinny on just about everything there is to know... after all, it says it’s “definitive” right there in the title.

"But actually, it’s still not complete. Since I wrote that book, my own business card thinking has evolved through two additional transformations!"

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

"Here’s the thing about business cards in Korea. 

"I find that it’s often harder to explain to Koreans some of the things I’ve done than to show off a bit in the form of a mini-resume on the back of my card. Perhaps it’s that the language barrier is bigger when spoken, than when written, but I like to prime the discussion with a few facts about myself that will create a little interest.

"And since, as I explain in the textbook lesson, it’s common courtesy in Korea to actually review the business card that somebody gives you at the time of exchanging cards, I always get questions, and that gets us talking.

"But adding more stuff created a problem. With addresses, names and other information being written both in English and Korean, as well as some resume highlights, it soon became too much for one business card, until I thought of a new concept: the double-sized folded business card!

"Yup, here it is. 

"That was cool, but it was also pretty over the top, and Korean culture is such that a little feigned humility is appreciated -- even in business! As I was struggling for an answer about what to do, I came up with yet an even better approach which my friend Jinho suggested!

"I now carry two separate sets of business cards; one set for Koreans, and one set for non-Koreans. In addition to letting me get away without having everything in both languages on every card, each set has just the information I think the respective group will be more interested in.

"For example, Koreans don’t give a hoot that I’m a certified Korean translator or that I passed some Korean TOPIK exam at the top level that they could pass in their sleep. On the other hand, I find that Koreans are more interested in knowing that I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington than non-Koreans, who often know that it’s a rathermid-level school.

"So, my point here is that since we know that business cards in Korea are a somewhat more respected business tool than back in the West, I encourage you to think through your approaches to them,and not just by creating two versions.

"Just as you should follow a few simple rules about business card exchanges (explained in the textbook portion of this module), so the business card can be a marketing tool in Korea in ways that are unique in Korea - and unique in ways that you can take advantage of it as a foreigner (remember how I said Korean business culture doesn't always work exactly the same with foreigners as amongst Koreans? We can get away with stuff.)

"So, how about you? Have you tried something that works with your business card? Share it with the class in the classroom, alright?

"Ah, and here are what my current cards look like.

"For more information on Korean job titles and business cards, be sure to read this article from Seoul Magazine: “Two Things to Remember about Korean Job Titles”.

"And I’ll also suggest that you read “Three Steps to Business Network Building in Korea”, another article for Seoul Magazine which is one of the extra reading links for this module. It explains that the business card exchange in Korea means “permission to contact” and why this is a vital key for business networking in Korea.

"So, am I keeping your attention through the lectures? I guess if you made it this far, you’re at least paying attention to the end. Give me some feedback though. What do you think so far?

"Share with the class in the Classroom."

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

Sign up today for the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your business and career in Korea.


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Shaking Hands, Bowing & Waving"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 2 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Another aspect of business greetings in Korea is the fact that men just don’t shake hands with women, and vice versa. Perhaps things are changing in certain business sectors, but overall, this rule of thumb applies. Once again though, drawing on the lessons from the previous lecture where I pointed out that the Korean cultural rules aren’t applied with foreigners in the same way as amongst Koreans, foreign women definitely find themselves the exception here, as foreign women visiting a Korean office are likely to find themselves shaking hands with the men."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Korean Business Greetings"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 2 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Of course, one of the first phrases we learn when we get to Korea is “anyeong haseyo” (안녕하세요). That’s an all-around greetings that works in a general way to say “Hello”. Don’t forget that it doesn’t work when answering the phone, or for “bye”, and that the version of “bye” that you use depends on whether you’re going or staying. Anyway, you can get all the details about this in a Korean phrasebook.

"What I really want to tell you about is..."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Tips on Hierarchy in Korean Companies"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 1 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"I’d like to discuss hierarchy, which is the topic of the additional required study material for this lesson, the executive report “Succeed in Korea by Understanding Company Hierarchy”

"What I want to say here is this: Rank trumps age when it comes to business authority; however, it only usually trumps age when it comes to the level of speech Koreans use with each other." 

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Introduction to the KBC Professional Certification Program

The following is an extract from the introduction to the Business Culture Fundamentals Specialization of the KBC Professional Certification Program. Visit Korea Business Central for more information on the program and to register and get certified.


7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

"Thanks for signing up for the new KBC Professional Certification Program. You’ve taken an important step in moving your business and career forward in Korea. You’re also in good company, since we’ve had a fantastic member response so far!

"Starting out, I want to be sure you don’t overlook all the value we’ve built into the program. As I explained on KBC recently, there are five elements to the content/resources which you’re receiving from your investment (actually six, come to think of it!), and I encourage you utilize each to its fullest extent.

"The two basic elements include the main lesson (Element 1 - "The Textbook") and the supplementary required content that you'll need to know for the exam (Element 2 - "Essential Handouts").

"But that’s just the start, because each lesson also links to related and helpful optional content (Element 3 - "Extra Reading") and a discussion in which I invite you to share your experiences, questions, etc. (Element 4 - "The Classroom") Think of it as a place where we can all deepen our knowledge and understanding in a zone of free sharing.

"In addition, this email is the first of a series which I’m writing and will send to you over the next few weeks (Element 5 - "Lecture Supplements"). After this one, the main purpose of each email will be to discuss at a higher level and in a more conversational manner the nuances of various aspects of the seven learning modules. 

"As for the ultimate value you’ll get from passing the exam and becoming a Certified Korea Business Professional (Element 6 - "Graduation Certificate"), I’ll also be sharing my ideas and suggestions for how to make the most of this certification, and hopefully learning from you some ways that I hadn’t thought of yet. 

"My hope is not just to "talk at" you with one-way lectures, but that you’ll communicate back to our class of current and former studentsto both share insights and questions, and learn more in ways that allow us all to internalize the whole Korean business culture topic. I’m writing these as “the expert” but I know there’s still lots to learn and that we can 
improve together.

"So, let’s get started! Look for my first lecture soon."


7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

Sign up today for the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your business and career in Korea.


Korea Business Advisor (Seoul Magazine) - Supplement to the Article "Three Ways Contracts in Korea Are Different"

P1060515In my latest column for Seoul Magazine's March 2012 issue, I discuss the different perspective from which contracts in Korea are written. For more insights on Korean business practices, including contracts and other legal agreements, check out the links below.


Korea Business Advisor (Seoul Magazine) - Supplement to the Article "Three Hacks for Effective Korean Business Card Exchanges"

P1030834
In my latest column for Seoul Magazine's February 2012 issue, I introduce the three most important steps for exchanging business cards correctly in Korea.


Korea Business Advisor (Seoul Magazine) - Supplement to the Article "Four Principles to Understanding and Expressing 'No' in a Korean Business Setting"

In my latest column for Seoul Magazine's January issue, I discuss issue of saying "no" in a Korean business setting. To go deeper into this topic, visit the links below:

Here are a couple more insights I didn't have room to include in the main article:

  • 2011-12-06 오전 12-24-44The word "noonchi" comes in a variety of expressions, all of which include the meaning of understanding another person's true intent. One who "doesn't have noonchi" is someone without the ability to figure out that intent. To have "fast noonchi" means the opposite. "noonchi chaeda" is the process of figuring it out. This is one of a few words that doesn't have a perfect translation into English and which is used very commonly in Korean communication about interpersonal relationships.
  • It's very easy to get linguistic, cultural and personal factors confused. As mentioned in the article, I don't think linguistic factors mean much of anything when it comes to vagueness of communications, except insofar as a Korean's lack of ability to express him/herself in English fluently may lead to misunderstandings. But what often happens is that non-Koreans mis-attribute cultural factors to personal shortcomings in the Koreans they deal with, and this is unfortunate. Sure, there are plenty of dishonest Koreans, but not as many as cultural misunderstandings might often imply.

Korea Business Advisor (Seoul Magazine) - Supplement to the Article "Three Ways Meeting Koreans for Drinks Will Promote Your Business in Korea"

In my latest column for Seoul Magazine's December issue, I discuss why drinking on business can be very good for your business in Korea. To go deeper into this topic, visit the links below:

Here are a few additional thoughts I didn't have room to include in the main article:

  1. Those meeting for meals in Korea who do not drink or don’t drink much are always the focus of curious and disappointed attention and generally find themselves sidelined from the main flow of conversation.
  2. A seasoned pro in the Korean drinking culture should be able to rattle off (and be prepared to prove) the number of mililiters of beer or bottles of soju that he can drink in one sitting, with the same confidence that a Korean might recite their average bowling score or golf handicap.
  3. Finally, you can completely forget about the “designated driver” concept, too. Korea has a fantastic public transport system, cheap taxis and a nifty service where, for a few dollars, you can call a central number and they’ll dispatch someone to come and drive you and your car home before disappearing into the night after you all reach your destination.

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.


Korea Business Advisor (Seoul Magazine) - Supplement to the Article "Three Topics That Will Interest the Koreans You Meet on Business"

2011-10-29 오전 3-09-26

In my latest column for Seoul Magazine's November issue, I cover some areas for fruitful and interesting discussions with Koreans as a way to establish rapport and build strong business relationships. To go deeper into this topic, visit the links below.

** CLICK HERE to read the full article on Korea Business Central.


Korea Business Advisor (Seoul Magazine) - Supplement to the Article "Two Cold, Hard Realities of Gift-Giving in Korea"

2011-10-29 오전 3-09-07
My latest column for Seoul Magazine's October issue introduced readers to the fundamental assumptions Koreans make about gift giving and receiving, both in social and business contexts. To go deeper into this topic, visit the links below.

** CLICK HERE to read the full article on Korea Business Central.


Korea Business Advisor (Seoul Magazine) - Supplement to the Article "Two Things to Remember About Korean Job Titles"

2011-10-17 오후 9-21-58
My latest column for Seoul Magazine's September issue discussed job titles in Korea and how the traditional organizational hierarchy is alive and well in Korean companies. To go deeper into this topic, visit the links below.

 

** CLICK HERE to read he full article on Korea Business Central.


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.


"Korea Business Advisor", Seoul Magazine - Supplement to the Article "Business Network Building in Korea"

8-10-2011 12-49-22 PM
My latest column for Seoul Magazine discussed the value of network building in Korea and some tips on how to leverage business cards for success in Korea. To go deeper into this topic, visit the links below:

** CLICK HERE to read the full article on Korea Business Central.


A Recap of Peter Bartholomew's Interview on Korea Business Central - "Promoting the Value of High-Tech Shipbuilding and Traditional Architecture in Korea"

Author_book_pbThere are few people more qualified to discuss the Korean economic miracle than Peter Bartholomew. Having arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer, he has remained in Korea almost continuously since 1968. Peter worked in a Korean company for almost a decade in the 1970s, and for the last 28 years, he has run IRC, Ltd. in Seoul, specializing in the shipbuilding and construction sectors.

In this interview, Peter shares deep insights about Korean business, including techniques for negotiating with Koreans, as well as about efforts to preserve traditional hanok homes, an area on which he is particularly passionate. He believes that a modern Korea should be compatible with maintaining the natural and historical assets of the past.

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

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

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Personal Background in Korea

  • Peter arrived in Korea in January 1968 with the US Peace Corps and spent five years along the northeast coast of the country. He started working for a Korean company in 1972 and stayed there for eight years. In 1982, Peter founded IRC with some partners and is still operating the company today.
  • The biggest change in Korea over the last forty years is the economic development of the country. Even in the 1970s, there were virtually no paved roads in the countryside and even electricity wasn't widespread. Cars shared the road with oxcarts. There were no highways and very little manufacturing; it was primarily an agro/fisheries economy.
  • Koreans today can be described with words like persistence, hardworking, impatient, aggressive and hungry for knowledge. Friendships in Korea last a long-time.

Topic #2 - Shipbuilding in Korea

  • The three big shiyards in Korea are Hyundai (80-85 ships per year), Daewoo (40-50 ships per year) and Samsung (40-50 ships per year). 
  • STX's shipyard in Korea is small but they have built a new shipyard in Dalian, China. Hanjin's is the oldest Korean yard, located in downtown Busan, but they've also got a huge shipyard in Subic Bay, Philippines, too.
  • The Korean majors are notable for their diversification, having expanded into offshore oil and gas structures, as well as drilling ships.
  • Peter's role at IRC is to organize custom shipbuilding programs for vessels that have never been built before. He identifies the best Korean resources (not just shipyards, but also specialist services and products) and helps in negotiating the deals, having completed over 100 projects in the last thirty years. 
  • Koreans shipbuilders have a diversified spectrum of products, not just ordinary container ships and bulk carriers, but also sophisticated L&G carriers and others, such as the new types of structures for the offshore industry, as well as industrial structures build in modular form to be assembled on-site. This diversification gives Korean makers longer-term stability.
  • The core speciality in Korea is production engineering and productivity. This has been achieved by taking the industry to a new level of high tech, with exensive automation, excruciatingly sophisticated computerized control of production and scheduling. They are at least as good as the Japanese, but much better than the Europeans and Chinese in this regard.
  • The Chinese can be expected to take more and more of the low-cost/low-tech business from the Koreans, but the Koreans are moving up the value chain quickly.
  • The Koreans also benefit from a strategic mistake the Japanese made many years ago where they decided to emphasize pre-designed standardized ships. This limits the Japanese' ability to produce new designs.
  • It should be remembered that shipyards are really just huge, multi-disciplined industrial structure manufacturing facilities. Among those structures, some float and some don't. As the Koreans are strong in this aspect of finding new ways to excel, we can expect them to keep diversifying, including into the green energy industrial structures, such as large turbine windmills. The Koreans are also expanding overseas, as mentioned above, and STX even owns yards in Europe. 

Topic #3 - Korean Business in General

  • The Korean conglomerates ("chaebol") are moving from strength to strength and this success can be expected to continue. But what the Japanese have that the Koreans don't have is a strong small- to medium-sized company community. The Koreans are too dependent on the chaebol and this is a major weakness of the Korean economy.
  • Korean business is weak in services and in many aspects of management. There's high productivity on the shop floor, but low productivity in the office and in software.
  • When comparing Korea with Japan, it's also helpful to remember that Japan started industrializing nearly 100 years before Korea and so the Korean economy is like a cake that's grown too fast; it's all full of holes. Now Koreans are going back and filling those holes, one-by-one, but it takes time. 
  • Korean young people are going overseas to study in record numbers and they're bringing back new and innovative ideas. Once the generational shift kicks in and and the new generation moves into positions of power, the shift to a stronger small/medium-sized company sector, as well as better software and management capabilities, will take place.
  • Changes in Korea won't come from hiring in foreigners to positions of management authority but through an evolutionary, incremental process, developed within the crucible of Korea's own cultural persona and psychology.

Topic #4 - Negotiating with Koreans

  • When negotiating with a top-end multinational Korean company, the people there will have broad, international exposure and experience so negotiations can take place on international terms and conditions.
  • Koreans are price buyers and so if you're trying to sell to Koreans, once the basic qualifications are set, the Koreans are really only interested in price.
  • Unsophisticated small/medium industry companies get upset when they see a Western contract. Contracts between Koreans are often shockingly short, naming what the product is, how much and that's it. It's a totally different concept toward documentation and legal contracting.
  • So what the foreigner has to do to achieve his ends is to do adequate advance research. What kind of entity is the Korean party which whom he's negotiating? What previous contracts or negotiations have been accomplished? Which are successful and why? The Western company should approach the negotiations based on this.
  • When dealing with a small/medium industry company, a full-blown 25-page contract is a non-starter. The contract must be boiled down to basic, fundamental, can't-live-without-it terms and conditions. Everything has to be done in Korean, with some kind of legal and language assistance along the way.
  • A good way to bring a drawn-out negotiation to a close is to offer to split the difference 50/50.
  • When negotiating, make sure to always ask yourself "Do they really undderstand the points I'm trying to get across?". Continuously summarize in simple form. List clear, short options. This is because there aren't just language problems, but also cultural psychology difference problems. 60-70% of the major contract disagreements are caused by a failure to understand at the beginning.

Topic #5 - Hanok and the Korean Land Development Model

  • Peter has lived in the same Korean traditional style house ("hanok") for the last 35 years. Recently, the city government tried to demolish it to make way for a new development but Peter and a group of neighbors joined forces to successfully block this in court.
  • Koreans don't put value on old buildings. In the US and Europe, we can find many old style homes that are more than 100 years old. But in Korea, after 20 years, a building doesn't have any value; only the land has value.
  • Even restoration projects often involve tearing down old and replacing with new construction, such as the current "rebuilding" of the traditional south gate to the city of Suwon.
  • The years of rampant development, destroying old neighborhoods and natural beauty, to build new cities and developments is finally coming to an end. Ultimately, the government must stop deciding and planning these things without consideration for the market and environment.

Topic #6 - Wrap-Up

  • The position of Korea between China and Japan is absolutely ideal for Western companies looking for a base in north-east Asia. IRC is actively seeking companies whose services and/or products would be valuable in Korea, in order to support them in this process.
  • The key factor of doing business successfuully in Korea and in Asia is to do your homework about the companies or government entities with whom you need to interface to achieve whatever business aims you have. Don't assume that business is done everywhere the same or that there's going to be a magic bullet.

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

Author_book_dw

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

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

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

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

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Background to Joining Chadwick International in Songdo

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

Topic #2 - Setting the School Up in Songdo

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

Topic #3 - Education at Chadwick and Korea At Large

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

Topic #4 - About HP Korea and Korean Business

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

Topic #5 - Korean Challenges for the Future

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

Topic #5 - Songdo City

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

Topic #6 - Winding Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Background to Joining LG Electronics

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

Topic #2 - Getting Started at LG Electronics

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

Topic #3 - Supply Chain Management from a Korean Perspective

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

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

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

Topic #4 - The Departure of the Foreign CEOs

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

Topic #5 - Wrapping Up

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

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.

 


A Recap of Dr. Linda Myers' Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central - "Working at the Top in SK Group: An Insider's Story"

Author_lm Dr. Linda Myers was "inpatriated" to Seoul to raise global mindsets, lead global talent management, develop global policies and practices, and help accelerate globalization of the SK Group. She previously earned her masters and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.

To listen to the interview, download the .mp3, subscribe in iTunes, read the transcript and or discuss this interview and this topic with other members of Korea Business Central visit the English-language discussion link (http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/korea-business-central-394) or Korean-language discussion link (http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/hankug-bijeuniseu-nginteobyu). 

The full list of interviews in the Korea Business Interview Series is maintained here: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/interviews-2

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Dr. Myers' Background Leading To Her Position at SK Group

  • Factors leading to her global career: 1) Oldest child of deaf parents, 2) Mother's family immigrated to US during World War II, 3) Early international experiences
  • First contacted by a Korean executive recruiter in July 2007 for position in a Korean company. However, he was not able to refer Dr. Myers to anyone who had worked in South Korea before. This opportunity to be a trailblazer was an attractive challenge and Dr. Myers headed to Korea shortly thereafter without a clear job description, orientation or other preparation.

Topic #2 - Early Experiences in SK Group

  • Figuring out the corporate structure of SK Group was an early challenge, leading to a determination that others Dr. Myers came in professional contact with not be confused as she had been. She made sure every presentation about SK that she gave include an explanation that SK Group is the holding company owned by the Chey family and begun in 1953 which today has about 35,000 employees in over a dozen subsidiaries, all of which operate under instructions from the holding company, which also owns the most valuable business assets.
  • One of the most unsettling aspects of the job was realizing how unprepared SK was for helping a foreigner transition into a new post, and especially the Group's inexperience with global human resources concepts and language issues.
  • Learning about the company was a slow painful process, as Dr. Myers' questions were often perceived as critical. Fortunately, she was able to locate her own resources in the Seoul business community, which helped the adjustment immensely.
  • The three major factors governing the cultural and gender challenges Dr. Myers faced include 1) that Koreans adhere to the traditional collectivist Confusion cultural traits of harmony, hierarchy, in-group/out-group, school ties, favoritism, status and rank, 2) that her base of support was very powerful (at least at the beginning) because her position had been created by Chairman Chey himself and 3) that this base of support changed rapidly when the senior vice president was moved to a different position.
  • Dr. Myer's early achievements included being SK's best public relations effort through interviews, serving on commissions and travelling the world giving presentations to global MBA programs. Dr. Myers also championed a career website for the SK Group.

Topic #3 - Later Experiences in SK Group

  • The annual evaluation and reassignment of Korean executives between November and December of each year leads to a lot of uncertainty and upheaval. In Dr. Myers' case, the reassignment of the Senior Vice President of Corporate Culture to a different operating company changed the dynamics of Dr. Myers' position dramatically as she lost her sponsor and new personnel were less interested in her role.

Topic #3 - Lessons Learned During the Experience

  • Korean corporate talk about globalization leads Dr. Myers to react with skepticism, having lived and head stories of life as a foreigner in a Korean company, as well as cautious optimism, seeing the success that LG Electronics is having. [Note: Even LG Electronics' experience is called into doubt with the very recent departure of the expat team there.]
  • The apparent lip-service that Korean firms pay to globalization may be due to the fact that Koreans are still pretty isolated socially and adhere to Confucian traditions and customs. However, with the hosting of the G20 in 2010 and other achievements, perhaps this is a critical moment in Korean business history where Korea begins to open itself up in a bigger way.
  • For firms like SK to truly embrace globalization and change, the laws under which foreign talent is brought in must be clarified so that it's not as easy for contracted employees to be let go. Many foreign employees don't realize that they are expected to stay just two years. This is wasteful for the Korean company too, to take such short-term views. Korean firms needs to also figure out what they expect from foreign employees before bringing them over, and they need to provide the foreign talent with clear and measurable objectives for change that are supported and made accountable at the highest ranks of the organization. This includes providing each foreigner with a mentor and clearly established career path.
  • To properly compete on the world stage, Korean companies need to provide a level playing field with the rest of the world and remove the barriers they've put up to outsiders.
  • As for SK Group, a stronger customer focus and understanding of the distribution system in the US would have helped with recent businesses, and going forward, the Group needs to market its businesses in Asia, as well as in E. Europe, for betting understanding its customers and meeting their needs. This applies to China, too.
  • The top three issues Korean companies must deal with for globalization include 1) improving marketing so that Korean companies get the credit they deserve, 2) strengthening the knowledge sharing system across the company and 3) finding ways to reward employees for taking the initiative.

Topic #4 - Going Forward

  • Dr. Myers is currently writing an article about her time and experiences in Korea, scheduled for publication in January 2011. She is also preparing a case study geared toward MBAs with interest in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • In closing, Dr. Myers expressed her very deepest thanks and appreciation to all the Koreans who befriended her and taught her the many important lessons she learned during her years in Seoul.

 


A Recap of Tom Pinansky's Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central - "Understanding Korea's Legal Industry: Opportunities and Challenges"

Author_book_tp Tom Pinansky is Senior Foreign Attorney at Barun Law, as well as "Of Counsel" to US firm Prety, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios. Mr. Pinansky is active with various chambers of commerce in Asia, as well as international arbitration. He's lived and worked in Korea for over 20 years.

To listen to the interview, download the .mp3, subscribe in iTunes, read the transcript and/or discuss this interview and this topic with other members of Korea Business Central, visit the following discussion link: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/korea-business-central-56

The full list of interviews in the Korea Business Interview Series is maintained here: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/interviews-2

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - Overview of the Korean Legal Services Market

  • Tom has been based in Korea since around the time of the Seoul Olympics in 1988 following several years working for US-based law firms.
  • Barun Law, Tom's employer since 2005, is the newest major law firm in Korea, having been established only 11 years ago. The firm is particularly known for its litigation practice, having been founded primarily by former judges. However, Barun's international practice is growing quickly too so that there are now 140 professionals at the firm.
  • The Korean legal services market is unique considering the size and sophistication of the Korean economy. While most areas of commerce are fully open to foreign participation, the legal services area remains closed. It means that no international law firms are physically present in Korea.
  • However, the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) will open the Korean legal services market once it is ratified by the US Congress. There is other legislation in the works in Korea to open the market to foreigners but the KORUS is what Americans are mainly waiting on.
  • Just because non-Korean legal firms can't open up physically in Korea doesn't mean there aren't a lot of foreign lawyers working in Korea. These run the gamut from Korean lawyers who are members of the Korean bar, to non-Koreans and ethnic Koreans who are members of the bar in other countries. Some work in Korean law firms and others in corporate settings.
  • The titles that foreign lawyers can use in Korea depends somewhat on whether they are being expressed in English or Korean, and there is a lot of discussion going on about how this will evolve going forward so it's hard to predict the future regarding the use of titles by foreign lawyers in Korea.
  • Foreign lawyers cannot go into a Korean court alone to represent a client. But they can get involved with international arbitration, work with Korean colleagues on corporate and litigation matters, as well as other roles short of going to court.

Topic #2 - Foreign Investment and the Legal System

  • The Korean legal system is a civil system as opposed to the US common law system, meaning there are no juries. This avoids complicated discovery and evidence rules that you'd find in the US. Foreign investments in Korea that have been made legally can be adequately protected, though you can't deny that there's a bit of a "home-court advantage" for Korean companies.
  • Legal redress for foreign companies in Korea includes the court system, as well as arbitration. The Korean legal system is very efficient and results can generally be expected within nine and ten months, which is much faster than most jurisdictions in the United States.
  • During the mid- to late-90s, Korea liberalized its economy and there were a lot of joint ventures and direct foreign investment for which legal services were needed. Mergers and acquisitions really took off during the Asian economic crisis of 1997-1998, followed by strategic investors. This faded for awhile as foreign companies had a renewed interest in establishing their own companies. But the more diverse range of investments has been coming back over the last two years or so. There's also been a revival in private equity.
  • Because the legal services industry is closed to non-Koreans, a foreign company wishing to do business in Korea will require a Korean law firm. Korea is a successful economy but in general, the costs of many services, including legal services, are more expensive in Korea than in most parts of the US.

Topic #3 - Korean Investments Overseas

  • Korean investments overseas are called "outbound work" by Korea-based law firms. Weakness in the Korean currency over the past couple years sharply curtailed this activity but it is increasing again recently. 
  • High-profile recent outbound investments by Korean companies into the US include Kia's car facilities in Georgia, Samsung's semiconductor factory in Austin, Doosan's acquisition of Bobcat, real estate deals in New York, etc. Koreans are also investing a lot in China and other resource-rich regions.

Topic #4 - Korean Law Firms

  • The large Korean law firms have a core of internationally-trained lawyers with a broad variety of backgrounds and from a broad variety of jurisdictions. In many cases, Korea-educated attorneys are given the opportunity to study overseas and then come back to become partners in the firm that sent them. Tom is not aware of any non-ethnic Koreans who came to Korea, passed the Korean bar and are practicing in Korea as a local Korean attorney.

Topic #5 - Opening of the Korean Legal Services Industry

  • The Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC) consists of 27 member AmChambs in the Asia-Pacific region, and AmCham Korea is the respective member for Korea. Tom has chaired this organization for two of the last 15 years, though he's been affiliated closely with it during this entire time. APCAC and AmCham Korea have been lobbying hard for the passage of KORUS, in part because of the opening it will bring to the Korean legal services industry. KORUS would help nearly all American businesses and the current delays on the US side are allowing other countries to move ahead into the Korean market.
  • Regardless of KORUS, the Korean economic opening is inevitable though and there isn't much opposition to it anymore. 
  • Interestingly, though legal services are still closed, Korea is relatively open in many other areas, including real estate, whether residential or commercial.
  • Other Asian markets where the legal services industry is closed include Malaysia and India. Countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and even China have already liberalized. Japan today resembles what we might expect the Korean legal services market to look like in a few years.

 


Foreign Talent Leaving Korea Due to "Three Serious Difficulties"

Koreans are commonly concerned about how non-Koreans view their country, and one index for measuring this is the number of foreigners living in Korea.

According to an article in the Jungang Ilbo today ("Foreign Talent Leaving Korea Due to "Three Serious Difficulties"), the number of foreigners living in Korea is about 1.22 million. However, of these, only about 40,000 are classified as "professionals"; the others would mainly be laborers, students and immigrant wives.Furthermore, of the professionals, about 20,000 are in the English-teaching profession, meaning that there are about 20,000 non-Koreans working in Korea in professional jobs that are not related to ESL.

The chart below shows that the number of foreigners in Korea has more than doubled since 2005, but that the increase is slowing significantly.

Htm_2010100321504150005010-001

The article points out that the number of foreign professionals actually declined over the last year and in a survey, three main complaints foreigners have about Korea are listed in more detail in one of the sub-articles ("Schools for Foreigners Are Too Expensive... He Sent the Family Away and is Living as a 'Goose' Father" - "Goose Father" is the term Koreans normally use to refer to a Korean father who works in Korea to pay for his wife and children to live overseas for a year or two so that the children can get a foreign education.)

  1. The cost of education at international schools is prohibitive and the article mentions that professionals with school-age children often cannot afford to keep their families in Korea. 
  2. English is not spoken widely enough and non-Koreans speakers face a lot of difficulties, from things as basic as using appliances at home all the way to not being able to participate and thrive in the workplace. An American executive working for a Korean conglomerate is quoted as saying that her work was determined by what documents were translated for her by subordinates and that she was never given an English-language work review or specific work instructions in English.
  3. The government has put restrictions on the types of jobs foreigners can get a professional visa for and the procedures for getting such a visa approved are onerous. In many cases, this process takes 3-4 months and involves a letter of recommendation from a local government head. Considering the difficulties many Koreans have getting good jobs themselves, this letter of recommendation is not always forthcoming.

Htm_2010100321533550005010-001Finally, in a third article entitled "English Isn't Easy in Lectures or in Everyday Life... Goodbye, Korea", there is the story of an Indian professor, M. Desai (photo at left), who had signed a six-year contract to work at Seoul National University but ended up leaving Korea after only nine months, complaining mostly of the difficulties of working in an environment where English is not spoken fluently. This really surprises me because Seoul National University is one of the top schools in Korea!

These types of stories keep showing up in the Korean news and many Koreans are earnestly looking forward to the day that non-Koreans come to Korea and find it to be as international and liveable as any other globalized place in the world. It seems Korea still has a long way to go.

 


A Recap of Rob Everett’s Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central – “Transforming Lives, Shaping the Future; Innovation in Korea and Beyond”

 

Author_bookRob Everett is Managing Director of Kimberly-Clark’s Innovation Center Asia located in Korea, and the company’s Global Director of Discovery Research.

To listen to the interview, download the .mp3, subscribe in iTunes, read the transcript and/or discuss this interview and this topic with other members of Korea Business Central, visit the following discussion link:

http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/korea-business-central-10

The full list of interviews in the Korea Business Interview Series is maintained here: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/interviews-2

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 - About Kimberly-Clark and the Company’s Presence in Korea

 

  • Kimberly-Clark is a global company in the fast-moving consumer goods industry. 2010 sales are expected to reach US$20 billion across four business segments: personal care, consumer tissue, “Kimberly-Clark Professional”, and health care. The company has 53,000 employees and sells into 150 countries.
  • Kimberly-Clark’s Korean joint venture is Yuhan-Kimberly, a successful and leading company in Korea.
  • Kimberly-Clark’s markets are generally fairly mature, with low barriers to entry. So innovation is important in order to remain differentiated and build brand awareness.
  • The company’s research was traditionally North America-based but with global expansion, it became important to build innovation capabilities overseas, particularly in Asia.
  • Korea was chosen because of: 1) the availability of technical and scientific talent, 2) the existing brand recognition in the markets of Yuhan-Kimberly, 3) the fast-moving marketplace of Korea and 4) proximity to technology resources in the greater Asia-Pacific region. This has allowed Kimberly-Clark to work with Yuhan-Kimberly to develop and test products for the Asia market in general.
  • Kimberly-Clark’s Innovation Center Asia is located about 25 miles south of Seoul and opened in March 2007. There are 40 people working at the center but Rob Everett is the only expatriate on staff.
 

Topic #2 – Insights Into Team-Based Project Work at the Innovation Center Asia

 

  • Innovation Center Asia works with the company’s other two innovation centers in the Chicago and Atlanta areas through two global organizations: 1) corporate research and engineering and 2) the innovation design group. Teams in Korea work very closely with teams in the US on cross-functional teams; the intersection of these ideas often results in the best ideas.
  • Korean team members are particularly strong in technical abilities, which is the result of the Korean university system. Meanwhile, Korean staff receive training on how to relate to a low hierarchy corporate structure and the need for ideas to come from everyone in the organization regardless of rank. This is reinforced by a performance-based compensation and promotion system.
  • Since the traditional Korean company is hierarchically based and the educational system doesn’t emphasize project-based work, it is particularly necessary for Kimberly-Clark to re-align cultural expectations in Korea to match the company’s global culture. This situation is further supported by hiring staff with graduate-level training in the US or Europe.
 

P1000865Topic #3 – Activities of the Innovation Center Asia

 

  • Work at the Innovation Center Asia is carried out in close partnership with Yuhan-Kimberly, the company’s joint venture in Korea. This helps to establish an understanding of the market and find technology opportunities. These are then transitioned to business teams for commercialization. This same approach is taken with partners around the globe.
  • Most teams at Innovation Center Asia are working on global, long-term projects which are not region specific. About 20% of the projects are region-specific.
  • Work of Innovation Center Asia has lead to more than ten patent applications, and about ten different products on the market globally and in Asia.
  • The photo above is of the campus on which Innovation Center Asia is located south of Seoul.
 

Topic #4 – Innovation in Korea

 

  • Innovation becomes important in a market once the market starts to mature and the market growth rate slows. In Korea, growth traditionally came by importing ideas from other markets, such as Japan. But as this approach is becoming less effective, there is an erosion of margins and prices, and this is something we are seeing in Korea. The key to successful innovation is understanding what motivates customers in each market segment and responding to that.
  • A focus on design is a strong part of innovation in Korea and Innovation Center Asia has been able to leverage this Korean strength on several projects.
  • Korean business has spent decades playing catch-up; now that companies like Samsung have caught, and even surpassed, the competition, the focus has to change toward bringing new ideas to the marketplace as a leader. This is the position at which Korea finds itself in a variety of markets.
  • Global innovation leaders, such as Kimberly-Clark, 3M and GE, have succeeded by moving beyond where they started. This “DNA” of recognizing the markets around, identifying the dynamics of the company and then changing successfully for the future is common to global leaders who succeed for generation after generation. A great Korean example here is Samsung, which started out importing sugar and trading in textiles, but is now identified with high technology.
  • Multinational companies will succeed in Korea based on the quality of the labor force and government support of foreign direct investment. Though a lot of this is focused on manufacturing, there is an opportunity to focus more on R&D organizations in Korea. Leading Korean universities should develop curriculum to target students hoping to work in multinational organizations in orderto promote skills in open-ended projects.
  • Korea has the capabilities to be a global leader in innovation even though it may not be fully recognized for this yet.
  • Innovation pattern in Korea are different than those in other parts of Asia, such as Japan, China or Taiwan, mainly because of differences in markets. Japan is a mature marketplace, so innovation is extra important. But in China, sales can be achieved more easily just through penetration-based approaches that don’t focus on innovation. This is changing fast though, particularly in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. Korea falls somewhere in the middle between Japan and China.
  • The essence of innovation in the marketplace is not much different in Asia than in the West. However, approaches may be different. For example, there is more out-of-the-box thinking in the West and ideas are tried quickly and failure is common. In Korea, there is more of a focus on understanding the marketplace before executing.
  • Kimberly-Clark’s experience in the diaper market is a good example of how Korea can be a test-bed for innovation before applying good ideas to other markets. Kimberly-Clark’s current China business strategy for diapers was first developed in Korea. Based on that success, it is being rolled out in China, now. However, the test-bed approach assumes selling to the same level of the pyramid. You can’t apply Korea-originated strategies to low-income consumers in China.
  • Korea is an innovation leader in industries such as electronics, ship-building and automobiles. But rather than innovation being primarily an “industry thing”, it’s more of a “company thing”. Some companies are innovative, others are not, and this doesn't necessarily depend on industry.
  • Korean knowledge workers are particularly strong in technical training and work ethic. At the Innovation Center Asia, this has allowed local staff to get up to speed quickly on working in cross-functional teams and understanding performance-based promotion and compensation
  • There is a big opportunity in Korea for global R&D centers to be located here and the Korean government should focus on encouraging more companies to come and set up R&D centers in Korea.
 

A Recap of Tom Coyner’s Exclusive Interview on Korea Business Central – “Marketing to the Korean Consumer and Advertising/PR in the Korean Market”

Author_book_03 Tom Coyner is the president of Soft Landing Consulting. He has twenty-five years of experience in Japan and Korean working for American firms, as well as seven years working for Japanese companies in the US, and he is co-chair of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea’s SME Committee and Senior Commerical Advisor for Joowon Attorneys at Law in Seoul. Author of Doing Business in Korea, Tom is recognized as a leader in assisting foreign companies wishing to do business in Korea and his book is available online from Seoul Selection.

To listen to the interview, download the .mp3, subscribe on iTunes, read the transcript and/or discuss this interview and this topic with other members of Korea Business Central, visit the following discussion link:

http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/forum/topics/korea-business-central-9

The full list of interviews in the Korea Business Interview Series is maintained here: http://www.koreabusinesscentral.com/page/interviews-2

 

Main Points of the Interview

Topic #1 – Understanding the Korean Consumer

  • Korean consumers can be surprisingly demanding. One reason this came about is that Korean providers used to make up for inferior service by offering exceptional follow-up service. Today, Korean quality has improved, but immediate after-sales support is still provided. Foreign companies often fail in the area of customer service.
  • To succeed in the Korean market, foreign companies need to be competitively different than local companies, and do so in a way that local companies cannot easily emulate, such as by reputation or advanced functionality or engineering.
  • Koreans in their late 20s and early 30s often havve the highest disposable income in Korea, particularly since many are getting married relatively late and still living with parents until marriage. These people are very Internet-connected and fads and fashions change very rapidly, with word-of-mouth over the Internet driving consumer trends.
  • The iPhone is a good example of a foreign product that has succeeded in Korea by being different and better. The mainstream media, headily dependent on advertising from Korean producers, predicted that the iPhone wouldn’t meet the needs of consumers in Korea. But the young, affluent demographic didn't get its news from the mass media, but through the Internet and was ready for the iPhone
  • Korean women – often, housewives – control the family budget and their influence on family buying decisions cannot be ignored.
  • Koreans today are relatively free spenders and make buying decisions based on getting ahead – or at least, not falling behind – socially. Koreans will spend based on social pressures, at least as much as based on functionality.
  •  A key advertising theme for the Korean market is:  "This is the good life, this is what modern Korea is all about. You should participate in it like everyone else, so don't be left behind because everyone else is moving forward."

Topic #2 – Experiences of Foreign Companies in the Korean Market

  • A key question that determines whether a foreign companies is successful in Korea: “Does home office give the expatriates working in Korea the authority and means to adapt their products and services to the Korean market?”
  • One company that failed to answer the above question adequately was Carrefour; one that has been very successful is Tesco and their Homeplus brands, which they’ve done, in part, by posting very few expatriates in their Korea operation and relying on top local talent. This has allowed them to adapt thoroughly to the Korean market.
  •   The Korean market has, over the last 10-15 years, become very consumer driven, what Coyner refers to as “The tail wags the dog”. The days of limited consumer choice are long gone.

Topic #3 – Marketing Strategy and Market Entry in Korea

  • Korea is less risky than a number of other truly Asian markets. “Truly Asian” means those markets without a legacy of being British or American colonies.
  • Korea is a country ruled by law and the court system is reasonably consistent and fair. The probems lie with the laws themselves, which are often contradictory, but it’s not like China where contracts may be unenforceable.
  • It is relatively easy to invest in Korea, and to repatriate profits.
  • There are a lot of English-speaking business professionals and most market opportunities and resources are centralized around Seoul.
  • Korea is a good place to learn how to do business in Asia, before going into China or Japan. If you cannot succeed in Korea, you’re probably not going to succeed in China or Japan, either.
  • One challenge of business in Korea is the mindset, “Well, we don’t do this in Korea” as a catch-all for opposing a foreign approach. This retort needs to be taken with a grain of salt and not as a blanket reason not to do something different, which may in fact be an opportunity. You’ve got to do your homework in the Korean market and it takes maturity to know when to take risks in the Korean market.

Topic #4 – Advertising and PR in the Korean Market

  • The selection of advertising media depends a great deal in Korea, as elsewhere, on the product and demographic. Don’t overlook the power of Internet advertising though for many products and demographics since even Koreans in their 40s, 50s and 60s really do make purchasing decisions based on what they see on their PC screens or cell phones.
  • When selecting a local Korean advertising company, make sure your account manager isn’t just the best English-speaker person on-staff; insist on someone who’s more mature and has credentials with publishers and editors.

Closing Thoughts

  • Two reactions when people first come into the Korean market for the first time: 1) “I had no idea that Korea is so developed” and 2) “Compared to other markets, consumers are much more acctive and consuming a lot more.”