Ten ways Seoul can improve itself in 2012

December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

CNNGo.com/seoul is a news source I go to once in a while for interesting news in Korea, and the recently posted article 2012 New Year’s resolutions for Seoul really hit the mark! Some of the resolutions the writers suggest are things that have bothered foreigners (like me and the friends I met back in 2010) and natives for a long time–take the lack of public garbage cans, for instance, or the VERY over-priced coffee. My thoughts on the ten!

1. No more gargantuan cosmetic surgery ads

Yes, please! People say that you always know when you’re in the Apgujeong/Gangnam area, because the subway stops are plastered in creepy, huge plastic surgery adverts featuring extremely pale and inorganic, surgified (I made that word up) faces. The messages that these advertisements are sending are so deceptive and ingrained in Korean standards of beauty that Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world. Back in 2010 I mainly saw ads with pictures of slimmed down jawlines or double eyelids, but then when I went back in 2011 I saw breast-augmentation ads too. This was surprising to me because Koreans care more about facial features or being skinny than the chest area but I guess that’s changing…

2. Make coffee more affordable (and better-tasting)

There is a saying in Korean, which is ‘배보다 배꼽이 더 크다’ meaning ‘the belly button is bigger than the belly’. You would use this if you ate a meal and, upon ordering dessert, realize the dessert cost more than the main meal–or if the shipping and handling fee for a package costs more than what you’re sending to begin with. I would say this applies to the price of coffee at many chain stores as well–the coffee/drinks are 4,500 won and up when I can easily get meals for about that price or even cheaper. « Read the rest of this entry »


Common Mistakes Companies Make When Entering the Korean Market

December 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Even though I’m of Korean descent, I experienced strong cultural shock when I went to Korea for the first extended period of time in 2010. Then, when I went back in 2011, I thought I would be prepared for the trip but I again experienced culture shock, this time in the workplace. The lessons illustrated below are just one example of the differences between Korean and American (business) culture. Some lessons bear repeating, so if you missed this two-part article a few years back, here it is again. (Both articles by Tom Coyner, Soft Landing Consulting, 2008).

How Not to Enter Korean Market (Part I)

The basic story is that company A’s “Division Two” hired a local business development manager, ‘Mr. Kim’, but that miscommunication concerning job titles as well as American versus Korean labor laws (and termination procedures) led to the firing of Mr. Kim without due process.

Division Two’s Asia regional manager (let’s call him Mark), who had prior Korean work experience, came to Seoul from their regional headquarters and hired a bilingual Korean man (we shall refer to him as Mr. Kim) who had just turned 60 years old, though he looked and acted much younger. Mr. Kim was given the artwork for his business cards and told to produce bilingual cards in Korea.

A few weeks later, Mr. Kim was sent to Acme’s regional office for orientation. During that time, Mr. Kim showed Mark his business cards. To Mark’s chagrin, Mr. Kim’s card depicted him as president of Acme Services Korea. Mr. Kim’s real position was that of local business development manager ― a euphemism for salesman. Mark ordered Mr. Kim to recreate the cards with the correct business title. « Read the rest of this entry »