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The Diplomat: Korea needs to innovate

Robert Kelly of the Asian Security Blog has penned a piece in The Diplomat called “A Battle for the ‘Seoul’ of South Korea.

I’m not wild about the title, or actually sure what it means, but Kelly hits on several familiar notes regarding intellectual property rights and what he feels is a need for an injection of  innovation — something he says requires a profound shift at Korea’s very core.

Moving Korea toward more innovative production will require two major changes, perhaps so enormous they should be called cultural. First, Korean education needs to emphasize creativity and free-thinking more. Far too much pre-college training focuses on the rote recitation of answers with little underlying comprehension.

Drawing from his experience as an educator here, he says that the system…

…encourages an intense “copying culture” in which the instructor’s thoughts are treated like ideal answers to open-ended questions and parroted back.

And what would a piece on South Korean innovation be without a Samsung vs. Apple reference?

When the iPhone hit and Koreans learned of it, Korea’s telecom oligopolists panicked. They pressed the Korean government to maintain a protectionist security standard to prevent the iPhone’s arrival for two years, while Samsung effectively reverse-engineered the iPhone to create a competitor.

You can read the rest here.

About the author: Founder/CEO of Meme Communications Korea – www.memecommunications.com

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Drawing from his experience as an educator here, he says that the system…

    …encourages an intense “copying culture” in which the instructor’s thoughts are treated like ideal answers to open-ended questions and parroted back.

    I think “copying culture” means something else here.

  • http://vmphotography.com.au hoju_saram

    Far too much pre-college training focuses on the rote recitation of answers with little underlying comprehension.

    Am I the only person tired of hearing this same tired old argument about Korea’s lack of creativity and innovation by westerners? It seems to be a mantra in the English teacher expatriate community across the country.

    I don’t actually buy it. Korea has developed to the point that it has, not on the basis of innovation, but on discipline and hard work. In contrast, the west has degenerated because too many people think they’re creative geniuses who can glide through the education gauntlet to a job that pays them handsomely on the merits of their free-thinking liberal arts degree and bullshit talk.

    Rote memorization in the classroom is underrated, particularly for maths and science, and also for elements of second language learning. Sure, allowing kids a bit leeway in questioning their teachers and experimenting in different ways would be helpful (won’t happen), but more important is that workers and students do their jobs well, efficiently and with sound practical training behind them.

    Koreans are exceptionally clever people, and there are always going to be very smart people innovating, especially when R&D budgets increase. But I think in the future we’re going to see the Mr and Mrs Parks of the world lecturing the Mr and Mr Smiths on how to go about education and business and not the other way around.

  • cm

    The company that’s competing with Apple and giving them the run for their money is Samsung. Not Nokia, not Blackberry, not Motorola, and at least going by sales numbers and even innovation these days, even Apple. Apple is an innovating company, but they’re innovators in marketing, not technology. They were good at taking other company’s innovation and put them together into a finished product.

  • Awarren

    Hoju saram,

    On what basis are you just not buying Kelly’s opinions? Random guesses and hunches on what really goes on in Korean universities and companies, or a refusal to accept that things could be the way he describes it purely based on the observation that Korea has developed so much and it just can’t be so. Have you every taught at a Korean university or worked at a Korean company? I hope you can agree that the West’s many problems is just not relevant in trying to defend Korea’s shortcomings.

    Robert Kelly actually teaches outside the English language department at the University of Pusan, and undoubtedly put his neck on the line a bit to state his opinion so boldly in the Diplomat. The fact is many Koreans would secretly agree with what Mr. Kelley is saying, but would just prefer he not say it so bluntly.

    If anything, Korea needs more vocal people like Mr. Kelley, who are not afraid to give their opinion in spite of the risks. Foreigners who have worked in law, business and academia in Korea and are struggling to maintain their professionalism and standards know exactly what Mr. Kelley is talking about.

    I don’t mean to insult you, but if you can read Mr. Kelley’s piece and only feel it is just some tired argument, I can only opine that your experience in Korea did not provide you the opportunity to experience a lot of what Mr. Kelley is telling you. Would you agree this is possible?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I knew a Korean research scientist (now living overseas) who had a bright 16 year old son. I don’t remember the school’s science paper assignment (renewable energy or water conservation). His son wrote the paper, and his teacher gave him a C. Apparently, the student didn’t write back his teacher’s talking points. His father read the paper, thought the paper was written and supported well, and thought that the paper had contained original thought that was very impressive for his level.

    His father pulled him out of Korean schools that very week.

  • cm

    #4

    I doubt he’s in danger of getting fired for stating something that’s repeated thousands of times in the Korean academia.

  • genie222001

    “S. Korea’s technology trade balance lowest among OECD members

    SEOUL, Sept. 10 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s trade balance in technology transactions ranked the lowest among a group of advanced countries due to its weakness in original technologies, data showed Monday.

    According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the technology trade balance ratio of Asia’s fourth-largest economy came to 0.33 in 2010, the lowest among the 25 member countries surveyed.

    The export-to-import ratio serves as a barometer of a country’s competitiveness in path-breaking technology. An index below the 1.0 unit level indicates expenditure outnumbers earnings in royalty payments.

    The figure lagged far behind other advanced countries such as Japan and the United States, which reported 4.6 and 1.46, respectively, the data showed.

    “The country has been reporting shortfalls in technology trade balance as it focuses more on reprocessing foreign patents rather than developing its own,” said Kang Hyun-chul, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities Co.

    The country spent US$10.2 billion on overseas payments of royalties in 2010, up 21.3 percent from a year earlier, the organization said.

    In the cited period, local firms earned $3.35 billion from royalties paid by foreign companies, but their overseas payments far outweighed their income, leading the country to post a royalty balance deficit of $6.88 billion, the data showed.

    South Korea’s dependency on the U.S., which accounts for 57.4 percent of its royalty expenditures, also increased 23.4 percent on-year in 2010, the Paris-based club of industrialized economies added.

    “South Korea’s information technology industry focuses on applied technology and therefore makes huge royalty payments to foreign countries,” said Son Min-sun, a researcher at LG Economic Research Institute.

    “The country needs to make efforts in securing its own path-breaking technology and increase its royalty earnings,” he added.”
    http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/fullstory/2012/09/10/16/4500000000AEN20120910003200320F.HTML

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I normally enjoy reading Prof. Kelly’s work, but this one is an unusually terrible one. My reasoning is about the same as hoju. Plus, this one was a laugher:

    But there already has been one major casualty: gaming-obsessed Korea lacks a video game industry.

    WHAT?? Has Prof. Kelly seriously never heard of NCSoft, a $6 billion online gaming company? NHN, parent company of Naver, also has a significant video gaming arm called Hangame.

    This is the type of an egregious error that drains all credibility from the article.

  • dogbertt

    Agreed. This trope of “Koreans can’t innovate” is tiresome.

  • cm

    #8

    I think he meant the console game market, like the Microsoft xBox and Sony Playstation. If he meant the on-line gaming industry, then boy is he wrong, and then some.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    @8, theKorean:

    A fuller context of the quote you excerpted is the following:

    “Because Korea has not yet fully moved into the information economy, the costs of e-piracy feel invisible. But there already has been one major casualty: gaming-obsessed Korea lacks a video game industry. What should be a vibrant, creative, and high-profit industry was stopped dead in its tracks because domestic downloading pirated profits away. The Korean penchant to download almost everything will generate increasing trade friction, particularly under new free trade agreements (FTAs) with the U.S. and EU.”

    Also note that the author did not write that Korea lacks a video game company; rather the author wrote that Korea lacks a video game industry, which should be vibrant, creative, and high profit.

    “This is the type of an egregious error that drains all credibility from the article.”

    All credibility? Not damages or diminishes or leads the reader to question the credibility of the article?

    I think that dishonesty drains all credibility; this type of error leads me to question his example or the clarity of his writing.

  • YangachiBastardo

    Amen to that, Hoju… perfectly said

    And why is, generally speaking, Korea criticism and Asia criticism in general of such poor quality ?

    I personally think some Western jingoism and chauvinism are more often than not involved

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Also note that the author did not write that Korea lacks a video game company; rather the author wrote that Korea lacks a video game industry, which should be vibrant, creative, and high profit.

    The distinction between “company” and “industry” is noted, but I think what my NCSoft example is quite enough to rebut both points. And if there is any further doubt about Korea’s video gaming industry, please refer to this article: Link. Korea’s gaming companies has an annual gross revenue of $10 billion, earning three times more than Korea’s (well-regarded) movie industry. There are 20 publicly-traded Korean companies focused on gaming, and Korea’s gaming industry employs nearly 100,000 people.

    Given this…

    All credibility? Not damages or diminishes or leads the reader to question the credibility of the article?

    I stand by my words: it drains all credibility from the article. That Korea has a very strong gaming industry is an elementary fact. Any self-respecting Korea watcher has to know this point.

  • YangachiBastardo

    P.S.

    In early 19th century in my country lived some third rate pseudo-philosoher called Vincenzo Gioberti. In our derelict school system we still study some book he wrote “The moral and civil primacy of Italians”.

    In the pamphlet this weirdo claimed that Italians, despite their poverty, backwardness and lack of any political/military influence, could still claim some moral superiority due to their cultural achievements of the past, bolstered by the Catholic faith.

    Now fast-forward to the early 21st century and i see the same phenomenon in the whole Western world: despite the fact that enormous amounts of wealth are being transferred to the East, at a pace fast enough to shock even the most raging Asia bulls, Western people apparently like to lull themselves with vague, undefined and undefineable notions of cultural and creative superiority.

    Now personally when i hear people talking about creative classes and crapola like that, i smell delusions and decline.

    Say what you want but the truth is groups like Hyundai and Samsung are trouncing the competition, Taiwan has twice the density of millionaires of France and people are leaving in droves London to move to Hong-Kong and that liberal mecca of artistic freedom also known as Singapore.

    Money talks, creative bullshit walks

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Here is Robert Kelly’s CV:

    http://asiansecurityblog.wordpress.com/c-v/

    As you can tell, he:

    1) Doesn’t write academic papers on economic topics.
    2) Does not teach economics, political economy or business.
    3) Did not get his PhD, masters or bachelors on any of the aforementioned disciplines.

    In my opinion, he is not qualified to accurately make such sweeping generalizations about the political economy of Korea, or its business climate, especially since he appears to base it on mostly anecdotal evidence.

    In my mind I am more qualified to talk about economics, political economy and business than Dr. Kelly because:

    1) I have a dual bachelors from a more reputable undergraduate school than Kelly in International Relations AND Economics.
    2) I have written extensively on Asian economics, especially Korea’s business and political economy.
    3) I will soon have an MBA from a top 20 institution.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    TK,

    Agreed. Kelly’s big miss of NCSoft and Nexon (which was rumored to be buying Electronic Arts earlier this year) was a huge credibility damaging mistake.

  • cm

    He may not have all the qualifications and his comments about Korea’s gaming industry may be off, but it doesn’t invalidate his points about Korea needing to be more innovative and work on improving on basic science and research which Korea lacks greatly. That’s the line between being a good nation, to one that is great.

  • a-letheia

    Hoju-saram. Korea does indeed excel at hard (hi-tech, or vertical) innovation, but I don’t think Kelly is referring to that. The author is referring to “soft-innovation,” one which emphasizes the horizontal integration of industries and services, the kind of thinking that makes peoples lives better, easier, more enjoyable, and not the kind that simply generates a faster, higher-definition product than the last. Kelly’s smartphone example is a good one in this regard. The OECD REVIEWS OF INNOVATION POLICY: KOREA (2009) pretty much recommends the same things as this article. Soft-innovation, it is well known, does promote greater opportunities and income growth for smaller businesses, and not just the Chaebol. It should be pointed out, Hoju, that Korea asked the OECD for their recommendations, and it is not just a case foreigners (“English teachers”) sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong. Please read more carefully in the future, sir.

  • slim

    I thought WK936 went to USC?

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    cm,

    Neither do I:

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2011/02/12/facebook-vs-cyworld-no-comparison-only-lessons/

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2011/08/12/must-read-how-samsung-lost-the-opportunity-to-own-android/

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2010/06/09/samsung-getting-closer-against-the-iphone/

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2010/03/20/koreas-underdeveloped-service-sector/

    I actually like the first third of Kelly’s article, but what I don’t like is how it becomes kind of a West vs. East culture debate and the feeling by Kelly that the East has nothing to offer the West. Also, I don’t like the hearsay and anecdotal supports he uses. Greatly weakness his points.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936
  • dogbertt

    Giving anyone at least 23 better choices.

    And not looking that good on the gridiron this season.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    dogbertt,

    Not just “anybody” can get into those 23 better choices…. yes, we are stinking it up on the field.

  • Jieun K

    this same tired old argument about Korea’s lack of creativity

    It may sound clichéd but nonetheless rings true to me and probably many others in and outside Korean society.

    I don’t think Koreans are by nature incapable of innovation, but their age-old culture broadly speaking has long been stunting it.

    When you think about it, innovation is breaking the mold, getting outside the box, going afield from the trodden path. In a sense, innovation is deviation. In Korean society, however, conformity is the name of the game.

    And then there’s an ingrained aspect of hierarchy in their culture and language, which does not help push the envelope in any direction.

    The problem of non-creativity in Korea will hardly be resolved in a few generations. It’s not a matter of time. I think it has more to do with a structural limitation. Which begs the question: Is it ever removable or surmountable?

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    For those who continue to subscribe to the canard about Koreans’ purported lack of creativity, I offer my take on the passing of Steve Jobs: Can Korea be Truly Creative? It Already Is.

    One more point to add — what I find the most toxic is the fact that Koreans themselves widely buy the Western-centric bullshit that Korea is not creative, etc., creating an echo chamber in which continuously re-affirms this mistaken notion. Instead of being (completely justifiably) proud of their own achievement, Koreans buy into the self-hate.

  • yuna

    It’s not that the Korean culture is restrictive of innovation per se, even with the infamous Confucian culture etc.

    What it lacks is confidence in itself.
    This is prevalent in everything, tourism, promotion, electronics etc.

    It could have just focused on the domestic market for product development and would have been fine, but I think when the Chaebol went global it might have lost a little bit of the originality gained from the taylored for domestic market, but that might be little bit of price to pay for the benefit it reaped, as one can see from the Japanese companies.

    What Korea should stop doing :
    Listening to well-meant advice to get things right.

  • yuna

    wow theKorean, I wrote my comment before reading yours.

  • http://www.zenkimchi.com/FoodJournal ZenKimchi

    I see a lot of circling the wagons here.

    The dog doesn’t bark unless it picks up a scent.

    Many Koreans are quite creative, but the system discourages it. Quite a few people I know, including myself, have been in development meetings where the first thing is to look at other websites/properties and find which ones to copy. It’s hair-pulling to get through to them that we should do our own work and not copy others’ mediocre work.

    The trope that systems in Korea discourage creativity wasn’t just pulled out of some bitter westerner’s butt. To think that it’s a blanket statement that Koreans aren’t genetically creative is childish. People on the ground in the schools and in the development meetings have seen this repeatedly first hand.

    Or maybe they’re wrong and Korea doesn’t need to do anything to its perfectly fine education system and industrial practices.

  • MrMao

    So Wangkon trots out lankings to show just how innovative and non-hierarchical Koreans are now. Uh huh. The author of the article is clearly a moron, I’d rather listen to some pseudonymous guy on a message board who thinks that anyone cares where he got his undergrad degree. Wank on, my friend. Wank on.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Quite a few people I know, including myself, have been in development meetings where the first thing is to look at other websites/properties and find which ones to copy.

    I was an editor for my high school newspaper. Every time we were brainstorming for an issue, the first thing that the teacher told us to do is to gather around prominent newspapers (USA Today was her favorite) and find the neat graphic or layout to copy.

    Recently, I helped my in-law’s liquors to design a website. The first thing that web designer we hired told us to do is to look at other websites and find which ones we wanted to copy.

    Is anybody going to boldly expose the “copying culture” of America?

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    MrMao,

    You are either lazy or have poor reading comprehension skills. I listed the posts I had written that demonstrate my thoughts on the matter (which do not contradict Kelly’s basic points) and I have also mentioned that I liked the first 1/3 of Kelly’s article.

  • CactusMcHarris

    Recently, I helped my in-law’s liquors to design a website

    At least you have a reason for being drunk with power.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    At least you have a reason for being drunk with power.

    :D

    It should have been “liquor store”, but the way I wrote it is more interesting.

  • http://www.expathell.com thankswww

    While it is undeniable that respect towards copyright laws is lacking in the extreme here (in Korea), I think it’sa bit high handed for outsiders (foreigners, kyopos, Koreans who have fled the country and taken foreign citizenship etc.) to tell ‘Korea Inc.’ what it should and shouldn’t do while transitioning into a more developed state.

    What works in the West isn’t necessarily going to work here. What fails to work in the West may or may not fail here. The idea that innovation is the key to economic change may not actually hold any water with regards to Korea. Perhaps Korea Inc. should focus more on it’s core strengths; developing products in Korea, producing them in second countries, and exporting them to third countries.

    I also disagree with the idea that Koreans cannot innovate, and are not creative. There are many areas in which Korea has innovated, for example, adult entertainment in Korea is highly innovative. In fact, the speed with which I can have a “companion” dispatched to my home is second to none. I can literally have a young, surgically enhanced, eager to please adult companion dropped off at my house within 20 minutes of making a phone call, and that hints at a highly developed and innovative supply chain, which I challenge you to find in any other country. Furthermore, compared with other advanced nations, the prices are still rock bottom.

    Chaebol are also very highly innovative and creative. They are especially creative when it comes to their corporate structure, inheritance, and paying taxes. In fact, I challenge any reader to find a more innovative and creative group of companies operating freely anywhere in the world (Enron and Worldcom tried, but failed).

    Korea is full of innovation, and anyone who denies this fact is just a jaded expat who obviously has not attended a top 20 university, and has quite possibly spent too much time in Itaewon.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Thanksss for the nice irony . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • R. Elgin

    Per #30, TK, you are generalizing and poorly as well.

    ZenKimchi’s observation is to the point, accurate, based upon my experiences, as well. I believe the capability is present but management, in the private and public sector, is the weak point that causes more than a few problems.

    How does one solve that problem?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    I wouldn’t say that Koreans are lacking in creativity, full stop, especially artistic creativity. Rather I would characterise them as coming from an educational system that lacks original output training. They compose almost no prose in Korean; is it any wonder most are so helpless when it comes to producing anything in English? Nobody teaches them how to reference and cite in Korean; is it any wonder so many of them have trouble avoiding plagiarism? They very rarely present anything to anyone that isn’t carefully rehearsed and often written by someone else. While I’m no economist all of these factors can’t have a positive impact economically unless all you want is drones good at doing what they’re told.

  • Wedge

    #28: Thanks, ZenKimchi. Two words: Bin go.

    #7: Thanks, Genie. Those statistics don’t lie. Go ahead and pull the appeal to authority fallacy all you want, WK, but #7 tells the story. Can Koreans overcome this? Of course they can and they will.

    I like Kelly. He’s the only guy I’ve seen ask a Korean minister about the Lone Star debacle at a forum.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Someone brought up gaming and Korea’s role in the forefront of this industry. Can we really say this is a good thing?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #30 thekorean: Is anybody going to boldly expose the “copying culture” of America?

    et tu quoque, thekorean?

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Ah, the artist formally known as The Prestige has joined us!

    I have to say that you are a lot funnier when you focus more on social issues like ajosshis chest bumping each other or Korean meth addicts in your apartment building. I seriously think you are pretty funny.

    However, just making fun of something from your particular point of view in the 2nd or 3rd person doesn’t make your version of reality any more correct, especially when it comes to broad social, political and economic viewpoints. It just makes your viewpoint about as valuable as the next guy, but you just express them with more humorous, and cynical, flair.

  • ecw

    How are we defining and measuring innovation? Korea seems to do fairly well in studies that attempt to measure and rank countries by innovation:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2011/06/30/switzerland-ranked-worlds-most-innovative-nation/

    http://graphics.eiu.com/PDF/Cisco_Innovation_Complete.pdf

    They seem to tend to rank around the mid-teens in innovation, roughly where they rank in GDP. This is respectable. There are around 200 countries in the world. It doesn’t seem reasonable to say that Korea is not innovative, unless you want to define “not innovative” as any country not ranked among the top 10 in terms of innovation.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    ecw,

    How dare you look up quantitative reports and qualitative journalism from reputable business and economic sources. These expats who have lived in Korea have years of experience talking to Koreans on the street and in the classroom to draw from and just because they don’t “get” their so called “satire,” deem the culture too “rigid,” or don’t answer questions in ways they don’t seem fit, they anecdotally believe Koreans are uncreative, dull and uninnovative.

  • judge judy

    yawn

  • yuna

    Who says creativity has to come from one kind of culutre (Western) only?
    Restrictive regimes like the Soviet pressured lots of very depressed composers to write wonderful music.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #45 yuna, I see what you are getting at when you want to broaden the scope of creativity from business and innovation to the arts and music. My observation, and I freely admit is little more than a dilettante’s, is that Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music.

    My impression, particularly from the few popular music shows that I have seen, is that Korean’s appreciate spot-on renditions of the original, and the performers try to reproduce everything from the genre to vocalization. In short, I’ve heard wedding bands with more creativity in their interpretations of popular and standard songs than what I’ve seen here on TV.

    My ear is not nearly so tuned to differentiate classical violinists’, cellists’, or pianists’ interpretations of classical pieces, but I can definitely hear Rich Little wannabes in vocals.

  • slim

    That’s highly innovative use of the apostrophe there, A_J. Maybe it will catch on with Korean’s.

  • tinyflowers

    Why does it feel like we’ve read this same article a dozen times before? Still parroting the tired old tropes. Only the names change. How about you Korea experts get innovative and come up with an original thesis for once?

  • tinyflowers

    Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music.

    This is one area where Koreans most definitely do not lack for innovation. Get out of the well, little froggy.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #47 slim: That’s highly innovative use of the apostrophe there, A_J. Maybe it will catch on with Korean’s.

    Not so much innovative as standard written English. I’ve found that high scoring seuneung Koreans know the rule better than native speakers.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #49 tinyflowers:

    Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music.

    This is one area where Koreans most definitely do not lack for innovation. Get out of the well, little froggy.

    Examples please. I gave concrete examples that most of us have seen to back my thesis.

    I have seen so much aping of art, particularly western classical and Renaissance high art, and music (specifically the Celine Dion, Brittany Spears, Bill Whiters, so-well known performances) that so many Koreans seem like all the Frank Sinatra imitators paying drunken tributes at family weddings.

    (PS: Love the frog in the well allusion, but given that in Korea I am about as far from my home well as I can possibly get on planet Earth, it really doesn’t apply.)

  • Anonymous_Joe

    BTW, I know that sounds like a backhand, but I really want to see more Korean and Asian high art in art museums and with more appreciation. In more modern interpretations of art, I’d like to see more fusion: Koreans take their look at Western art and put their Korean spin on it. For example, I love Taipei 101. That’s an Asian spin on the Western skyscraper.

    The copying culture is much more pervasive, and in insidious, in Korea than you want to face. I remember when I first came to Korea and saw Western standards of beauty held up as models on larger than life posters in Korean department stores. You might not have noticed, but Korea has some beautiful women.

  • tinyflowers

    I have seen so much aping of art, particularly western classical and Renaissance high art, and music (specifically the Celine Dion, Brittany Spears, Bill Whiters, so-well known performances)

    There’s your problem right there. You got your Eurocentric blinders on.

  • tinyflowers

    Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music.

    My impression, particularly from the few popular music shows that I have seen, is that Korean’s appreciate spot-on renditions of the original

    If you’re getting your impressions from popular music shows and karaoke performances of Celine Dion and such, I have to ask, how much of your belief that Koreans “lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music” is due to your lack of exposure to real Korean arts and music? Hence the frog in well comment.

  • tinyflowers

    For example, I love Taipei 101. That’s an Asian spin on the Western skyscraper.

    What the hell is a Western skyscraper? I personally think the Taipai 101 is ugly, clunky and visually unbalanced.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    tinyflowers, you are truly a tiny intellect with a tiny field of vision if you have not seen the sheer amount of classical and Renaissance art that graces wannabe hip restaurants and atriums. The music observation is such self-evident truth that you dared not even touch it.

    (I appreciated the fair treatment of my quote in context, though.)

  • tinyflowers

    And your point? You still have your blinders on.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #55 tinyflowers: What the hell is a Western skyscraper? I personally think the Taipai 101 is ugly, clunky and visually unbalanced.

    The skyscraper, the first in Chicago theHome Insurance Building in 1884, is western architecture. I couldn’t tell you the first Asian skyscraper. Taipei 101, whether you like it or not, clearly has Asian accents and is a modern interpretation of the traditional Asian architecture.

    Although it is not tasteful to speak ill of the catastrophic, the WTC was never loved by New Yorkers, and many thought it an eyesore. The WTC lacked character, and aside from their sheer size could have been anywhere in the world.

    Though you do not like Taipei 101, you gave a nascent supported opinion (which is a start and new for you). I personally did not like Jose Feliciano’s cover of The Door’s Light My Fire, but I always recognized that he redid the song in a different genre, and I respected that. I often saw Van Halen as a cover band that put a slightly different spin on their renditions, hardly worthy of a do-over. Did their cover of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me really merit a recorded release? Virtually the same genre and same vocal interpretation.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    The copying culture is much more pervasive, and in insidious, in Korea than you want to face.

    It would be wiser to distinguish between influence and plagiarism in this discussion.

  • tinyflowers

    The skyscraper, the first in Chicago theHome Insurance Building in 1884, is western architecture.

    1)Didn’t ask for a wikipedia lesson.
    2)Doesn’t actually answer the question.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #59, typo aside, I do think the copying culture in terms of influence is much more (typo aside) insidious in Korea than Koreans want to face. The general Korean need to copy western culture and hold western culture up to the standard that establishes establishment is damaging to Koreans’ psyches (as in psy-cheez). Go to Korean department stores and look at the advertising posters for Korean ideals of beauty set up for emulation.

    I do think that Koreans’ acceptance of plagiarism is also an issue, but I am not convinced that the two, plagiarism and copying influence, are unrelated.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #60 tinyflowers, I posted #58 before I saw your post #57. The point is that I see so little traditional Korean influence in modern Korean cities’ architecture, museums, decor, universities… Hell, I’ve seen more Greek columns on Korean campuses than I have on American.

    Go ahead and explain how I still have blinders on.

  • cm

    “What the hell is a Western skyscraper?”

    Anything with square edges with no rounded corners, is a copy of the Western skyscraper. lol…

  • tinyflowers

    The point is that I see so little traditional Korean influence in modern Korean cities’ architecture, museums, decor, universities… Hell, I’ve seen more Greek columns on Korean campuses than I have on American.

    I disagree with the first sentence. Maybe get out more? And I’m still not sure what your point is. It appears you’ve changed your argument from “Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music” to “Koreans copy Western culture” because while you’ve attempted to support the latter, you have not supported the former.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Again, an “I disagree’ or opinion without support. Start supporting some of the opinions that you spew like diarrhea and are about as welcome.

  • tinyflowers

    From

    “Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music”

    to

    “opinions that you spew like diarrhea”

    Oh. The irony.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I do think the copying culture in terms of influence is much more (typo aside) insidious in Korea than Koreans want to face.

    While I agree with the gravamen of your comment (see my comment @25, which essentially makes the same point,) my point is that you would do well to use more precise terminology. “Copying culture” is too imprecise and encompasses a lot of things — in the OP, Prof. Kelly used the term to cover everything from run-of-the-mill plagiarism to Apple v. Samsung litigation.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    @67 theKorean, fair enough. Actually when I reread my post, I really want to change the preposition “insidious in Korea” to “insidious to Korea.” The minor distraction of tinyflowers aside, I think this other worldly veneration of western culture and aesthetics is dangerous to Koreans.

    I know from news and magazine articles that teenage girls in the ’90′s started to develop all sorts of inadequacy neuroses because they could not measure up to the images (which were not representations of real women because of everything from airbrushing and photoshopping to lighting and makeup) in magazines. When I walked through my first department store in Korea, my immediate thoughts were “what are we doing to Korean girls?” Most Western girls stand virtually no chance of looking like the girls in the magazines. Korean girls stand absolutely no chance.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #66 tinyflowers: from

    “Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music”

    Back to your old tricks, douchebag? I supported that statement in the same post. Here it is in full:

    #46 Anonymous_Joe: “#45 yuna, I see what you are getting at when you want to broaden the scope of creativity from business and innovation to the arts and music. My observation, and I freely admit is little more than a dilettante’s, is that Korean’s generally lack an appreciation for creative interpretation in the arts and music.

    My impression, particularly from the few popular music shows that I have seen, is that Korean’s appreciate spot-on renditions of the original, and the performers try to reproduce everything from the genre to vocalization. In short, I’ve heard wedding bands with more creativity in their interpretations of popular and standard songs than what I’ve seen here on TV.

    My ear is not nearly so tuned to differentiate classical violinists’, cellists’, or pianists’ interpretations of classical pieces, but I can definitely hear Rich Little wannabes in vocals.”

  • tinyflowers

    Reduced to petty insults are we? What’s next? You’ll sue me for damaging your “reputation”? lol.

    Your little anecdotes about those music programs are cute. Your conclusions are, as you say, diarrhea.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I see I’ve got my own personal internet stalker, one who can’t even quote me with a full sentence let alone in full context.

    If you want to discuss the dangers of reputation and misrepresentation on the subject of Dokdo, which is more dangerous in Korea than the red scare was in the ’50′s, specifically or in general, we’ll take it up with the mods. To the mods, I suggest that a policy is set that I don’t address or reference tinyflowers and he does not address or reference me. I can spend all day deflecting his misrepresentations, and the board could devolve into a tinyflowers bed.

  • slim

    These days, Korean girls have a 50- or 100-lb head start over most of their American counterparts in the race to magazine waifdom.

  • tinyflowers

    Joe, I like how you went from “I appreciated the fair treatment of my quote in context” to spewing vitriol and petty insults and screaming about misrepresentation. Did I miss something?

    I’m seeing a pattern. When you say something stupid and someone calls you out on it, you scream misrepresentation. I can understand why you dislike being quoted though. I would too if I wrote such indefensible drivel.

  • YangachiBastardo

    Back to your old tricks, douchebag?

    From Yangachi-Webster dictionary of modern English:

    douchebag- a Western mouth talking incessantly about creativity

  • YangachiBastardo

    I personally did not like Jose Feliciano’s cover of The Door’s Light My Fire, but I always recognized that he redid the song in a different genre, and I respected that. I often saw Van Halen as a cover band that put a slightly different spin on their renditions

    From Yangachi-Webster Thesaurus of modern English

    douchebag- Westerner into 60′s and 70′s rock n roll

  • slim

    Careful, YB. You listen to Euro-dance music and its Asian derivatives. That’s way lower on the food chain — so low that serious music critics don’t even bother with it.

  • YangachiBastardo

    slim: i’m essentially a punk guy, i personally believe Euro-dance ad its Asian derivatives are today’s purest descendants of punk rock…i could write some long tripe about why i think so but i doubt anybody other than me, myself and i would be interested

  • cm

    Here’s at least one school in Harlem whose American style education failed them, so instead has turned to Korean style education, right down to learning Korean as second language, and turning the school around. This is an interesting story.

    KBS news report here:
    http://www.democracyprep.org/video/kbs

    English language story here:
    http://voicesofny.org/2012/06/successful-harlem-schools-take-cues-from-korean-education/

    Korea Times report about school’s students visiting Korea here:
    http://news.hankooki.com/lpage/society/201211/h2012112102380421950.htm

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #73 tinyflowers: “…I like how you went from “I appreciated the fair treatment of my quote in context” to spewing vitriol and petty insults and screaming about misrepresentation. Did I miss something?”

    Yes, your usual pattern of quoting out of context. The quote applied to the rarest of rare quotes you actually quoted in context. I made a point of complimenting you because you actually used my words in context in one of your replies. The other quote was taken out of context and not even the full sentence. You altered the meaning.

    Where do the mods keep the can of troll spray?

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Well, wrote and submitted my comment for the article in question. As promised, here it is reposted:

    “I believe there are some basic weaknesses to this article. To start with its written by an author who is an international relations professor. Not an economics or political economy professor nor someone who has a economics or business publication history. According to his CV, he has no economics, political economy or business instructional or publications history. He simply isn’t well qualified to make sweeping and generalized commentary on a nation’s economy. At least not commentary that one should believe is authoritative.

    Now let’s go to his central points. The first point is that Korea is a cheater and a copier and his central evidence is the battle between Samsung and Apple. First of all, it’s been determined that Samsung was not a copier in many courts around the world including Dutch, British and Japanese courts. As the one of the co-founders of Apple, Steve Wozniak, indicated, the verdict in San Jose may not be indicative of reality and may not even stand. He clearly didn’t think Samsung copied. In my mind, it hasn’t been fully established that Samsung has copied in this situation. They certainly benchmarked, which is completely permissible in a globally competitive market. Lexus’ first car looked very much like the Mercedes, but Toyota was never called a copier.

    Also, the author said that since Samsung was “desperate” because they were late in the game, they must have copied Apple and that’s why Apple has tried to sue them. However, Apple has tried to aggressively litigate HTC, Motorola, Microsoft and Google. They even reached a settlement with HTC. Does that mean any of the aforementioned companies copied Apple too? Is Apple going full steam ahead with Samsung in the courts because they copied or because they are just the biggest target in the industry since they sell the most phones? The author’s reasoning, as it is currently supported, is a propositional fallacy.

    Korea at this point, like Japan was earlier, is a “systemic” innovator. The author doesn’t appear to know what systemic innovation is. If he had a management consulting background or if he consulted with established business analysts, he would. It is clear to me he hasn’t and that’s why you don’t give international relations professors a platform to pontificate business and economic issues. Briefly, systemic innovation is to take existing technologies and processes and make it better, faster, smaller, cheaper, etc. Samsung is great at making chips smaller, faster and consume less power. That’s why Apple has Samsung make them their logic chips. LG is very good at making displays smaller, thinner and sharper. That’s why Apples use a lot of LG displays. LG also makes very good batteries, which is why GM picked LG to make the battery for the Volt, over U.S., Japanese and Chinese battery manufacturers. Korea is innovative, just not innovative in a way that this author can understand.

    Another “proof” the author cites of Korea’s more innovation is their gaming industry, yet he fails to mention that Korea has a very robust PC and mobile gaming industry. Korea is the home to two major gaming companies: Nexon and NCSoft, who have market capitalizations of $8 billion and $3 billion respectively. The author’s apparent ignorance of this is not only inexcusable, but damages his credibility.

    Could Korea be more innovative, reform its business climate (especially the chaebols) and its education system? Absolutely, but so can everyone else, including (and especially) the U.S. The author implies that the West has the answers, but fails to mention that the West as its own problems too and can hardly provide a model for emulation, Apple not withstanding. Given the gaping holes in this author’s analysis, his points, although they may have some merit, offers no realistic solutions or analysis that is valuable enough to base policy on or base further research on. Both Korea’s achievements and current shortcomings deserve better quality commentary, but not this “opinion piece” that has sizable logic holes and recommendations based on anecdotal and hearsay observations rather than expert and professional analysis.”

  • http://vmphotography.com.au hoju_saram

    Nicely written.

  • Jieun K

    i could write some long tripe about why i think so but i doubt anybody other than me, myself and i would be interested

    No, no, please go ahead. Let me lend you an ear.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    77 YangachiBastardo: “i’m essentially a punk guy, i personally believe Euro-dance ad its Asian derivatives are today’s purest descendants of punk rock…”

    Sure. …if you stripped punk rock of its social commentary and over-produced it, then I can kinda, almost see your point.

  • Awarren

    I have never met any foreigner or Kyopo who has served serious time in the corporate or real academic trenches in Korea who does not understand what Robert Kelley is saying. Sure you can pick here and there, and find some areas of exaggeration, but if you dismiss it the way that WangKon and HS do, it can only mean that you haven’t worked under serious organizational Korean management in your life and fundamentally do not understand what he is saying. It is like writing about war and never having experienced it for yourself.

  • slim

    It’s say its disco without the soul.

  • slim

    IT’S disco

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    @84

    Well said.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    @84, I think you nailed the situation for those of us who observe Korean institutions as outsiders. I don’t know whether its our observation biases, borne from so many observations that we look for and therefore find more confirming observations, or cultural differences, which I am tired of hearing as a way to dismiss (particularly educational) institutional dishonesty and yet some how not indict the culture.

    @84 Awarren’s conclusion differed sharply from theKorean’s “This is the type of an egregious error that drains all credibility from the article.” One might be tempted to say “the truth lies somewhere in between”, but in academia there is no such thing as a little bit of academic dishonesty, just as for a woman there is no such thing as a little bit pregnant.

  • slim
  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    It is like writing about war and never having experienced it for yourself.

    More like writing about Korea without being able to understand the language or going beyond one’s narrow, narrow social circles.

  • Awarren

    So that is your defense TK, and if I proved to you that I knew Korean, would it change your mind at all?

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I actually have no opinion as to you, since I don’t know you. But if you understand Korean enough to read the newspaper, and regularly do, I would consider your opinion to be more valuable than most other dreks that I see on this space.

  • jkitchstk

    # 88,
    “but in academia there is no such thing as a little bit of academic dishonesty, just as for a woman there is no such thing as a little bit pregnant.”

    Nice

  • cm

    “In my mind, it hasn’t been fully established that Samsung has copied in this situation. They certainly benchmarked, which is completely permissible in a globally competitive market. ”

    I agree with WK that the term “copying” by the original author was going a bit overboard. But his main point isn’t lost – that Korea Inc still a follower of trends. Going back to Samsung, it wasn’t Samsung that came out with the iPhone. Samsung had technological capabilities to build hardware ingredients of the iPhone, yet it was Apple who were smart enough to come up with this design in the first place. I think that’s a very good relevant example of what the author’s main point is.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #92 thekorean: “I actually have no opinion as to you, since I don’t know you. But if you understand Korean enough to read the newspaper, and regularly do, I would consider your opinion to be more valuable than most other dreks that I see on this space.”

    @92 thekorean, when you used the words “I would consider your opinion to be more valuable than most other dreks that I see on this space”, whom did you have in mind in “most other dreks”? Please, name names.

    I mean besides Awarren, of course, because you’ve already included him in dreks, and I’m curious as to whom you consider the other dreks.

  • cm

    But is being a follower, not the leader, all that bad? I say no.

    Being a follower which can adapt quickly to change and trends is less risky than a leader who may spend millions of dollars in research that may not come to be commercially viable.

    Let’s go back to Samsung Apple analogy again. Which company do you think, in the long term, will win the smart phone race? The Apple the jock, who blazed the smart phone trail, or Samsung, the quiet nerd in the class room who just gets good marks? Just like the example of how IBM PC’s lost out to the PC clones, my money is on Samsung.

    I’ll let Foss Patent explain, which I agree with.

    http://www.fosspatents.com/2012/11/soft-stance-on-patents-would-cost.html

    Being the leader in the fields, is not all that’s cracked up to be. There are certain advantages and disadvantages that both must be looked at.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    cm, I agree with you in both your original and follow up posts. When I read your first post, which I thought explained your idea very well, I thought about Xerox and Apple Computers. Xerox in a very well known tech story pioneered the GUI and mouse input system. Xerox, which was a business behemoth at the time, sat on them. I don’t know that the once ubiquitous xerox (which was also a verb and on par with google it) even still exists.

    I did not want to follow up your first post, again which you wrote so well, with the business lesson that you in essence wrote in your second: the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

  • Bendrix

    Creativity can’t be taught. It can only be encouraged. So it’s not that there’s no innovation in Korea. It’s just not fostered or valued as much as in more individualistic societies. Hopefully, that means only the truly capable attempt this in Korea. There is too much crap creativity and too many posers in the West.

  • Jieun K

    All you naysayers had better shut up now. Korea is going to be the King of Asia! Korea No. 1!

  • genie222001

    Can anyone explain why Korea has yet to receive a Nobel Prize in an academic field.

  • http://f5waeg.blogspot.com/ F5Waeg

    “Korea at this point, like Japan was earlier, is a “systemic” innovator. The author doesn’t appear to know what systemic innovation is. If he had a management consulting background or if he consulted with established business analysts, he would. It is clear to me he hasn’t and that’s why you don’t give international relations professors a platform to pontificate business and economic issues. Briefly, systemic innovation is to take existing technologies and processes and make it better, faster, smaller, cheaper, etc. Samsung is great at making chips smaller, faster and consume less power. That’s why Apple has Samsung make them their logic chips. LG is very good at making displays smaller, thinner and sharper. That’s why Apples use a lot of LG displays. LG also makes very good batteries, which is why GM picked LG to make the battery for the Volt, over U.S., Japanese and Chinese battery manufacturers. Korea is innovative, just not innovative in a way that this author can understand.”

    This is basically a nice summary of conversations I used to have with Koreans and expats alike when I first came here years back.

    Doesn’t change the fact that Koreans have yet to introduce anything really game changing as far as innovation is concerned. You can improve on something, make it better, faster, cheaper, but that’s simply part of the normal process of tech development anyway.

    I do have hope that Korea will become more innovative. Let’s wait a few more years and see.

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer

    Korea at this point, like Japan was earlier, is a “systemic” innovator

    Is that what they are calling mercantlist protectionism these days?

  • dinkus maximus

    F5 – Korea innovates consistently if you look in the right places. Rice triangles? Vanilla soju? Cigarrettes that have menthol beads in them? Booking? Come on man.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    #98 Bendrix: Creativity can’t be taught. It can only be encouraged. So it’s not that there’s no innovation in Korea. It’s just not fostered or valued as much as in more individualistic societies.

    Although creativity can’t be taught, it can be smothered and quashed, have the stuffing beat out of it, and hammered down like the lone nail whose head sticks up.

    Hopefully, that means only the truly capable attempt this in Korea. There is too much crap creativity and too many posers in the West.

    Your observation about too much crap creativity and too many posers in the West might be valid. However, in the West there is a marketplace for ideas and creativity where the crap ideas get winnowed out and the posers do not survive through Darwinian market selection.

    The marketplace for ideas and creativity also provides a testing ground for those crap ideas and creativity to adapt to quality. Are the truly capable imbued with their capability at birth?

    (Going farther afield, isn’t imbued at birth part of the Confucian order? Isn’t the Confucian order then central to the cultural problem of creativity?)

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    “Is that what they are calling mercantlist protectionism these days?”

    No Sperwer. That would be called “Import-substitution industrialization” and “Export-oriented industrialization” policies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Import_substitution_industrialization
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export-oriented_industrialization

    Those and “systemic innovation” are completely different concepts.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Awarren,

    I think Kelly can probably write a pretty good article on cheating and plagiarism in Korean academics and academia. However, I think it’s a stretch for him to connect academic plagiarism with copying in the business world in the way he does. Are the two positively related the way he says it is? Maybe, but he doesn’t convincingly prove it. He just connects them via fiat. That’s just a bit too dogmatic for me.

  • Maximus2008

    @84,
    As Sperwer said, that’s a very good point. I have worked in a Korean organization, and saw it from inside.

    @TheKorean,
    You may have some good points every now and then, but you’re too blind to your nationalism. And you always keep referring to “ability to read newspapers”, as if the papers brought all the truth (while we know that the Korea press is as shitty as many undeveloped countries).
    You’re far from reality, living there in the US of A. Come here, work here, see how it is, then talk.
    I don’t think you can even debate on law (your specialty, right?) in Korea with/against Brendon. You’re far from here. And if your only source is the papers…