The Marmot's Hole

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Category: South Korea (page 1 of 207)

Pardon moi?

Citing the downturn in the Korean economy, members of Park Geun-hye’s ministries have floated the possibility of special pardons to conglomerate owners and family members in prison on convictions of economic crimes such as embezzlement, breach of trust, and incurring losses to their companies.

On September 24, Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn hinted at the possibility of releasing or pardoning imprisoned businessmen by rhetorically asking, “Couldn’t they be given a chance if a national consensus is formed?”, and on September 25,  Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Choi Kyung-hwan supported  Hwang’s position:  “Punishing businessmen with excessively stringent penalties is no help when it comes to economic recovery.”

Candidate Park Geun-hye campaigned on a promise that President Park Geun-hye would have zero-tolerance for chaebol chiefs’ crimes.  Hwang had previously reiterated PGH’s stance for strict application of law regarding business irregularities, and a special amnesty in January did not include businessmen involved in financial crimes:  “The Justice Ministry last year declared that those in leadership positions in society and high-ranking government officials will not be given parole, as a matter of principle. It was in that spirit of nontolerance that Park Yeon-cha, former chairman of Taekwang, was denied parole even after approval was granted by the parole board.”

Chaebol Prisons Sentences

Now two high ranking members of PGH’s ministries have publicly voiced statements for some tolerance.  Given PGH’s bloodlines, Korea’s hierarchical culture, and PGH’s reputed imperial presidency, any remaining doubt whether PGH herself tested the proposal should be dispelled by Cheong Wa Dae’s failure to rebuke, deny, or distance itself from the proposal.  More so, two officials from two separate ministries making two such statements on two consecutive days feels like a toe in the water approach to ease the cold shock of an inevitable plunge.

The one positive, real difference that I had seen in PGH’s presidency was her stance on chaebol chiefs’ misconduct and the signal that got sent to Korea’s subculture of corruption.   Cheong Wa Dae’s seeking economic salvation from criminals convicted of accounting fraud, tax evasion, and embezzlement seems like bringing back the fox to shape up the hen house.

Pardon me, but are convicted criminals truly the best Korea can do?

Korea to sign on the F-35 dotted line and some KF-X news

It seems to take nations forever to figure out if they are going to buy into an expensive fighter jet procurement program, or not.  So, although Korea stated its intention to select Lockheed’s F-35 back in March of this year (40 jets for ~$7 billion USD), apparently today Korea stated its intention to actually sign on the dotted line.  What probably took six plus months was the negotiations for tech transfer for Korea’s native KF-X program.

It’s apparent that the Koreans wanted to negotiate all they could from Lockheed to get as much tech transfer as possible.  To get to this stage, the Koreans essentially has to say no to the Sweds and their Flygsystem 2020 stealth program and the Euros, who offered to throw in the kitchen sink, including full sharing of engine and avionics technology.

Despite all these promises from the Euros and the Swedes, the Koreans decided to go with the Americans for all three F-X phases, with one and two going to Boeing’s F-15K “Slam” Eagle and phase three going to Lockheed’s F-35A.  If the Koreans were okay with dissing other technology partners, pray do tell what did Boeing and/or Lockheed promise to the Koreans, regarding technology transfers?

According to the NYT:

The deal, which has yet to be signed, includes undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed to help South Korea’s $8.2 billion KF-X program to develop its own advanced fighter jet, the procurement agency said. The procurement agency said its negotiations had also involved the United States government, whose approval is often needed for technology transfers, suggesting that the deal had already received the government’s blessing.

So, what are these “… undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed…”?  What did the U.S. government agree to allow to be transferred?  It’s got to be more than what the Sweds and Euros were promising, right?  I’m damn curious.

Anyways, in other news, Japan is going forward with its own indigenous stealth jet designs (spearheaded by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) called the ATD-X Shinshin.

(Photo from The Aviationist)

Hummm, the technology demonstrator (above) looks like a stealthy version of a Super Hornet.

Regarding native Korean attempts at stealth, the wheels seem to be turning slowly but excruciatingly forward.  The Defense Ministry has finally decided on which basic design the KF-X will take, ultimately opting for the double-engine configuration.  The battle between the single and twin engines have been a battle between the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Agency for Defense Development (ADD).  ADD has always wanted to the two engine design and DAPA has always been more conservative.  The cost difference between the single engine is $6.2 billion USD vs. $8.3 billion USD in R&D costs alone.  Off-the-cuff, it has been know that the ADD prefers the C103 design (i.e. non-forward canard configuration), although no twin-engine design has yet been finalized.

(ADD’s C103 design, image from Chosun.com)

With this design, the estimated cost of R&D is $8.3 billion USD and procurement of 120 craft after 2020, the total budget is expected to be $19.7 billion USD, easily Korea’s largest single defense expenditure ever.  Given the shear size of this project, getting the National Assembly to approve the budget is going to be quite an experience, I’m sure.

Any ways, KAI will be building a special development center for the aircraft and GE has been eagerly requesting to be the main contractor for the engines.  More to come, I’m sure.

Might as well spit this out while I’m on here.  In T-50 news, an internal U.S. Air Force report (the air force’s air university division, I believe) has essentially endorsed the FA-50 as the ideal platform for  America’s T-X program (trainer).

Colonel Michael Pietrucha states:

The service should procure the F-X, envisioned as a T-38 replacement, in three variants.  The base airframe; T-X, essentially a modernized T-38 equivalent purchased off the shelf- would constitute the most numerous aircraft (400).  The AT-X would take the form of an all-weather, combat-capable, multirole T-X with air-to-ground capability including guns, rockets, and precision guided munitions.  The FT-X would be a fully capable light fighter with a modern air-intercept radar and air-to-air-missile capability comparable to that of the F-16C.  The FT-X is intended as a good fit for the Air National Guard’s ASA mission and for use as an aggressor.

A  “base airframe” that’s “off the shelf” and can be tailored into “three variants” like trainer,  ground attack and fighter, huh?  There’s only one product that fits that bill: the T-50.

Oh, and lastly thumbs-up Madame President!

Koreans now drink more coffee than eat white rice.

The headlines are saying that Koreans drink more coffee than eat rice, a statement that’s patently false.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.00.14 AM

(Graphic from I Am Koream)

White rice 7 + multigrain rice 9.5 = 16.5 total rice > 12.3 coffee, no?

However, there is very little doubt that total Korean intake of rice has been decreasing over the past few years, particularly among urban dwellers.

Do North Korean refugee women dream of finding their perfect South Korean meal ticket husband?

What usually comes to mind when one thinks of North Korean women?  Those pretty cheerleaders that the North occasionally send out to international sporting events?  Women who, by very nature of being malnourished, being an average of 2-3 inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts?  Prettier than average Korean women in line with the Korean saying, “남남북녀” (“Namnam buknyeo”), or in English “Southern men [are handsomest], [and] northern women [are prettiest].”

Well, according to The Hankyoreh, at least one matchmaking agency has drawn some cartoons to expound their own stereotypes of apparently economically desperate North Korean women refugees looking for South Korean husbands to take them away from their destitution.

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

The blog Korea Exposé offers interesting English commentary:

A North Korean woman, alone in her cheap government housing, asks, “I want to get married. Where is my love?” She daydreams of being only in her underwear, straddling her ideal South Korean man, and calling out to him in affection, “My dear husband.”

That controversial advertisement by a matchmaking firm specializing in bringing North Korean defector women and South Korean men together was abruptly pulled late last month amid a firestorm of criticism at the way it depicted North Korean women as lonesome, sexually charged, and desperate.

Added bonus?  The same match making agency put out another cartoon explaining the, uh, “benefits” of having children with North Korean women:

(Image from The Hankyoreh)

No brown interracial children!

Open Thread: September 21, 2014

Lost Count + 1

MBC says Korean Tourism is “Shameful.”

The blog koreaBANG comes out with some good stuff every now and then.  Added bonus?  They translate some Korean reader comments into English.  Yesterday they outlined MBC’s exposé on how some tourists (namely from that country just across the Yellow Sea) were being “taken for a ride” and how it could be damaging Korea’s long-term reputation as a tourist destination.

Korean tourism has made great strides over the past ten years, from 4.8 million tourists (or “number of arrivals”) in 2003 to 12.2 million in 2013.  However, despite the growth, there is some evidence that Korea may not be getting a lot of value from the increased numbers.  Part of it is structural (i.e. lower income of Chines visitors vis-à-vis Japanese tourists, the rising value of the won, etc.), however, some of it may be due to unscrupulous Korean merchants.  According to the MBC report a lot of tourists are getting scammed, leaving a bad taste in tourists’ mouths and threatening Korea’s long-term tourism growth:

However, Korea may not be drawing as much value from their tourist numbers than they perhaps should.  According to the MBC report a lot of tourists are getting scammed, leaving a bad taste

The shop owner: “This jacket is 120,000 won. The price is so cheap compared to its high quality.” The Chinese man paid about 210,000 won for 3 pieces of clothing.

The journalist tried buying the same clothes in the same shop.

(Journalist: “How much is it?”)
Shop owner: “You can take it for 55,000 won, if you pay cash.” When the journalist bought the same clothes that the Chinese man did, the price was about 100,000 won cheaper.

[...]

… Police investigated a Korean restaurant for Chinese tourists only, qualified as an outstanding restaurant by Tourism Board Organization. In the kitchen they found food that had passed the expiration date, and even leftovers that had been stored in the freezer.

Police: “3 years has passed (since the expiration date), 3 years.”

The same problem is occurring with accommodations. Among 70% with quality credentials have been reported for not meeting the requirements of a quality guarantee. Organizations awarding these credentials can also not be trusted…

The government has decided to loosen many regulations in order to raise the number of foreign tourists to 20 million by 2017. However, people point out that the government should combine all the quality assurance systems into one, and run it well.

So, there could be some long-term issues with Korean tourism and greater infrastructure integrity needs to be maintained while the industry continues to grow.  So, who has Korea decided to have helm the ship in these challenging waters?  Well, one important appointee is a former actor named Johnny Yune.  Ah, Johnny.  A very colorful guy who’s Korean-American (i.e. he’s got a U.S. passport), got his big break when he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1980s and starred in the comedy movie “They Call Me Bruce?” (a surprising hit movie making almost $17M in only 325 screens in 1982).  He also had his own talk show on some UHF channel called “The Johnny Yune Show.”  Wow, can’t make this stuff up!  Well, there’s always a chance that Johnny will pull a Reagan (another former actor) and perform better than expected.

A couple more interesting Korean tourism factoids:

  • Russians apparently spend a lot of money in Korea while they are visiting.  Apparently for “medical tourism” (yes, plastic surgery is counted in those “medical tourism” numbers).
  • As far as Korea’s tourism has come, its overall size is still small compared to the rest of the OECD. Korea’s direct tourism industry accounts for about 2% of the GDP, whereas the OECD’s average is 4.7%.  However, that isn’t the median (which is probably somewhere around 3.8 to 4.0%).  The outlier Greece has skewed the average a bit with its whopping 16% of GDP.  Wow, they sure are getting all they can out of some warm weather and some ancient ruins.

How happy are you?

It’s a simple question and one that Gallup-Healthways attempted to gauge by asking 133,394 people in 135 countries 10 questions (see page 106 for methodology).

The Global Well-Being Index includes the five elements of well-being:
• Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
• Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
• Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
• Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community
• Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Surprisingly, the happiest country in the world is one that was artificially divided in the last century:  Panama.   Measured by the percentage of respondents who self-reported as thriving in at least three categories, here’s the top 10:  Panama (61%), Costa Rica (44%), Denmark (40%), Austria (39%), Brazil (39%), Uruguay (37%), El Salvador (37%), Sweden (36%), Guatemala (34%), Canada (34%).  Buoyed by Latin America, the Americas self-reported as the world’s happiest region.  The United States came in 12th.

Blah, Blah, Blah… What About Korea?

Korea ranked 75th.  Only 14% of respondents self-reported that they were thriving in at least three criteria.  Korea’s ranking puts itself in the same neighborhood as Iraq, 73rd with 15%.

South Korea

Well-Being Element

Thriving (%)

Struggling (%)

Suffering (%)

Regional Thriving (%)

Global Thriving (%)

Purpose

14

46

40

13

18

Social

22

47

31

19

23

Financial

37

39

25

25

25

Community

24

63

13

25

26

Physical

17

65

18

23

24

Here are the rankings of other countries of interest in the region:  40 – Philippines (24%),  44 – Thailand  (22%),  53 – Mongolia (18%), 54 – Vietnam, (18%), 55 – Taiwan (18%), 64 – Japan (15%), 90 – China (12%), and 93 – Cambodia (11%).

The Five Elements and Demographic Analysis

Although “financial well-being is relatively strong among South Koreans, purpose well-being – which is often associated with the quality of available jobs in a country – is not.”   Only 14% of South Koreans self-report as thriving in purpose well-being, and 40% as suffering, “indicating that many residents do not feel fulfilled in their day-to-day activities.”

Avoiding the C-word and the other C-word, the report concluded about Korea that  “low purpose well-being may often reflect traditional  organizational patterns – such as tenure based promotion and pay systems – that fail to ensure workers are in the right roles and are well-managed. Employed South Koreans are no more likely than those who are not employed to be thriving in this element.”

The report also specifically noted that South Koreans, despite their high average life expectancy, find physical well-being a struggle with only 17%  self-reporting as thriving.  “This is particularly worrisome given that South Korea is aging faster than any other country in the OECD; strategies for preventing and addressing age related health problems will be increasingly important.   In fact, most significant differences between various demographic groups in South Korea are related to age. Fifty percent of Koreans age 45 and older are not thriving in any element, compared with 37% of those younger than 45. Perhaps most alarmingly, Koreans aged 45 and older are significantly less likely to be thriving in financial well-being (28%) than their younger counterparts (43%).”

I found interesting that respondents self-reported their subjective measure of happiness.  Is happiness, necessarily a subjective state, really better measured by economists’ objective measures of per capita GDP or PPP?  How about well-being?  What is no less disturbing however, is that Koreans self-reported “struggling” and “suffering” numbers.  I could not find reports from decades ago, but a nearly universal observed phenomenon is that although increases in income correlate with increases in happiness in the short-term, increased income does not significantly correlate with increased happiness in the long-term.  Welcome to the club, Korea.

Read the full report here or watch the minute and a half video.  Yeah, I probably should’ve mentioned the video first.

More on FATCA Compliance in Korea – America Still Has A Big Stick

If you American expatriates remember, back in March, we wrote a thread about the effect of the FATCA American tax law upon Americans living in Korea.  Between now and 2015 marks a transition period for foreign banks to comply with reporting guidelines issued by the US Government for reporting overseas income from Americans in Korea.  You may well ask why should the Korean Government and banks do the leg work for the IRS in America, well congress decided to issue an ultimatum to world banks “report to us or we will cut you off from the American market (congress has decided to punish foreign financial institutions that refused to surrender U.S. accountholder information by cutting off their access to critical U.S. financial markets) cite.

This means, to summarize, that beginning roughly now, any American with 10,000 USD in a Korean bank or at least 50,000 USD in assets (stock, trust, etc.) will be reported to the IRS in America. You may also think that this affects only Americans but NO – it directly affects Koreans, for example, today I sat in a certain major Korean bank and watched a Korean national open a new account and, to my compete surprise, one of the documents they signed was a FATCA compliance document – all in Korean – that confirmed that the bank customer was really a Korean citizen and not an American.

I would never have imagined that the US could or would insert themselves so deeply into the common affairs of citizens of a foreign country, to this extent; requiring them to sign a document stating that they are not American citizens!  This also explains why so many Americans were refused service from European banks this last year.

Open Thread: September 14, 2014

I’ve lost count.

Flavour of the Month – A Sense of Decency Is A Good Thing

Some of the JoongAng Ilbo editors understand that when we lose our capacity for kindness, we lose much of what makes life bearable, not to mention the better parts of Korean society:

Everyone is entitled to express their opinion in a democratic society but that does not mean they should be cruel. To safeguard society, decency and respect toward others must be upheld regardless of differences in opinions and beliefs.

A Disgraceful Party.

The Korean Herald: Racism in Korea

I know the news of the bar in Itaewon “not accepting” Africans is old and has been making the rounds in the Korean blogsphere.

(Image from Kenyabwala.com)

They did quickly issue an apology a day later.  However, I’m sure the apology was probably insufficient to many.

(Image from Koreaboo blog)

It may have only been 24 hours since the original signs were replaced, but let’s face it.  The damage was done.  The photo is a symbol of the issues of race that Korea is still mulling over.  To be fair, most countries have issues with race but a recent article from the Korea Herald (English Edition) did an excellent job at discussing its context within modern Korea.

[Korean racism]… is a complex product of the country’s colonial history, postwar American influence and military presence, rapid economic development as well as patriotism that takes a special pride in its “ethnic homogeneity,” according to professor Kim Hyun-mee from Yonsei University.

Unlike racism in the West, Korean racism is mostly targeted against those from other Asian nations, she noted. As of this year, more than 80 percent of immigrants residing in South Korea are from countries in Asia, the largest number coming from China and Vietnam.

(Graph from Korea Herald)

It’s really a nice article written by Claire Lee, who looks like she was educated in Canada (perhaps she is a gyopo?).  My excerpts don’t do it justice.  It’s well worth reading the article in its entirety.

Note

I don’t mind spirited discussion/debate, but let’s keep it civil folks.

Open Thread – The Dog Massage Edition

dog_massage

So Koreans will die out, household debt is probably going to explode and the next president might be an ex-felon – you should learn to relax.

Korea has World’s 14th Priciest Airfare, but Buses are Cheap

For those traveling around the ROK, you’ll be pleased to know that the bus fares are some of the least expensive in the world. Unfortunately, when flying, it’s not so good. According to a recent study released by GoEuro, Korea ranks as the 14th most expensive place to fly in the world.

While the study found that airfare in Korea, at $40.73 per 100km, was cheaper than neighboring Japan ($56.39), it was twice as much as China ($20.06) and monumentally more expensive than the United States, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia and India, who all ranked as the world’s cheapest places to fly.

Train fares here are also priced fairly high worldwide, but a combination of all three travel options –trains, planes and buses– landed Korea squarely in the middle of the price pack.

As for India, well, here’s something you don’t read everyday.

Airfares in India are so low in fact, that it is now cheaper to travel by air than to take the train. According to the GoEuro study, a 100-kilometer train journey costs $11.31 while travel by air will run you an average of $10.36 for the same distance.

 

Hot or Cold – The False Dilemma of Korean Politics

Kim Young-Oh is hungry but more sad than hungry.

Mr. Kim lost his 16-year-old daughter to the Sewol Ferry disaster and he collapsed from his hunger protest last Friday and has been hospitalized.

Mr. Kim was demanding that a fully independent investigator be assigned to the Sewol case instead of a government-connected prosecutor.  A bill has been proposed but rejected because a government-connected prosecutor is a problem for many because there has been a profound and long-held distrust of the government under the majority Saenuri Party, which has had a troubled history of manipulating events at the expense of the public’s trust.  Because of the reluctance of the ruling party to give such powers over to a non-aligned prosecutor, – citing constitutional problems as being the reason – Mr. Kim decided to fast.

Along with Mr. Kim’s fast, an all too common problem has been demonstrated, once again and that is a major problem of not just Korean politics but of most two-party political systems.

The real problem is a political system that is so degraded that it is suffering under a “false dilemma” – also known as “black-and-white thinking”.  Such an inflexible mindset is best exemplified in a two-party political system, which produces a either-or way of voting.  Due to the bi-polar (black or white) mentality of the political system in South Korea, many Koreans have assumed that:

Mr. Kim is a likely a bad man, that wants money, that failed to be a good parent and is probably a Communist and wants to wrench control of the country from the ruling party

OR . . .

Mr. Kim is a victim of the corruption of the ruling party that controls the government (at this moment) and is a hero that can help end the unjust rule of corrupt conservative politicians.

Actually, Mr. Kim is neither A or B.

There are several aspects to this situation.

Since the Sewol disaster, the NPAD faction and other supposed civic groups have offered their assistance to the parents of the kids that perished from the disaster, using it partly for their political agenda.  According to one parent, many did not want such help from the start:

Another father of a victim said some family members did not want left-wing activists helping them, as it compromised their political neutrality. “Some of us didn’t want to mingle with them, but at that time we were office workers who didn’t know how to speak up for ourselves,” he said. “So I thought we needed their support.” (cite)

The NPAD has also begun a boycott of government, bringing most legislative activity to a halt since this seems to be one of their areas of expertise.

Then there is that HUMONGOUS problem of credibility (sabotaging a prosecutor general, NIS-generated electioneering, etc.) , which the Saenuri-Hanara Dang/Administration has lacked, except in parts of the country where they enjoy an older constituency that vote out of that false dilemma thinking called regionalism.  I had a conversation with a fellow (over 50) in Daegu recently where he said he believed that Mr. Kim was a contemptible fellow, who was holding out for more money. To this self-described Saenuri supporter, it was all about money since there could not possibly be any other reason for Mr. Kim’s fast.

Very black-and-white in Daegu.

Meanwhile, many Koreans, that are against the Saenuri Dang feel that the ruling party does not want a truely independant investigation because of so much corruption tied to the ferry owner and people higher up in the ruling party. The government’s citing constitutional problems as being the reason why independant investigators can not be allowed is seen by many as being a “false choice” or “a deliberate attempt to eliminate several options that may occupy the middle ground on an issue”.

As for Mr. Kim? – he has said that “I have a headache. I have a headache because of politicians in South Korea, . . . We want to find why more than 300 people died unfairly. We want to clarify this and hold a person in charge accountable”.  He does not want money – he wants accountability so that his daughter’s short life and death will not have been in vain.

When there is such a firmly encamped case of the false dilemma, there can be parity only after much struggle since this way of thinking quickly becomes a device of the few that manipulate the many for gain, for example, currently there is an “ice-bucket challenge” that has become a popular way to raise the awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease – a disease that can strike anyone no matter which political party they belong to.  The challenge is “to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research” . . .
However . . .
Both Rep. Park Jie-won of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung have both taken the challenge not so much to donate money to fighting ALS but as a tool for political means, as per Kim Moo-sung’s statement “Please persuade hawkish lawmakers [within the NPAD] after sorting out your thoughts with some cold water” followed by Park Jie-won’s comment “Though I participated [in the charity event] there are still people gravely concerned over the passage of the Sewol law and who are still waiting for the return of their loved ones. I hope that ice bucket challenge and the Sewol bucket challenge will go together”. 

ice-bucket

Photo courtesy of NEWSIS.

I give you a visual example of the false dilemma on ice.

Yoon Yeo-joon also sees all of this as well but, like him, we are left without a ready solution.  IMHO, the change will have to come from the people – without the aid of any current party and in a manner that can not be co-opted.  That will take time and probably something unforeseen.

Daum and Kakao Are On a First Name Basis

Kakao Corp. and Daum Communications announced that they will adopt the anti-hierarchical office culture of Kakao Corp.  after their merger in October.  All workers and executives will be required to call each other by English first names:  “Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”

From Yonhap: “Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” said Kang Yukyeong, a communications official at Daum.

From Korea Times:  “All workers at Kakao call co-CEO Lee Sir-goo by his English first name Vino.”  Kakao employee Dallas said he felt “‘kind of awkward’ when he first joined Kakao about six months ago.  ‘It didn’t take so long before I became used to being called my English name and calling others by their English names. I realized we are encouraged to make active communication in the office even with CEO.'”

State-sponsored Arirang News broadcast a piece, IT companies in Korea change corporate culture to promote innovation (video starts at 9:02):  “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?  A recent innovation index ranked Korea 16th out of 77 countries– higher than Japan or China.   But when it came to the so-called tolerance index, which measures how much a society tolerates different values and thoughts, Korea was ranked near the bottom at 62.”

The C- Word

News sources and quoted experts cited the move as an attempt to counter Confucian culture:

Yonhap stated in its article,”addressing employees of different ranks by their first name is uncommon in South Korea, where corporate culture is often perceived as rigid and is operated along regimented and hierarchical lines, a reflection of the country’s Confucian roots. Such hierarchy at workplaces is palpable in local companies….”

Arirang News aired a (translated) statement from Kim Jae-hee, Professor of Psychology at Chungang University, “if we look at our Confucianist culture, we were taught that there is a right answer to everything. We were never taught to look for new answers. To foster creativity, we need to learn that there isn’t just one correct answer to everything and understand there could be multiple answers.” 


Arirang posed an interesting question: “Could the seemingly minor changes bring about real changes to Korea’s innovation potential?”  

If so, how effectively and at what social or cultural cost?

I suspect that the change in some Korean major players’ corporate culture will carry over to Korean corporate culture in general.  When casual Fridays and then casual dress came into corporate culture, employees liked and perceived it as a benefit.  Employers saw casual dress as a no-cost benefit, and companies that resisted discovered how much the labor marketplace valued casual dress.  I suspect that young, professional Korean talent will similarly place a value on casual address companies.

Will this spillover into wider Korean culture and be the end to Korea’s deeply rooted hierarchical culture?  I think ‘yes’, and we are witnessing a seminal moment.

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