Sometime ago, an acquaintance told me about what was going on in the Chinese auto industry. I was told that major auto makers like Shanghai, Dongfeng, Jiri and Huatai are trying hard to recruit Koreans.
Intrigued, I decided to interview some of the Koreans who are now working for these Chinese auto companies. They told me that more former Korean auto industry employees are now working for the Chinese counterpart than people might imagine. For example, Jiri and Huatai have more than 100 Korean employees each respectively. A Shanghai Auto official said that the Chinese have great respect for Hyundai and its technical expertise and innovations. He added that Koreans employed by the Chinese include executives who retired from the Korean auto industry. As we tried learn very hard to learn from western companies in the past, others will try to do the same with Korean companies like Samsung and Hyundai.
Thanks to the excellent performances of major Korean companies, medium-to-small sized Korean companies are also jumping on the bandwagon of the 'Business Korean Wave'. For an example of this, Kiturami Boiler is now aiming to generate 50% of its total revenue in foreign markets. With this objective in mind, Kiturami is now engaged in aggressive marketing of its products in Asian countries and Turkey. Another example is Royal Saimdang. Being a franchise of postnatal care centers, the company has been spreading Korean style postnatal care services in China since 2007's opening of its first branch in Changchun, The Koreans who became successful as the provider of the wedding package(studio, wedding dress, make up services, etc) service in Vietnam are also worthy of notice. It seems that the possibility for the 'Business Korean Wave' is endless.
World's Foremost Technical Excellence
Traditionally, Korea has always been strong in technical skills as has been amply proved by its performances in the past World Skills competitions. The biennial World Skills offers competitions in 48 areas of technical skills including mechanical, metal, electrical, electronics, civil engineering, handicrafts, and beauty crafts.
After its first participation in the 16th World Skills hosted in Spain in 1967, Korea went on take first place in the 23th World Skills hosted in Netherlands for the first time. Since then, Korea has won first place 17 times in total in this international event. Korea has been particularly strong in CNC lathe, CNC milling, molding, welding, plating, machinery, high-tech mobile robotics and other areas.
Despite worries concerning lack of investment in science, Korea's records of outstanding performances in the World Skills competitions are proof of Korea's technical excellence. This also shows why the Arab Emirates' national World Skills team chose Korea as their training ground last April. The team members said, "our objective is to learn as much as possible from Koreans to get good results in the upcoming 42th World Skills in Germany in July. The Arab Emirates' team had won its first medal in the IT technology division in England after undergoing training in Korea in 2011. Even with excellent research programs, nothing would be achieved without fundamental technical skills. What fueled Korea's ascension into the top ranks of the world economy has been its technical knowledge and skills.
K-nomics and Its Sustained Growth
In spite of Korea's stellar accomplishments, it's true that there are some warning signs. In a survey carried out by Samsung Economic Research Institute, 47% of Korea's top 246 CEOs answered that the Korean Wave will end within 5 years. Currently, products enjoying the premium status of the Korean national brand are limited to TV dramas, movies, K-Pop, home electronics, cosmetics and clothing. Lack of innovations and development of fresh contents can only hasten the downfall of the Korean Wave.
Then what's the answer to this problem? Experts say that synergy effects between national and corporate brands should be maximized. In this regard, something traditionally Korean can be utilized. In last June's "6 Strategies for Sustained Growth of the New Korean Wave" report, Samsung Economic Research Institute pointed out the need for the fusion of traditional Korean culture and economy for the purpose of promoting national and corporate brands. A good example is online Kozaza which provides reservation services for lodging in traditional Korean houses. With a touch of traditional Korean culture, marketing can be more effective.
Another thing that is needed is continuous reflection. KOTRA officials often criticize Koreans' unbecoming behavior toward natives and their culture when visiting foreign countries. A myopic 'making a quick buck' approach is also harmful for Korean companies in the long run. Experts suggest that Koreans should drop their habit of always hurrying; displaying a sense of superiority; ignoring basic etiquette and other bad manners. Without such efforts, the rebirth of Korean companies as true global players will be impossible.