Monday, September 26, 2016

Bits and Pieces

Over at the Grand Narrative, James posted about a newspaper cartoon from the 1930s which reveals how certain attitudes toward women have persisted.

At Zen Kimchi, Joe posted an interesting chapter from an unpublished book about marketing Korean food abroad - it's well worth reading.

And on the music side of things, Mark Russell's guest appearance on Shawn Despres's radio show is worth a listen if you're a fan of classic Korean rock (or 90s Korean indie rock).

As reported a couple weeks ago, the Korean government is asking you to help it fight inaccuracies about Korea:
On Sept. 1, the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS), part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, launched the Facts:Korea website, a new website designed to help correct inaccurate information that is out there about Korea.

The site receives and deals with reports about inaccurate statements or errors made online about Korea, as well as incorrect statements or statistics used by smartphone apps. Through this website, people from around the world will be able to report false statements made about Korea, anywhere and at any time.

Inaccurate information about Korea covers all sorts of incorrect facts that might exist in content produced outside Korea. For example, the national Taegeukgi flag might be upside down, or Korea's traditional Hanbok attire might be mistranslated into English as "kimono." Once, South Korea was even referred to as being in Southeast Asia.
That last sentence is certainly not an indignant response to a geographical mistake, as perhaps made clearer by this sentence:
“We will continue to work to make right any misinformation about Korea, so as to improve the national image,” said KOCIS Director Kim Kabsoo.
The site can be found here (or "download the app directly to your smartphone"), but to make a report you need to download lots of active x junk, as is par for the course on any government website.

Perhaps someone will report as misinformation this article, titled "The boozy, narcissistic culture shock of working in South Korea," which is about the book "Seoul Man" by Frank Ahrens, who lived in Seoul for three years working as director of global p.r. for Hyundai. The book jacket urges readers to "Take a wild ride into the formal-by-day, crazy-by-night Asian business world" (oh, those wacky Asians!) and chapter titles like "At Work: Alien Planet." To be fair, these may reflect the choices of the publisher rather than the author. The article, in between highlighting the drinking and plastic surgery in Korea, describes a few scenes from the book:
Ahrens tried to bust through the culture, including throwing a party at his house with people from work and others. But his employees viewed it as an obligation. They spoke to no one there but their fellow co-workers, and spent the night serving drinks to their superiors.

When Ahrens asked his team leader about this, the reply was, “Sir, we don’t go to parties where we don’t know everyone.” Ahrens said that parties in America were often for meeting people but was told that Koreans “make their friends for life in school.”

“How do you make friends as an adult?” Ahrens asked.

“We don’t,” was the reply.
This is likely more about 'telling foreigners what we want them to think about Korea'; some men seem to have no trouble making friends after high school (sarcasm off). Still, the author's anecdotes about the culture of hierarchy at work can be amusing:
Ahrens got a taste of this extreme hierarchy while representing the company at a car show.

The chairman of Hyundai dropped by, throwing employees into a panic. When he decided to walk the convention floor, Confucian custom declared that his top aides follow along behind him. But it also meant that their top aides had to follow them — leading to a ridiculous trail of people that left onlookers stunned.

“I climbed to the second floor of our booth,” writes Ahrens. “There was the chairman making his way through a parting motor-show crowd, at least 20 dark-suited men following, some taking notes. The effect was that of a long, black eel snaking its way through a crowd of startled media.”
On the topic of foreigners working in Korea, Gi-Wook Shin and Rennie J. Moon's article, "A way to bridge aging societies," points out the need for foreign workers in the Japanese and Korean economies as their populations age. But there are problems...
Maria, a Guatemalan professional, decided to leave South Korea after working for six years in the overseas marketing department of a large Korean corporation. "Some Koreans complain that foreigners leave after a few years, but we leave because we're never included in the first place. Korean companies pay a lot to bring foreigners here. And then they don't even ask these people about their opinion."[...]

In South Korea, with a shorter history of foreign student intake, a Study-Work framework has yet to emerge. While 64.3% of South Korean companies say they need and want to hire foreign students, only a very small portion of foreign students work in South Korean companies after graduation, perhaps as low as 1%. South Korea's immigration laws for foreign students have eased slightly in recent years, but there is an urgent need to develop solid, institutionalized support for responding to the substantial demand by foreign students who wish to find employment after their studies.
One of the recommendations the article makes is that "Universities and corporations should establish diversity offices, as seen in the U.S. and elsewhere, to promote a culture of tolerance and non-discrimination." A problem with this is that various kinds of discrimination are built into the hiring process for many companies, as this study reveals:
Among undisclosed qualifications at companies, age was most often cited at 44.8 percent (multiple responses were possible). 33 was the average age limit for men imposed by firms, whereas it was 31 for women.

Second in rank was gender (31.9 percent), with companies typically maintaining a male to female ratio of 67 – 33.

Other qualifications not revealed to applicants included place of residence (29.3 percent), college major (25 percent), certificates and licenses (23.3 percent), marital status (18.5 percent), educational background (15.9 percent), internship or job experience (15.9 percent), military service status (13.8 percent), and religion (7.3 percent).

What was most significant on the survey, however, was that 89.2 percent of the companies said they had rejected candidates because they did not fit their confidential standards.
And these are just for Korean applicants.

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