Today began with a visit to Trainor Korea, which was actually far more interesting than I expected as a result of the company’s origin. Trainor is a company originally from the Nordic region, which happens to have an office in Busan for certifying employees for certain competencies and skills. In short, they hope to reduce the frequency of industrial accidents like gas explosions by minimizing human error. Their Nordic origin, however, can be an extreme challenge given the wildly different cultural environments of Sweden or Norway as opposed to Korea; this gave our class a brilliant outline of Korean workplace behavior. One thing that Trainor said to us stood out beyond everything else: Koreans are far more likely to cheat and look for shortcuts than the average trainee.
This caught me off guard pretty considerably, because while it makes some sense, it seems to conflict with one of the largest pillars of Korean culture: respect. To cheat on a safety certification is to put others at risk, and inherently, to disrespect the value of their lives. Further, would the hierarchical nature of Korean society not dictate that Korean trainees should have enough respect for their teachers, who are senior to them, to be truthful? Respect and hierarchy are some of the most notable features of Korean society, but in this particular case, the desire to advance career and take care of family overrides cultural norms. Then again, perhaps the western view of respect simply doesn’t contain the nuance of a Korean view of respect. Whatever the case, I found this especially peculiar.
Our second visit was to Busan New Container Terminal, a cargo shipping yard that is largely automated. The CEO of the company happened to be from North Carolina; I recognized his accent immediately. I felt right at home listening to that deep, relaxed tone telling me about the smart systems present at their facility. Speaking of which, the facility itself is brilliant. The cranes that move containers inside of the yard are fully automated; the control room, where things can be manually overridden if necessary, was full of interesting technology. Perhaps most interesting to me was this tidbit of information: the first automated facility like the one we saw came about in the mid-to-late nineties, far before I would have imagined such a thing. Smart systems, apparently, have been around for far longer than I knew, even if they were far more rudimentary at the time.
Tomorrow is our final day of company visits, and then, finally, we will have our final presentations and a day at the beach. I can’t wait for what comes tomorrow, and frankly, I can’t wait to get back home.