5/9/19- Bro, Just Naver It

The innovative spirit of Korea was clearly on display today. We only had one company visit scheduled, but it was a big one: Naver, essentially the Google of Korea. Their modern, picturesque headquarters were about an hour from our hotel, but it was well worth the trip. On arrival, we were taken into a meeting room, where we were shown a presentation of all the advancements Naver is developing at the moment. The presentation was given by a Naver executive whose work was focused on AI, so it made sense that they were all AI-based. They included  services that muted background/street noises in public videos, muted everyone but the person deemed most important to listen to at the time when multiple people are talking at once on a news broadcast, and locked onto one person to follow in a video (similar to the Star Cam on Sunday Night Football). All of these things are being developed in addition to Naver’s current successful ventures, including a maps app, a search engine, a translator app, a YouTube-like platform, and much more. It really was breathtaking to see the impressive breakthroughs in technology coming from such a relatively small nation.  Afterwards, we were taken on a tour of the facility. Unfortunately, our guide spoke no English, so Min, one of the guides who has been with us all along, had to do his best to translate. We got the gist of what she was saying, but it was a pretty funny situation overall. On the tour, we saw a large library with plants growing on the bookshelves, a huge cafeteria with tons of options for employees, a medical clinic, and more. After the obligatory group picture, we left through the modern lobby that is set up almost like the business version of Starbucks, with multiple women handing out free bananas to everyone who passed by. We boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel, ending our day quite early. The first thing we did with our free time (like any proud American), was to walk to Burger King for lunch. They had many selections not available in the states, and I got something called the Monster Whopper, which is essentially a Whopper plus a chicken patty, bacon, and diablo barbecue sauce. Another thing that impressed me was the efficiency of the trash system. Instead of using disposable cups, they served drinks in hard plastic cups. When you were done, there was a small drain by the trash can to dump ice and leftover soda down, as well as a separate rack to stack your cups, and another for chopsticks. Next, we headed to check out some more street markets, where we picked up souvenirs for family and friends and tried some cool local cuisine such as red bean cakes. Then, we took the subway across town to the N Seoul Tower, which offered a breathtaking view of the city from one of its highest points. It also featured many restaurants and a bridge covered in locks left by couples over the years that created a beautiful scene. For some reason, we proceeded to try our best to run down the steep slope afterwards, making exhausted fools out of ourselves but having a good time in the process. We then had our second funny language barrier issue of the day after spending 10 minutes using Naver’s own Papago translator to try to ask directions from a very confused women who it later turned out spoke only Chinese, not Korean. We eventually found a cab to take us to the bustling neighborhood of Itaweon. There, we explored the area, checked out some of the nightlife, and enjoyed a Korean pizza which was okay, but paled to our American standards. Before we knew it, it was curfew time, and we returned to our hotel. What a fun day!

Leave a Reply