South Korea… I’ll Be Back

My Plus3 trip to South Korea was truly an eye-opening experience. While traveling across the glorious country I learned many things about Korean culture both in a social sense and business sense. Each company we visited and cultural location we went to allowed for me to understand how life in Korea differs from life in America. Adjusting to Korean life being an outsider and communicating with a very difficult language barrier are things I encountered but overcame on this trip. Many lifelong friends and memories were made that I give South Korea all the credit for.

Gearing towards a business sense now, throughout our trip I recognized a few ethical issues in the accounting/financing fields that I am pursuing present in Korea. Most of these issues are predominantly associated with greed and corruption. Greed is found all over the world, but large companies and even politicians in South Korea are being overcome with greed regularly and end up becoming corrupt. For example, while we were in Korea a company that we had visited was raided for accounting fraud the previous day which was shocking to us. Former presidents of South Korean have also been thrown in jail due to corruption with financial documents and embezzling money. It is a problem that South Korean society is trying to fix and I believe should be easily overcame.

Outside of this greed and corruption, South Korea does pride itself in creating very successful global companies like Samsung and Hyundai that dominate a large portion of the country’s GDP. These extremely large conglomerates in South Korea want to augment the development of the people they intend to hire so they provide many opportunities for them to do so. We visited two universities in Korea as well, Hanyang University and Pusan National University, that showed how these large companies have invested their money into these schools to give students all the tools they need to become highly skilled within their industries. After being given tours of the Hyundai Heavy Industries ship building plant and the Hyundai Motors car plant both in Ulsan, I learned about how the Hyundai company initiatives have been implemented and how massive the scale of production is for both of these industries. Only the best of the best workers were being used to manufacture giant container ships and game changing automobiles. It was amazing to see how much capital, material, and labor goes into producing massive container ships that will be used around the world and everyday cars to be used on roads across the globe.

Professional life in Korea seems to be much different than in the United States. Each presentation we were given at the company visits were from different points of view but all highlighted the common theme of respect in the business world of Korea. There are hierarchies that are more assertive in the Korean professional world and generally respected. A key thing that I learned was that in general work environments employees will not leave their desks or offices to go home until their bosses do. Workers will stay with no more work even to do until their boss leaves for the night solely out of a sign of respect. Just like education, there is a great emphasis on work in Korean society. Employees in South Korea work very long hours: 2,069 hours per worker annually which is the second-highest in the world, just after Mexico. I found this statistic fascinating due to the fact that with these long hours workers are still highly unproductive, but it is a way of life in this country.

On the matter of functioning on multi-disciplinary teams, I found it very insightful for business students like myself to work alongside engineering students while in Korea. It was interesting to hear engineering students points of view not only while working on our final presentation but also when visiting companies and cultural sites. The questions they asked presented a different style of thinking that isn’t present in the business world. While working with my group to complete our final presentation idea, the engineering students helped compile ideas on how our app should look and operate while us business students came up with the analytics and business specs for it. The different points of view were not conflicting but building and ultimately helped mold our idea into a very great presentation. This trip was amazing and I am hoping to use the numerous things I learned in South Korea to advance my studies and future here at Pitt.  

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