On Wednesday we went to Trainor, a Norwegian company that specializes in electrical safety training. The head of the Korean branch of operations was a man from Sweden who had been living in Korea for multiple years. He had some interesting perspectives on what it’s like to be a foreign boss managing Korean employees. He talked a bit about the challenges of choosing team leads while not upsetting Korean hierarchical structures (eg. issues with older employees reporting to younger employees), Korean work culture, and issues with the enforcement of regulations. While we had heard a lot about designing for a foreign market, we hadn’t heard much up until this point about working with foreign peers, and so his insight was very interesting.
After the Trainor visit we ate cold noodles, a Korean summer staple. I really liked them with a little vinegar and wasabi, but they were a controversial food, most people being used to warm pastas, noodles, and broths. Before we moved onto our next visit we also did a bit of exploring at a shopping mall. Something I picked up on was the number of French inspired clothing stores and boutiques, it seems like the two main Western influences in Korea are America and France.
Next we went to the Busan New Container Terminal. If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect to enjoy this visit. To my surprise, however I found it incredibly interesting. The main interest of the container terminal was the loading and unloading massive container ships. Shipping containers are massive and incredibly heavy crates, and so the process of maneuvering them is much more complex than I had anticipated. It starts with a container on the back of a truck. A massive crane that operates on a track completely autonomously approaches the truck, and stops a few meters above the container. An operator takes manual control of the crane, and positions it perfectly above the container. The crane descends, picks up a container, and carries it to the middle of a long line of containers. A second crane comes by and retrieves the container from where it was placed by the first, and delivers it to some delivery buggies, which drive it onto the ship. The incredible thing is that the cranes can operate completely autonomously and simultaneously, their range overlapping enough to allow them to “hand off” crates from one end of the line to the other. Just like at the shipbuilding yard, I was incredibly impressed by the sheer size of the containers and cranes, the whole process was being done at a scale almost difficult to comprehend without seeing.