Should Korea Conform to International Standards of Business?

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Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

In the meeting called G20 and Overcoming the Global Financial Crisis in Asia this month, many of the panelists talked about Korea's next steps in becoming a first world nation.  Some said that Korea must conform to international standards of business before it can become successful. Others said that Korea has come as far as it has with all its quirks intact, and needs not change now.  What do you think?  Should Korea become more globalized, and hence more Westernized, before it becomes successful?

Yes

Korean companies have some hang-ups that need to be addressed before they can do business with on an international arena.  Koreans simply need to learn the international culture of global business.  They need to understand certain basic principles and expectations on which the world works.  Also, they need to simply stop being afraid of the rest of the world.  When meeting people from other countries, Korean businessmen should be able to project the image of honesty, competency, and business as usual.  This is a basic requirement to international business.  They should foster creativity, allow more flexibility in a workplace environment, stop firing the 40 year old guys, stop working Saturdays, and go home at a decent hour.

And international business is a basic component of the next level of domestic economy.  Korea always grades itself and sets goals - it is now at the point of an average income of US$20,000 per year, and wants to get to the point where the average income is US$40,000 per year.  In order to do this, Korea must have a large stable of international businesses, much larger than the few names it is currently known for.

No

Korea knows how to be successful.  If you are looking for proof, you just have to look at Seoul.  One of the largest cities of the world, home to some of the most successful companies in the tech sector, and hundreds of towering buildings - and it was a bombed out wreck just 50 years ago.  It's called the Miracle on the Han river for a reason.  Korea has quirks, yes.  Its businesses are run in an authoritarian style, true.  Creativity is not always cherished, yes.  Perhaps there may be too much copying done at an institutional level, even.  But whatever is going on along the Han, it works.

Korea doesn't need to change to become successful, it's already on the trajectory it needs to be.  It obviously has discovered a good formula for success, and the global business world should stop and take notice rather than criticizing.  After all, the current international community drove itself off of an economic cliff just one year ago, and despite setbacks Korea is managing to stay afloat and show growth when many of the world's economies are shrinking.  Korea doesn't need to change to work with the international system; the international system needs to change to work with Korea.

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