Saturday, December 14, 2019

South Korea’s Hancom Group to exhibit at CES 2020

Who is Hancom? How does Hancom envision Robotics, Smart City and AI Life Blockchain technology?

For Immediate Release

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, Dec. 13, 2019 /Hancom Group, South Korea’s leading ICT company today announced that it will participate at CES 2020, Jan.7-10, 2020, in Las Vegas. The company will present its visions for making the world better through pioneering future innovation for an ever-evolving tech industry.

Rendering of the Hancom Group CES 2020 Exhibit

The new exhibit will be located at South Hall 2, AI & Robotics, Booth 25628 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Who is Hancom?
Hancom like the other highly recognized South Korean market leaders will share with the industry how it uniquely envisions Robotics, Smart City and AI Life Blockchain technology.

How Hancom sees Robotics
Led by Hancom’s Convenient World vision for work and life, Toki is one in a line-up of specialized robots for home and educational use. With customized AI conversations through face and voice recognition tailored to each family member, Toki also has home monitoring and video calling capabilities. Come experience Toki live at the Show.

Toki, Home and Education Robot

How Hancom sees Smart City and Blockchain
Driven by Hancom’s Safe World vision, the innovator has developed an Intelligent City Platform, the next-generation smart city platform creating a secure urban ecosystem by connecting everything to each other utilizing the latest technologies. This connectivity will improve city services and infrastructure, as well as the quality of life for urban dwellers.

The Intelligent City Platform acts as urban control tower integrating AI technology, blockchain and IoT, while utilizing real-time data for easy visualization.

Intelligent City Platform

On Life Blockchain, Hancom’s efforts are game changing and wide ranging. They include a seamless, private blockchain platform to allow privileged user access, providing electronic contracts, document notarization services, civic applications/certifications and public data access.

Life Blockchain

“As South Korea’s leading ICT company, we look forward to sharing at CES how Hancom will contribute to make the world Smarter and Better,”  Dr. Peter Wonsok Yun, President of Global Business, Hancom Group.

Pre-show and Show media interviews are welcome.

About The Hancom Group
Founded in 1989, today Hancom Group is a leader in creating innovative ecosystems that will lead the world through the convergence of technology.

With its reach of 13 affiliate companies covering Hardware, Software, and the Finance industry, the Group’s mission is to create a  “Convenient World, Connected World, and Safe & Secure World.”

Convenient World
Hancom Inc. Global smart work solutions from AI to productivity software solutions.
Hancom MDS Intelligent convergence solution leader based on IoT and embedded technology IoT.
Hancom Mobility Sensor-based smart parking sharing solution.
Hancom Robotics Intelligent logistics and service robots.

Connected World
Hancom Interfree Voice recognition and translation that remove language barriers.
Hancom Teladin IoT-based wireless solutions.
Hancom Talkafe Communication solutions.
Accufly.AI AI-based solutions for barrier-free communication with the best technology from Korea & China.

Safe World
Hancom WITH Next-generation smart city platform creating a secure urban ecosystem based on blockchain.
Hancom Lifecare Integrated safety solution ranging from personal safety equipment to social safety.
Hancom GMD Mobile Forensic & AR/VR Solution based on Digital Data Analysis.
Hancom Investment Investing in companies with excellent technology in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Media Inquiries
Don Southerton


Sunday, December 01, 2019

Korea 2020: The Book

I've been in editing mode for the past few days. Plans are for an end of December release of my new book Korea 2020: A workplace in transition. 

Many thanks to those of you who previewed the manuscript and shared comments. If you, too, would like to preview and comment, I'll email you a draft copy.

Korea 2020 shares not only what’s behind the current corporate trends but also the impact of Change both in South Korea and for operations outside Korea. 

Exploring this change is at the core of this new book. Topics include the restructuring of age-old corporate norms such as more casual dress, a simplification of workplace titles leading to flatter organizations, and the pushback against workplace bullying and gender discrimination. 

It also drills deeper and provides readers with workarounds, work throughs, and insights.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Time of Significant Change for Korea

As I have shared before my ongoing book writing project “Korea 2020” will explore the most recent and ongoing changing Korean workplace. I look to provide “the what,” and “the why”. 

Don Southerton Author
The present corporate “restructuring” underway among the top Chaebol is beyond the scope of what many of us who have long supported Korea have seen before and should not be dismissed. I do not see it in the same regard as, for example, the annual year-end shuffling of teams and leadership, or the common Korean corporate practice “change for the sake of change. “

I see the current driver as something much deeper and more significant.

I also feel that now more than ever with the wide range of changes underway and their potential implications that all working with Korean facing businesses to recognize, seek out and gain a deep understanding of what impact it will have on the local overseas operations and their work.  Something I do my best to provide amid an ever-increasing workload. 

As always, my focus is providing context and insights...

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Open Communications and Korea Facing Business

Checking emails at 2:30 AM.  

Trying to not doze off and miss a late evening phone or Facebook Message call.

Responding early morning to a previous evening’s urgent Text.

Waking up to a rather lengthy request for revisions on a multi-page document that the Korean team needs to finalize as is due that day in Korea. 

Don Southerton
This week we look at some of the new challenges as we’re finding more open and direct communications between Korean HQ and local teams. This is more and more commonly surfacing for teams. 

By its very nature, Korean facing business is the interaction of worldwide teams operating in different zones—with Korea and North America—their working days beginning as our ends and visa versa.

Beyond the different cultures globally working together on a daily basis, which I speak of often, we have seen the advancements in telecommunications as well as more open communications between working-level teams in the West and Korea.  

(BTW I can recall a time when an international call between the US and Korea was not only costly but few Korean office landlines even had international access.) 

That said, it’s now common for Staff in Korea to now pick up their mobile phone and reach out via an app for a one on one with a western team member.  This contrasts with the old model where all communication between HQ and local subsidiaries went through and was screened by the local expatriate team.  

The new model is not without its challenges. 

For one, email requests often need clarification and even a message received in the AM in the West with hopes that by the end of day (morning in Korea) there will be substantial progress—without some clarity—little may have been accomplished. 

More so, even if a request is made—local teams are often stretched thin—and any new workload can be seen as overwhelming.

Also common are End of Day requests—again sent at the beginning of the day in Korea—but received as the day is wrapping up in the West.  In contrast for an expat team their “second day” often begins around 4-5 PM as the Korean HQ is back on-line and their work often running late into the evening—but for western employees working late is most often not an option. 

I do have a number of work-arounds—most the result of nearly 20 years working directly with teams and leadership in Korea.  Here I share two among my many proven hints.

Hint 1

In the case of a last-minute request or a request that may require more clarity and/or substantial research….

As I learned from a senior Korean executive, in many cases Korea often requests local input so teams and leadership can finalize an important decision. They are aware of time restraints and that a comprehensive response could take days. Noting that they are looking for some input, even input limited in scope, that may help sway their decision—pro or con.     

Hint 2 

In the case of a request and not wishing to seem uncooperative—but unable to respond as requested due to commitments and workload….

Given my experience in dealing with urgent HQ request as noted in Hint 1, I suggest sharing with the Korean team that you’d be happy to assist but you’ll need additional time due to current deadlines, end of day, etc. 

As a caveat, I always ask for their timeline and then share some options on when you may be able to assist. I have found what is assumed to be an urgent request often does have flexibility. 

In closing, I feel the move to more open and direct communications between HQ and the local team is quite positive. It is not without its challenges as we learn to adapt, build relationships and work within the restraints in time difference, life balance and work hours. 

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.  


Saturday, November 02, 2019

Korean Business and Year-End Norms

Year-end timing for organization-wide promotions, restructuring, and new assignments are part of Korean corporate culture.

Each year, high-level moves are the norm we see among the major Groups—the first of these we saw last week. We can assume there will be more senior-level announcements with new leadership taking the helm in their new positions and roles soon, while some leadership long in the ranks will be exiting or remain in advisory roles.

Top to bottom within Korean companies they follow this annual transition, with the changes to senior leadership happening first, and team level changes made known the weeks just before or between Christmas and New Year's Day.

After the Holidays, teams then report back to work. Some employees assume new roles frequently in departments in which they have little experience—requiring employees to acquire new skills—sink or swim.

Meanwhile, some Koreans currently in an overseas assignment may be returning back to Korea or be en-route to new assignments in another overseas operation. Still others at HQ may be asked to take a new assignment overseas; a challenge in adjusting to a new workplace and its norms for those working outside Korea for the first time.

In all cases, in the days that follow those employees who are shuffled brief their replacements, as the staff who remain in their jobs update new management teams on the status of projects and issues.

Some years we do see less re-organization of the teams, departments, and divisions—some years more. The later can be driven by leadership looking to “shake up” the organization to spur growth. All said, change is commonplace and an accepted side of Korean business.

Finally, for teams below Director level, time in rank promotions had in the past followed a decades-old seniority time in grade model—i.e. 3-4 years for each of the first tiers up to Manager. For each upper managerial level—Deputy General Manager and General Manager—5 years is a common tenure between each grade level.  

Now with many Groups flattening of ranks below Director level, to Manager and Senior Manager—and a more merit-based model—it will be interesting to watch and see how the new changes unfold.

Here as always—questions welcome.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Habit Burger Grill Sets Sights on South Korea

Proud to announce The Habit Burget Grill Looks to South Korea!

Interested? Contact me at

The Habit Burger Grill (Nasdaq: HABT) is setting its sights on South Korea as the next international growth target as the burger-centric restaurant concept continues its steady march abroad. To support its expansion plans, The Habit has partnered with the experienced business development consulting firm, Bridging Culture Worldwide to attract multi-unit franchise development companies.

“South Korea, with its savvy consumers, open minded culture and interest in global brands is an ideal marketplace for The Habit Burger Grill’s expansion,” said John Phillips, The Habit Burger Grill’s Chief Global Business Partnership Officer. “The people of South Korea appreciate quality food and enjoy the fast-casual experience. We look forward to working with Bridging Culture Worldwide to find the right franchise partner to ensure our mutual success.”

The Habit Burger Grill’s entry into the South Korea marks the next phase in a larger international expansion plan. Bridging Culture Worldwide will help The Habit lead its expansion into the broader Asia-Pacific region. The consulting, strategic planning and market entry service is excited to join this venture.

“South Korea has embraced premium Western brands and The Habit Burger Grill delivers exactly what consumers are seeking – great food and excellent service. With their distinctive fresh off the grill Charburger and hand-crafted sandwiches, fresh salads and other menu items, we know South Korea will appreciate all that The Habit Burger Grill has to offer,” said Don Southerton, Bridging Culture Worldwide’s Founder and CEO.

Better burgers are just the beginning at The Habit where the menu also includes hand-cut salads, grilled sandwiches including line-caught, sushi grade ahi tuna, fresh chicken, and hand-filleted marinated grilled tri-tip, and sides including onion rings, sweet potato and French fries, and tempura green beans. Guests can choose from a variety of peppers, lemons, limes, and sauces at a complimentary condiment bar to customize the flavor of their meal.
Habit Burger Grill
The Habit Restaurants, Inc. 
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, The Habit Burger Grill is a burger-centric, fast casual restaurant concept that specializes in preparing fresh, made-to-order chargrilled burgers and handcrafted sandwiches featuring USDA choice tri-tip, grilled chicken and sushi-grade ahi tuna cooked over an open flame. In addition, it features fresh made-to-order salads and an appealing selection of sides, shakes and malts. The Habit was named the "best tasting burger in America" in July 2014 in a comprehensive survey conducted by one of America's leading consumer magazines. The first Habit opened in Santa Barbara, California in 1969 and was most recently named the winner of USA Today’s 10Best in Regional Fast Food. The Habit has since grown to over 265 restaurants in 12 states throughout Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, and Washington as well as six international locations. More information is available at

About Bridging Culture Worldwide
Founded by Don Southerton, Bridging Culture Worldwide provides targeted market entry, strategy, and consulting to Korea-based global businesses as well as support for major western firms entering Korea.

With a life-long interest in Korea and the rich culture of the country, Southerton has researched and authored numerous publications with topics centering on the creative culture lifestyle, the Korean auto industry, new urbanism, entrepreneurialism, and U.S.-Korean business ventures.
Southerton has been a contributor to The Economist, Branding in Asia, Automotive News, the BBC, CNN Fortune, Korea Times, Yonhap, Korea Herald, tbs eFM, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. To learn more, go to


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Korea facing Market Entry: Lessons Learned

In this week’s Vodcast we look at the nuances in market entry.

I’ll also share my most recent project The Habit Burger Grill.

For more on my most recent project.

The Habit Burger Grill Sets Sights on South Korea

Habit Burger Grill Plans to Bring America’s Best Tasting Burger to East Asia —