Thursday, February 18, 2021

Everything Korea Office Chat: The Savvy Insider

Don Southerton  Savvy Insider

In a business inquiry this week, a company asked if I could assist with better understanding their Korean client. They wanted in general terms — an “insider” — some who knew current details on client’s internal corporate culture, and the ways of their thinking.

This most often does require a savvy insider ( and not just someone employed by the company) — as beyond core values common within Korean companies, many norms do vary lots. And, without recognizing and being able to point out the nuances it easy to assume “one size fit all.”

I’d add a trusted insider in the broader sense is someone well connected, and well versed in related business areas — both globally as well as Korea. They can reach out and tap when needed to others in the know, too.

To better define an insider, I was once reminded that staying current and relevant is critical. It also can mean that someone out of a sector for as little as 6 months may be seen as having lost touch. In fast paced sectors like Autonomous, Mobility, and AI, that timeline can be cut to as little as 3 months.

All said, I am very fortunate as my DNA has always been to be open-minded to trends and new advancements from not only within a specific industry but also in adjacent businesses. This means keeping a finger on the pulse and constantly being prepared to learn something new. No less I am able to reach out as needed to those “in the know,” in Korea, the Americas and globally.

Firms do rely on an insider’s insights for quick answers, especially when a request comes 24/ 7 from the highest levels of their companies.

In the best cases, this allows the fast tracking of projects. And, when expertise is drawn upon it can reboot stalled and troubled projects, too.

Here as always. To my fellow Insiders, many thanks, too. 

Please Subscribe 


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Everything Korea Office Chats: Be Prepared

Welcome back to another episode of Everything Korea Office Chats. 

First I’d like to thank everyone for subscribing to the YouTube Channel, Liking, and sharing the posts.  Your comments are also deeply appreciated, too. I’ll cover a few comments later in this YouTube episode.


With the Lunar Holiday weekend winding down, Korean teams and leadership will be back in the office. 


We’ll also see the Q1 work pace speed up especially with Task Force Team (TFTs ) as leadership will be expecting now the holiday is behind up updates to see real progress. 


I often find project flow as sprints vs marathons.  Weeks and even months of preparation, benchmarking, and correspondence at a constant pace, can shift to sprinting to meet deadlines or prompted by leadership calling for a status report.


This can apply to updates for ongoing projects, new 2021 initiatives, decisions on outstanding RFPs, or whether to move forward based on a TFTs recommendation.


In any case, it’s important to recognize and be prepared to what may have been moving at a constant pace will require considerably more attention. 


Turnaround time on what has been days now needs to be hours for Western and Korean teams—again noting that with the time difference it is not uncommon for Korean teams to email requests with hopes for a quick reply.  

As a hint and to streamline this process, I find working with teams in Korea especially on off hours that Kakao Talk works well. 


To sum up, staying flexible is the key when working with Korean teams—projects ebb and flow— some slow down and others speed up. Recognizing this, you can adjust and meet expectations. Something your Korean teams and colleagues will more than appreciate and respect.


Okay, let’s shift some now and look at a couple recent comments…


I’ve been asked when I plan to be back in Korea?  With COVID  in two of my 2020 trips, I was granted exceptions from the mandatory 2 weeks Quarantine. I have to thank my friends at KOTRA/ Invest Korea in NYC for their support in making that happen.


For 2021, we may see some changes with getting the inoculations and testing Negative before traveling. I am hoping for an April trip. I’ll keep updating you on my travel plans.

Meanwhile, I am open to Zoom meetings and chats. 


Another frequent question and one that showed up last week several times by both Korean and westerners is my read on business trends in 2021. My short answer is like in the US, I see it as very sector-driven. Hospitality and travel will take time to recover, technology and especially mobility doing well. 


I am also following a number of the recent high-profile MOUs, JV, and partnerships in the tech mobility sector between Western and Korean companies—my concern is hopes and expectations always run high but soon can stall— in fact, few go as planned. Early intervention is key.  As always I can be more specific so if this is timely for you, let’s chat.


This wraps up this week’s episode.  I’ll post a copy of this week’s chat below, too.


Again, feel free to reach out.  If you haven’t yet please subscribe. And we always appreciate you sharing and liking the posts.


Again, wishing you all the best. Stay safe. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Korean Lunar New Year Traditions

One popular Korean Lunar New Year tradition is 세배 (sebae), which is respect for elders and ancestors. In the ritual families often travel to the family graves to show their respect.

Also common is younger people will bow to their grandparents. They then wish them a happy New Year by saying: sae hae bok mani badeu say yo (새해 복 많이 받으세요. ) Which translates as “Please receive good fortune for the New Year.” In turn, the elders typically reward this gesture by giving children New Year’s money, or “pocket money” called Sebaet Don, usually new crisp paper money. 

To learn more, go to this week’s post in YouTube 


Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Korea Lunar New Year 2021-- Year of the OX


Seollal, Korea’s Lunar New Year is first day of the lunar calendar. It is one of the most celebrated national holidays in Korea. 


This year, Seollal falls on Friday, February 12. Most years’ Seollal is a time for Koreans to return to their hometowns to pay respect to their ancestors, as well as catch up with family members. As is custom, the day before is also a legal holiday, so for most the holiday begins on Thursday, February 11.


With COVID we can expect greatly limited family interactions, so we need to extra sensitive and understanding as many will be missing family and friends.

The Year of the OX

Every Lunar year is represented by one of the twelve zodiac signs, which take the form of twelve guardian animal deities collectively known as Sibijisin. These signs change with every year, rotating over a 12-year cycle. 2021 is the Year of the White Ox.


The Korean Ox traits are hardworking, patient, and honest in nature, so too, good and much-needed business traits for 2021. They also show traits of being down-to-earth, methodical and when needed—fierce and stubborn. 


As a powerful animal, with COVID and a busy year ahead, we can draw upon the Ox traits to keep the projects on track and the teams safe, happy and strong.


I recommend you wish your friend and colleagues a happy and safe new year the day before… For many in the West and with the time difference that means sometime on Tuesday. 


As for the common greeting, sae hae bok mani ba deu say oh works best.


Questions? I’d be happy to answer.


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Everything Korea-- Office Chat

Office Chat?

Over the years in my support for Korea facing companies, what has worked well on visits is to hold one on one and often confidential chats with teams and leadership.

With COVID travel limitations, one alternative is sharing my thoughts via video.

Check it out.

Subscribe to my YouTube, too

Neat graphic link.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

CES, Electric Vehicles and Collaboration

Check out my new YouTube post where I look at CES, Electric Vehicles and Collaboration.  Please subscribe, too. 


Monday, January 25, 2021

The 2021 All Digital Consumer Electronics Show—CES Trends and Take-aways

Hancom Toki CES 2021


Last year at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada there were over 4,000 exhibitors and more than 170,000 attendees. This year, with the event gone virtual, there are about half that number of exhibitors. Many big companies that in the past dominated the exhibit space opted out of CES 2021. 


Still, the companies that did participate showcased many new, innovative products and something for everyone. Surveying the CES Show’s exhibitors and media coverage three trends stand out:


Trend 1 
EVs and Autonomous, 5G & Smart Cities

       Despite some top auto manufacturers not participating in the show, EV and AV has been the hot topic at the Show, as well as for those suppliers engaged in EV and AV technology.

       For 2021, along with autonomous vehicles and electrification, technologies included cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) and mobility-as-a-service (MaaS). Many of these technologies will be driven by the advancement in 5G networks, and overlaying 5G in smart cities.


Bottom Line: With the upcoming Biden administration strongly promoting EV and Mobility solutions—companies large and small see a huge upside. 


Trend 2
Technology Blending Work & Personal Lives

       Tied to COVID, numerous vendors have showcased products that bridge the gap between work and personal lives. For the past year many have been working out of home offices, and that trend probably isn't going to go away. 

       With many working from home, some of the biggest innovations in 2021 are in AI, and the greater use of voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Alexa. 

       Expect to see more smart wearables, which provide a direct link to voice assistant providers without having to access your phone. 


Bottom Line: Look to digitalize our lives more in 2021.


Trend 3 
Health, Wellness and Workplace safety

       Also, in the wake of COVID, healthcare and wellness are also seen as strong trends at the 2021 show. 

       More so, this years’ companies feel technology can benefit or change society as well as providing products and services to help individuals and companies get back to the “new normal” safely. 

       This includes smart air purifiers, water filtration systems and UV disinfecting lights as companies look to fill the demand. 


Bottom line: People are paying a lot more attention to their personal health and wellness, and the health and wellness environment of their home and workplace. 


And one more thing—Robots get more practical

       CES 2021 finds robots taking on increased importance as ways to automate processes tied to COVID, maintaining social distancing, and serving as home companions and personal assistants.


       For example, in hospitals, robots are being used to take patients’ temperatures and vital signs as they come in and triage them accordingly, as well as disinfecting rooms using UV lights. 


       A Show favorite is tSouth Korea’s Hancom Toki H2—one listed by Autoweek as “10 Cool Things from the Virtual CES—From flying cars to flexible dashboards.” Toki comes with many features and serves as a companion and personal assistant. The home robot allows for customized conversations between family members and users. It also actively engages in daily life based on facial recognition technology and educational content. 


Bottom Line: Looking into the year ahead we’ll find game changing robots serving in new roles at schools, hospitals, offices, gyms, and public transportation. So too, robots like Toki using AI can serve as interactive personal companions and assistants—the need for both public and private roles heightened under the pandemic. 




Hyperlink for