Sunday, May 28, 2006

Seoul Korea Up Close...

Good Morning from Seoul,
As you might guess, I’m writing this Korean Culture update from a Starbucks in Downtown Seoul. In fact, I’m at the headquarters of Starbucks Korea in part of the city Anglos once resided a century ago.

Although much of this trip is business-focused, I enjoy retracing the steps Americans first traveled in Seoul during the 1880s and 1890s. Soon after the first Anglos arrived in Korea they heralded the introduction of western technology and commerce. Perhaps, it’s only right I compose this memo at a Starbucks…linked to the Internet and with my mobile phone handy.

BTW While I’m in Korea, my 1-310-866-3777 cell number works as if I was in California, Michigan, or Alabama… telecommunication technology is amazing.

As I look out the coffee shop’s street side window, a stream of Hyundai and Kia’s flow by with an occasional GM Daewoo, Ssangyong, or Renault Samsung mixed in. Oh, there goes an Audi—BTW Audi is pressing to be among the top imports to Korea along with Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Audi ads are prevalent.

So what stands out?
What stands out is the presence of the Hyundai name. Outside their dominance in the Korean car, truck and bus market, former sister companies not directly linked to the Hyundai-Kia Auto Group but once affiliates of the Hyundai Group are everywhere—huge high rise apartment complexes, construction projects, department stores, electronics, tours to North Korea, merchant ships, and securities.

So what does this mean?
Well for Koreans and Korea, the Hyundai name brand dominates across multiple business sectors. Secondly, Hyundai and the Chung family have for decades been in the public and media spotlight. Interestingly when I mention my work, the recent scandal involving the Chairman Chung Mong Koo and the Auto Group draws but a slight mention—to many the recent scandals are nothing new or of an economic concern. Perhaps, many Koreans see Hyundai as an enduring force that is “to big to fail” or suffer long lasting harm.

To conclude, the Korean economy seems to be booming, streets and highways full of Hyundai-Kia cars, plenty of Starbucks, and lots of heritage and culture for me to explore…amid FIFA soccer mania and an important local election time.

Questions, just call or email


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