I’ve just returned from a trip to Korea. Although my daily work centers on Korea-facing global business, much of which is outside Korea, my time in Seoul and the surrounding area keeps me current on Korea’s ever-changing workplace and society.
Some things stay constant over the years like non-stop public works construction, new residential high-rises, and office building projects. The Korean people are always warm and friendly, too.
So what’s new and different? Cars. Hyundai Motors and Kia Motors new designs continue to shine. I was especially impressed by the new Hyundai Grandeur (badged the Azera in the U.S. market). The Grandeur stands out on the streets of Seoul.
Regarding the Korean car market, with GM Daewoo now renamed GM Korea, the Chevrolet brand was in a number of high profile locations like COEX and Incheon Airport. More surprising the former GM Daewoo dealers are boldly marketing the Chevrolet brand in cool showroom signage…and well done, too.
Next coffee. Over the years I’ve commented about the proliferation of coffee shops. Coffee wars continue with market leaders Starbucks, Angel N Us and others battling for prime locations and market share. I see no immediate slowdown, with most shops busy. The key factor driving business is Seoul’s high urban population density.
For Starbucks, their location in the heart of the city near City Hall and the Westin Chosun has been remodeled to showcase traditional Korean culture. Décor incorporates traditional latticework and roof tiles. Much of the location’s interior is constructed with material reclaimed from old buildings, which reflects Starbucks’ Corporate Social Responsibility.
|Blending East and West|
As for coffee, just when one thought the market was saturated, another brand is getting lots of attention—Paul Bassett. Building on his reputation as a world competition barista winner, the brand has a handful of new cafes in high profile corporate locations. They appeared busy even with prices for a small drip coffee at 4000 won (about $4) and medium drip at 5000 won (about $5). Pricey even when compared to Starbucks and the other premium brands. Décor is very trendy and minimalist. I see this as a success model. I see Smashburger, Roxberry Juice, Paciugo Gelato, and Third Wave cafe concept Caffe Calabria brands following this up-scale model.
|Cool, Trendy, Up-market|
Culture. To conclude, for those involved in Korea-facing business, understanding the dynamics of Korea’s ever changing society, economy, markets, and major business groups is vital. My insights into cars, coffee, and golf provide a snapshot of Korea 2011, modern society, and popular culture. Bridging Culture Worldwide is dedicated to providing much needed consulting, coaching, research, analysis, and strategy 24-7-365.