Friday, October 30, 2009

Serendipity: On working in a company in Korea

I've been blogging and commenting on other blogs for a number of years now, so every now and then I serendipitously find something on someone else's blog that I'd put a bit of time or thought (or both) into, which I think might be worth making into a mini-post.

The paragraphs I wrote below are in response to someone's well thought-out advice on working for a company in Korea:
I think this is a good post, but as with any kind of advice intended to apply to an entire culture, it’s definitely a your-mileage-may-vary kind of thing. Some of the things that are offered here are right on the money for the companies with which I’ve worked, and some are the complete opposite.

Bear in mind also that there are good companies and there are bad companies, especially at the hagwon level where new players pop up (and sometimes disappear) overnight. A bad company might be one where no logic or cultural understanding applies, even to the native Koreans who work there.

My other two bits of advice would be to shed (if you have it) a Korean-versus-foreigner perspective. I think people who call the sole “foreigners” in a company “tokens” are often doing a disservice or missing the point entirely. You are hired for a skill set and that skill set is needed for a reason. You need to figure out what that skill set is (and, yes, it might be just the ability to speak English like a native in some cases) see if that’s what you want to be your primary focus for the duration and, if possible, if you will be able to expand that skill set or the skill set that is needed so you can grow with the job. Anyway, it’s not good (and it’s probably usually wrong) to think that every bad thing happening to you that comes down from above is “because I’m a foreigner.” If that’s your perspective, you either won’t last or, if you do, you’ll be miserable.

Finally, anytime one is ready to make a stand about something in their company (and this applies outside of Korea as well), make sure first that you really are right about what you think you’re right about. It’s surprising how often that step is missed. If it turns out you’re wrong about something (especially something big), you won’t be trusted as much in the future, until you rebuild your rep again.
The link is from here (advice in a similar vein presented in a much funnier format here). And in case you're wondering why someone like me who is supposedly "all over comment boards at other blogs" would not write anything anymore at this particular blog, it's because last winter I was banned from that site. To my knowledge, that's the only site I've been banned from, except possibly The Fighting 44's.


  1. When I click the first link, or something, I am warned against proceeding due to malicious software on the site, that is one trojan virus.
    I didn't fry th e second link, but If others are also getting this perhaps a warning is in order.
    Keep up the good work!!

  2. After I was banned in early March, I sought revenge by getting the offending person's site listed as infected with malware, meaning fewer people will dare venture over there; yes, I'm that vindictive. There is in fact, to my knowledge, absolutely nothing wrong with their site, so click through and browse to your heart's content. There's occasionally some interesting information there, and I peruse the site on occasion with my Mac. Hmm... maybe Macs are immune.

    Actually, I'm kidding about having infected their site or getting it listed, or even thinking about doing such a thing. While it is possible to get someone's site listed as bad news (someone once spammed thousands of sites with my userid and got me blocked out of my own blog for several weeks back in 2006), I wouldn't have the foggiest how to do such a thing. Nor would I have the inclination... or would I? ;)


Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.