We’ve completed day three of eight on our venture into the exotic world of Seoul and we’re heading into Wednesday on an emotional and BBQ-induced high. We arrived Sunday and hit the ground running with lunch and a performance of ‘Nanta’, a theatrical mix of ‘iron chef’, ‘stomp’, and ‘Gallagher’. A member of our group was even called up on stage and partook in an impromptu wedding ceremony, much to the delight of the locals and his classmates.
A night of eating and karaoke followed, with people chugging coffees and fighting through jetlag in an effort to belt out English classics at the top of their lungs with their classmates.
Our first full day in Seoul featured a company visit with the consulting firm McKinsey. McKinsey’s presentation enlightened us with a general overview and discussion of more subtle issues in the Korean economy, including demographic shifts, operations of the Chaebol, and the situation with the North. This experience was followed by a smorgasbord of BBQ, a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace, and an evening lounging and dancing at various venues throughout the city.
Tuesday was the most intense day of the trip thus far, consisting of a visit to the Lotte Group, a major Korean conglomerate that has businesses in a plethora of industries. We arose early in the morning and donned our business fatigues to embark upon an experience that, for most of us, will be the closest to experiencing a real life version of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ as we will ever get.
We took a bus from our hotel and arrived at the site to an army of suited executives, engineers in what appeared to be full nuclear detox outfits, interpreters, and film crew, all of them bustling in anticipation of our arrival.
The tour of the facility began with visiting filming studios for one of the company’s ‘Home Shopping Network’ type divisions, and was followed with visits to major shopping centers and a visit to the company’s confectionary manufacturing operations (aka, The Chocolate Factory). The only thing missing from the confectionary manufacturing tour was Oompa Loompas, as otherwise all major aspects of the Willy Wonka movie seemed to be present…. high tech machinery in futuristic settings, a décor that was welcoming to guests of all ages, excited youngsters eager to put their hand all over everything (us) and, of course, conveyer belts full of chocolate bars.
The Chairman of the Lotte group was remarkably generous in his time, as he personally led us through the factories and spoke at length about the industries in which his conglomerate operated.
Most importantly, he showered us all with chocolate.
As he himself is a CBS grad, he knows full well the power of free food in the mind of the MBA and we all left the experience with our pockets so full of exotic confectionary delights that kids all over the country are still weeping with jealousy.
Shouts of “best company visit ever!” and “most baller exit by a CEO ever!” ricocheted off of the interior of our party bus as we departed the chocolate factory and have set the bar high for our subsequent activities this week.