K-pop is not just for teenage girls….

It seems as though the Empire building of Korea continued on days 4 and 5 of our trip

Day 4:

Some people wonder what the best way to follow up a night singing Karaoke is, actually no one wonders that but I could not think of a better way to start this post. One thing I can tell you is that grabbing a bullet train at 7 in the morning is not that way. I think most of us still had songs ringing in our ears and may be some other after effects. That being said, all of us could not wait to get to our destination of Ulsan to see Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hyundai Motors.

Hyundai Heavy Industries is another example of a company that may not be known out West but is a global leader in its industry, Ships, really really big Ships, like the biggest Ships in the world. Hyundai Heavy is the worlds largest ship builder, among many other business lines, and we got the rare opportunity to visit their ship yard. This was really one of the more surreal moments of the trip because we got to see the scale of this ships in dry dock. Fun fact: Just to feed their workers at the ship yard it takes 60,000 chicken for a single lunch. Hopefully, that provides some scale of the man power that is present in this operation. One cultural quirk that occurred during our visit was the gift provided by Hyundai Heavy a small towel. We were informed later that is quite common to receive a little towel, often with a company logo, as a present.

After visiting Hyundai Heavy, we took a short trip to the home of Hyundai Motor Company where operations class came in handy. After a brief presentation and tour of the visitor center at Hyundai Motor we got the rare opportunity to see a live production line. We got to see Kaizan in action and how they measure productivity on their line. I think we all truly believe that in a few years Hyundai cars will catch up to the other leaders in terms of quality after seeing the attention to detail put into their manufacturing process. Another interesting aspect of our trip was seeing the loading of cars onto ships for transportation to markets abroad. Fun fact: These ships have 15 levels for storing 7,500 cars which are all individually driven onto the ship by professional drivers.

Once the visits were done we hoped back on the train to Ulsan to try to get some sleep before another amazing night out in Seoul. The organizers set up a Royal Dinner for us at one of the top restaurants in Seoul. The dinner consisted of somewhere between 30-40 dishes of every type of food imaginable. One thing I did not realize was how much the Royals drank because the beer and soju never stopped flowing…ok that last part may just have been our interpretation of a Royal Dinner. We went straight from the Royal Dinner to B One Lounge where we planned to kill sometime until the highlight of the night occurred. At 2 am, we left the lounge, a little wobblier than we started, for the Seoul Fish Market. I think he wobbliness was necessary to sturdy our constitutions for what the organizers had planned. We walked around the market and were guided towards a restaurant area where we got served fresh flounder and live octopus that the organizers had selected for us. Live octopus is really a pain to eat because it suctions onto the bowl so you can’t even pick it up and when you put it in your mouth you just hope it doesn’t get stuck on your tongue. One final surprise awaited us at the fish market. Our press tour continued with a photographer from a local paper coming to watch us viewing a fish auction.

Day 5:

Waking up I was pretty sure there was still octopus roaming my stomach but it would soon get replaced with the amazing tastes provided by our next company visit, CJ Foodville. CJ foodville manages 14 restaurant chains in Korea and abroad like Tous Les Jour and Bibigo. In their headquarters they have a gigantic food court area with test restaurants for all of their brands and we got to experience bibigo. After eating there the first question we asked was when they would expand beyond LA, more specifically Columbia’s campus. We followed up lunch with a tour of their R&D and Cooking Labs. This company seems more like a hip fashion line than a food business. Everything in their offices was cool from the way people dressed to the layouts and designs of the floor. This hip factor translated into their restaurant designs and were places any western could feel comfortable.

CJ Foodville was just the first stop on our CJ group tour. You may notice that in Korea most businesses are far more diversified than in the states and I will discuss that in a later post. We went over to CJ Entertainment and Music which is sort of like the MTV, American Idol, ABC, and Universal all rolled into one. They manage movie theaters (leaders in 4D future cinemas), produce their own movies (check out Snowpiercer coming soon to the states, their first all english production), produce the biggest Music Awards show in the world, and the most watched music countdown show. Of course when we arrive the first thing we see is a TRL flashback with about 100 teenage girls crying while watching a taping featuring their favorite K-pop band. After a brief tour of their building we got to go to their private screening room which was outfitted with 4D seats and side video panels (the seats move, spray you with hot or cold air and water based on the environment of the movie). We got to watch clips from their latest movies and got to test out the 4D technology which will be coming to the states soon.

You would think that this would be enough but CJ had one more surprise up their sleeve. We got escorted into M-Countdown, the biggest Music countdown show in the world. We got to see about 20 K-pop bands perform including megastars  2ne1, BTS, and 4 Minutes. Mind you we are all in suits/ties and a foot and half taller than the surrounding audience which is mostly teenage girls who are sobbing when their favorite bands wave to them. So we blended right in, I am pretty sure we threw some of the bands off when we started jumping and screaming at all the wrong times but we had a blast nonetheless.

Once we had been converted to K-pop fans we got the amazing honor and privilege to be hosted by the Korean Alumni Association at Yonsei University for a dinner to connect Alumni, current students, and future Korean Admits. This was another one of those wow moments of how connected the CBS community is globally. Everyone was so gracious and the spread was top notch (pretty much all you can eat sushi and Korean Food). I think the new admits got to experience a little bit of orientation already when we made them go up to the front and introduce themselves as we did not stop cheering.

Takeaway from these days:

These two days were dramatically different in terms of the types of companies we visited but one thing that stuck with all of us is that Korea is moving up in the world. All of us can see the transition from a manufacturing economy to one that provides service and is a leader in global trends. Going on this trip has given us a small window into that transformation and I think has opened our eyes to the possibilities of working with and or for Korea in the future

Until next time this is Slava Druker Seoul ’15 reporting in

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