Our last company visit is probably to the company that represents Korea the most, Samsung. Samsung is involved in every business imaginable, electronics check, construction check, shipbuilding check, life insurance check… the list goes on. The start of our visit is to the Global Strategy Group which is the internal consulting group for Samsung’s foreign operations. Though we were visiting the GSG it seemed more like a CBS reunion. There were about 12 former CBS alums working at the GSG and they shared their experiences of working abroad across various business units. After a brief presentation and panel we headed down to lunch with the GSG group at the Samsung cafeteria. Lucky for us there was a Western section, many of us needed a break from Kimchi at every meal.
The second part of our day included what most people expect from Samsung, tech toys, tech toys everywhere. We got to see the latest in Samsung technology and I really wanted all of it. We got welcomed into their innovation center with a wall of screens with the CBS logo. During our tour we got to see a TV that with 3D type glasses can switch between two different programs, I can finally watch sports in peace 24/7. We also got to see the latest in semi-conductor technology which is near and dear to every CBSers heart. Following our visit to Samsung we had some time to sight-see which I spent on Insadong street.
Insadong is sort of a combination of old style tea houses, antiques, and amazing street food. It was cool to see some authentic Korean arts and crafts, it was interesting how close it seemed to other Asian countries but still had a unique feeling.
Fast forward a few hours and we all find ourselves in one of the hottest clubs in Seoul, Octagon. We have a set up of 3 tables and basically take over a whole section of the VIP area, because anything else would not be CBS. After a week of traveling together we feel comfortable dancing it up and cracking jokes all night long. The night goes on and we start wondering how in the world we will wake up tomorrow…one option is to just not sleep. But we all settle on relying on each other to get us to one of the coolest and most unique places on Earth…the DMZ
For most of us the 1 hour and 30 minute bus ride to the DMZ is passed in a haze as thick as the fog that covers Seoul in the morning. The trip to the DMZ starts feeling real when we are about to enter the zone and a dead serious ROK (Republic of Korea) Soldier enters the bus and demands to see our paperwork. Let’s just say it was a very sobering moment. We wind our way through the check point and get to the first sight on the trip, the 3rd tunnel. We take a little train down to a tunnel built by North Korean troops to try and invade South Korea below the DMZ. They painted the tunnel in coal in order to make it seem as though they were digging for coal and not creating a secret tunnel. The key learning from the tunnel is that North Koreans are like munchkins from Oz. Most of us could barely fit in the tunnel without being fully bent over and even then we hit our heads every 5 feet. We go from the tunnel area to the freedom bridge followed by getting into the UN base.
After a somewhat politically incorrect briefing regarding the size of flags we are ready to actually step into North Korea. First we get to stare the North Korean Soldiers down. Our US military escort informs us that though there is only one North Korean outside that the window next to him is taking pictures of us and that there are probably 30 more hidden in the building behind him. The South Korean soldiers look like wax figures, they don’t move and there bodies are so tense it feels like nothing can move them. We enter a meeting room that straddles the border and get to walk around. Without realizing most of us had entered into North Korea which is one half of the room. After taking more pictures than I can count in the room and with the ROK soldier it was time for us to go.
No one got kidnapped and no one ran away so I think the trip to the ROK was a success.
Getting back to the hotel allowed us all to crash from both the exploits from the night before and the intensity of the days events. The crash is short lived because we have to end this trip the right way by going to one final amazing group dinner filled with Apple Soju from Apple Cups and creative takes on traditional Korean dishes.
The dinner and the toasts were the perfect way for this amazing journey to the country of the Morning Calm to end. I cannot wait to go back to South Korea to explore it further and I feel as though I have made so many friends who are willing to hop on that trip with me