Halah Touryalai ‘16 Take it in. Enjoy this. No matter how tired you are, or how much you hate getting up this early for the bus, enjoy this because you’ll never get anything like it again. I remember thinking that to myself at least twice during the Chazen South Korea tour last month. By day 3 of the trip, we’d done multiple hours and many miles on our charter bus and had also lugged our bags on a commuter train to the southern coast of the country three hours away. While many of our fellow classmates were partying in Cartagena or sunbathing in Nicaragua, we were up before 7am everyday dressed in suits and ready to talk business. Looking back now I know my subconscious was right: I will never have an experience like Chazen SK again. Yes our mornings were early but every destination was topped by the one prior.
On Monday morning we were at Samsung headquarters exploring its d’light exhibition space where all its latest consumer products are on display. Later that afternoon we left the traditional tech company and to check out one of the most innovative tech lab spaces in South Korea dubbed Maru 180. The startup lab stood in stark contrast to the Samsung visit by empowering (and financing) startup companies to take risks and act as entrepreneurs.
By Tuesday, we were greeted by the Mayor of Seoul in the new city hall building. Mayor Park Won-soon made room for all of us in his relatively medium-sized office, and gave us a quick history lesson about his city’s old and new world dynamic. The next morning at 6:30am we were off to Ulsan and Busan to check out the Hyundai empire of ship building and automotive production. Conglomerate companies with family roots are not uncommon in South Korea, and Hyundai is no exception. The company has expanded into so many various types of businesses that it’s spun some off including its Heavy Industries operations. HHI is the world’s largest shipbuilding company, and the Chazen group got a chance to see just how big this operation can get. Created in 1972, this company sits on 1,500 acres manufacturing everything from drill ships to submarines. The company’s 7 lines of business include Shipbuilding, Offshore & Engineering, Industrial Plant & Engineering, Engine & Machinery, Electro Electric Systems, Green Energy, and Construction Equipment. The company was originally part of the Hyundai Group but spun off an independent company in 2002. However, the Hyundai family still own a significant portion of the ship business. Of course a trip to this region of South Korea would not be complete without a stop at Hyundai Motors. The team was able to check out some of the company’s latest models including the Hyundai Equus with interior by Hermes. (shown below)
Just when we thought it couldn’t get better after witnessing Hyundai’s top secret production line facility, we were off to one of the world’s biggest ports in Busan. South Korea’s economy is heavily reliant on its exports. For instance, Samsung and its affiliate companies produce one-fifth of the country’s total exports, and Hyundai is one of the world’s largest car makers. Many of these products are exported on the shores of Busan where the Chazen team witnessed first-hand the mammoth operations required to get products in and out of the country quickly, efficiently and safely. To say the number of shipping containers on site were plentiful would be an understatement. The size of one docked container ship was so massive that it took our bus a full 45 seconds to drive along side it from one end to another.
South Korea’s ports are the heart of its economy, and that can be seen by the investment being made in area including a new international airport and new housing units for port workers. Building on the conglomerate business theme is the Chazen team’s final company to Lotte. It’s tough to describe that day without feeling completely nostalgic. The morning drive to the new Lotte World Tower in Seoul was quick. Shortly after arriving Lotte founder and chairman is Shin Dong-Bin joined us as we put on our hard hats and headed to the top of his still-under-construction tower. As we piled into the construction elevator with the man himself, the elevator speed had some of in a state of vertigo. Fear of heights were put aside as Shin Kyuk-ho, a CBS alum, gave some off the cuff advice to those of us in the elevator with him: “Don’t look down.”
The rest of the day was spent in other areas of Lotte’s business divisions including a mega-luxury mall with an aquarium , and a candy factory. Lotte’s reach is wide–it’s hard not to pick up a pack of gum with out the company’s brand on it. It’s no wonder the entire day was dedicated to all of its successful business operations. Check out this video the Lotte team put together of just some of our day: