A Week in Korea in retrospect

Korea is more than the companies we visited, Korea is a small country that is making contributions far beyond its stature. Whether it is in international business, fashion trends, music, or food the whole world is listening. As part of Chazen, we got to experience these trends first hand. Whether it was me trying on my first face mask (which left my face feeling silky smooth) or all of us listening to the top hits in K-pop, it was hard to deny the coming Korean Wave. Everyday of the trip started with conversations about how this cool Korean thing needs to make its way over to the states or how Koreans are way ahead of the curve. I mean Seoul is going to house a building that will be taller than the World Trade Center! That is a statement to the whole world and we got to see it first hand.

As much as Korea is changing the world it still faces real problems which were violently highlighted in the news today. North Korea and South Korea exchange fire, that is the headline I woke up to this morning. A little over a week ago I was standing at the border making jokes about the North Korean tunnels into South Korea. But the relationship between the two countries is anything but a joke. Any second this wonderful experiment that is South Korea, that is Seoul, can be stopped by the actions of another. This trip has made me care and want to devote time to learning more about the struggle between these two countries that occupy a little peninsula together.

This trip was also a chance for me to meet 40 other amazing individuals. I got to meet second years, who this Chazen was part of their last hurrah in business school, and first years who I am excited to get to know even more. We are already planning reunions to K-town and the bottles of soju we will share. Two weeks ago these people were just faces on a trip roster and now they are individuals who I will always remember sharing a great journey with.

Chazen was more than I could have expected. It gave me a spring break to remember and friendships that will hopefully last much longer than school.

So thank you to the organizers, to the companies, to our faculty adviser, to the Chazen staff, and to the amazing alumni of Chazen South Korea 2015

~ Slava Druker Chazen South Korea 2015

All great trips come to an end

Day 6:

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

Day 7:

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

The countdown to Kimchi begins…

I am less than a week away from my trip to South Korea and I am a mix of nerves and excitement. I cannot stop talking about this experience with all of my friends and family, even though I am pretty sure they would like me to. It is incredible to think that in a weeks time I will get to meet the Mayor of Seoul and see the world’s largest ship yard.

Since coming to CBS I have been strangely connected to South Korea. My cluster always suggests events in K-Town, mostly Karaoke. In class I have studied Samsung and the K-Pop industry. Now in a weeks time I will be visiting Samsung and seeing a live B-boy show at CJ Entertaiment and Music. I helped a clustermate on his business which sells and educates US consumers on Korean Cosmetics, shout out to SokoGlam, and now I will be visiting the largest beauty care company in South Korea, Amore Pacific.

This is one of those experience of a lifetime that you hope for when you go to business school. As excited as I am for the great itinerary our Chazen team has put together, I am more excited for all the surprises in store for me and the new friendships I will build.

Korea here I come! Get the Kimchi ready and put the Soju on ice!

~ Slava Druker ’15 (South Korea)

Eating Live Octopus in Busan, Korea

For many of us, half of the fun of learning about a new culture is trying new foods.  For example, for this trip was their first time using chopsticks as an eating utensil.

As another example…for weeks we’ve been told that a mandatory part of our trip would be eatinglive octopusSannakji, in Busan – a delicacy.

And while not all of us were so brave, Pablo deciding to give it a try…

Countdown until Chazen Korea

Annyeonghaseyo (Hello)!

On Sunday the 17th of March, 30+ Columbia Business School students will arrive in Seoul, South Korean for a weeklong experience of Korean business and culture.  Organized and led  by 4 of our Korean classmates, we will visit with companies such as Samsung and Hyundai, meet with the Chairman of the Lotte Group (CBS ’81), enjoy Korean BBQ and Karaoke, stop in at SM Entertainment – home of many K-Pop sensations, and visit the Joint Security Area (JSA) and Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the border with neighboring North Korea.  We will spend most of our time in the capital city of Seoul, with an overnight visit to Ulsan and Busan in the south.

Much of the above includes familiar brands/experiences to those living in New York:  Samsung devices, Hyundai cars, karaoke, etc.  It will be interesting to see where the familiarities end and blend into new and foreign experiences.  For many of us who have been traveling this week prior to the Chazen trip, I know we will be excited to have our local classmates to help translate both language and culture.

Until next week,

Yael Silverstein, CBS ‘13

From Hong Kong