Weekend Read 6: Korean teams

Korean teams

Korean teams.

Continuing with our Weekend Reads’, this week we look at supporting Korean expatriate teams, although the lessons apply well for all of us “working within a Culture.




Here’s the link.  Enjoy.


BTW, we welcome consulting and mentoring opportunities to support you and the team. That said, as always if you have questions, feel free to reach out.

And, If you missed a previous “Read,” you can access under Case Studies at




Lunar New Year Alert: Year of the Golden Dog, plus

Korea (as well as China, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and many Asian countries) celebrate two New Years’– one on Jan. 1 and the Lunar New Year celebration.

This year the Lunar holiday falls on Thursday February 15 to Saturday February 17 (Korea time).

In Asian tradition, each Lunar new year has an associated animal, as well as a related element and color such as fire (red), water (black), earth (yellow/gold), metal (white) and wood (blue), all which rotate over a 60 year cycle.

And as examples, we see Lunar years’ referred to as Red (Fire) Monkey, Black (Water) Snake, White (Metal) Dragon, etc. and this year Golden (Earth) Dog.

Adding some significance to 2018, Gold is also the color of royalty and many feel adds to even more good fortune.

For us working with Korean teams, it’s a great time to re-connect.

For your Korean colleagues (in Korea), you can wish them “Happy Lunar New Year” by phone, text, or email, late afternoon on Tuesday February 13th (so, Wednesday AM in Korea, which is their last day in office prior to Holiday).

For expat Koreans working outside Korea/ globally, or in your local operations, you can wish then Happy Lunar New Year on Friday February 16 (in the West).

Here is the formal greeting–Sae hae bok mani ba deu say yo

 Lunar New Year 2018

Give it a try.   You will find it will be greatly appreciated.

Question, just reach out to me …dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com

Oh, BTW Korea has a twist on Valentine’s Day! This week women give men small chocolate gifts.

No worries, Koreans’ celebrate a White Holiday in 30 days where men give women sugary treats.

Learn more about us at www.bridgingculture.com 


Weekend Read 5: The Hyundai Advantage

Hyundai guy

Don Southerton Hyundai Expert

I’d like to share the story behind what has become a cornerstone for Hyundai and Kia Motors. 


Please enjoy this weekend’s read, “The Hyundai Advantage, Creative Marketing and America’s Best Warranty—The Story Behind”


“A bold creative marketing ’10-year / 100,000-mile Warranty’ program was first introduced in the U.S. in 1998…not by Detroit’s Big 3 or the growing number of Japanese brands, but by Korean automaker Hyundai Motor.”


Here is the LINK http://www.bridgingculture.com/assets/advantage1998.pdf


​​​​​​​In my trip to SoCal this week, and KMA, HMA, GMA, MPA and HCA, many were asking about previous Weekend Read 1-4. No problem, go to: Case Studies



Weekend Read 4 Hyundai and Kia Motors: The Early Years

Hyundai and Kia Motors

Hyundai and Kia Motors: The early years

This week’s read (about 27 pages) is Hyundai and Kia Motors: The Early Years and Product Development.

Reaching back to the early 1960s, we will look at the political and economic forces long impacting the industrial growth and development of South Korea, including automakers Hyundai and Kia Motors.

In addition, we find the roots for the Korean export model where brands like Samsung, LG, SK and Daewoo also followed in partnered with global companies for technology and design prior to expanding rapidly in the domestic Korea and international markets.

I see this trend continuing even today… perhaps more so than ever.

Here is a link to the book in PDF. http://www.bridgingculture.com/assets/hkebook.pdf


Here if you need to chat, too.

#hyundai  #kia



Korea Business Insights Weekend Read 3: Shinhwa

Korea business
Korea business insights. In addition to a number of books, case studies and commentaries I’ve written several short articles that give snapshots into Korea business.

This week it’s a storyline strongly tied to the Hyundai Motor Group.  That said, it’s also very relevant for all engaged and interested in Korea facing business as I provide some deep insights into Korea business DNA. 

The Hyundai Galloper Shinhwa, Myth and Legend
With the introduction of Genesis, the Hyundai Motor Group’s premium luxury car division as well as Kia Motors’ Niro and Hyundai Motor’s Nexo, all part of an expanded model lineup of FCEV, hybrid and electric vehicles, many in the industry see these as bold moves by the Hyundai Motor Group and it leadership. 
More so, the Group has joined in a number of high profile technology partnerships and committed billions over the next few years to mobility, AI, and autonomous vehicles. Actually, it is but the latest chapter in a story and a legacy reaching back decades. 
Link to Full Story.

Korea Business Weekend Read 2

Korea business

With the new year and 2018, I’d like to share a few weekend Korea business reads. All Korea facing– lots for overseas operations in the Americas, Ireland, UK, ME, India, Europe, and AU; lots that share insights into Korea and the workplace. Much very relevant for firms doing business with Korea or global Korean companies, too.

Here’s a link for a Download.

One question we are getting with the new year is “Don, How Best Do We Work with You and Get the Team Support?” I happy to say many companies do recognize the benefits in offering our training, coaching, mentoring and strategy services…. and we take this role very seriously amid the uncertain changes soon to impact local operations .

Let’s chat.. dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com or better yet text +1-310-866-3777 then and we can chat by phone.


Songdo: Korea’s Smart City

Fair article on Songdo International Business District.   All projects comes with some challenges… that said, Songdo tops my list for aspiring to be the City of the Future.

Songdo South Korea


City of the Future

Check it out….


A Korean Business “Working Within the Culture” FAQ

Korea business

Korean Business and Why do Americans/ westerners need Korean cultural training?

For westerners this may be the first time working with Korean business and a Korea team. This opportunity brings with it the need to better understand their new partner’s culture, workplace norms and expectations.

In most cases, the western team will be interacting with a Korean expatriate team. Some of the expatriates will hold a line managerial position with day-to-day responsibilities alongside western managers, while others will hold key management C-level positions, such as CEO, COO, or CFO. In many, if not most, cases these expats may operate as a “shadow management” with considerable oversight of local operations.

With the best of intentions, the expats will look to build strong collaboration and teamwork and advocate less a sense of us and them. However, they do bring with them Korean work norms that can conflict with western work-life balance and western ways of working.

More so, Korean teams may make seemingly one-sided decisions with the best interest of the company in mind but without consulting local teams causing mistrust.

A solid training program followed by on-going support can address differences, such as sharing work styles, hierarchy, and comfort levels, plus providing work-arounds.

 What are some typical issues that arise, especially without training?

As with all individuals, no two of us are alike –and the same goes for westerners and Koreans… Each has his or her unique strengths, skills, experiences and personalities.

That said, expecting local teams to simply “get it” without support and training seldom works. Even if a better understanding of the work culture eventually occurs over time, this “learn as you go” approach we see as costly, contributes to stress, poor productivity and even employee turnover.

 What have Koreans told you about Americans? Work habits, commitment, etc.

If you ask Korean expats how they perceive Americans and westerners in general, responses would be very positive and respectful, especially toward western work ethics and work habits. Koreans see great value in American and western teams providing them with new insights and perspectives, as well as best practice

What might be covered in such training?

I see the training as two fold — 1) providing teams with an understanding of the Korean partner’s history, heritage, trends and popular culture and 2) looking at the Korean workplace and its norms, practices, and expectations.

Above all I feel a best practice is to share similarities and shared values when possible, along with instilling an awareness of and respect for cultural differences.

Addressing the team’s questions and concerns is also vital with issues, such as work-life balance, safety and quality processes and procedures and the overall expectations of Korean partners.

 Anything else?

To conclude, the need for Korean business cross-cultural training programs for local employees and management is a high priority.

The assumption that local and expatriate teams can bridge cultural gaps through practical on–the–job experience might work with those few highly intuitive individuals with the exceptional ability to assimilate cultures.

What stands out in numerous studies, however, is the need for ongoing multicultural training, that can successfully impact people, especially those who need to quickly adapt to new or changing business culture and values, while fostering sensitivity and teamwork among all members of the company.

Finally, I would add that I have found a Korean business tiered service model – training, mentoring and on-going strategic support — to be the most effective approach for an organization.



South Korea Market Entry

Korea business

Looking at Korea and market entry ?  Here are some hints.



Analysis: South Korea – Four Best Practices for Market Entry



The De facto Korean Business Norm

A familiar Korean business term is balli balli. It translates as hurray-hurray. Actually, balli means hurray, but it word is always used in tandem adding to the need to move fast. I first recall hearing the word in the 1970s in martial arts class—the Korean instructor at times commanding we move faster in executing a kicking drills.

Don Southerton

To many Korean firms balli balli it’s a de facto business norm— with everything from immediately responding to requests for data to launching major projects.

More to the point, it means things need to get done today and now, not tomorrow.

For westerners, moving fast can often be a concern–conflicting with the Western business model of careful meticulous study and planning before implementation.

In contrast, one complaint voiced with frustration by my Korean colleagues is how slow Westerners move on projects.

In turn, my Western clients shake their head and argue Koreans want to jump into a project or situation with little preparation.…. and balli balli seems to perpetuate a culture of waiting to the last minute.

Now not being judgmental, and yes, I know the challenges in moving fast without exploring all the potential shortcomings… still I’d like to share the Korean perspective….

Observing the Korean model for years, I have come to see where moving faster may be more than meets the eye. In fact, it’s very entrepreneurial trait. When one shortens the time needed to complete a project, the focus is then on identifying the critical tasks that contribute most and with quickly moving on to execution.

In contrast, the longer the deadline, the more time gets spent in analysis and discussions with an ever-lessening focus on the task. The phenomenon is a corollary to Parkinson’s Law (i.e. “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”). In particular, we find end productivity and quality are equal or higher with a shorter deadline due to greater focus.

All said, when working with Korean leadership and teams understanding their perspective is key…. and allows us to, in turn, “ work within the Culture,” and then provide alternatives. The later, something I strive to provide as a mentor and executive consultant.