Korea: The New Asia
    Category: Column By : Hermawan Kartajaya Read : 1614 Date : Thursday, September 05, 2013 - 05:31:16

    Last July, I taught an MBA Summer Class at SolBridge International School of Business in Daejeon, which is often dubbed as Korea's Silicon Valley. We would find many research centers in the area. One is KAIST, known as Korea's “Caltech,” where many Indonesians study.

    SolBridge itself is part of Woosong University. Among others on the list is SKY, a group of three universities in South Korea: Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University.

    In Korea, people highly value education and thus scholars are respected. Reflecting the vertical Korean culture, every high school graduate wishes to go to a good university, such as one of the SKY schools (Seoul National, Korea or Yonsei universities). Ultimately they aim to work for one of the big business conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG—these three represent over 80% of the Korean economy.

    But Woosong Chairman Kim Sung-Kyung, whose father built the university, wanted a different kind of education. Thus SolBridge is the only business school in Korea to use 100% English. It also has a unique policy that Koreans should not make up more than 20% of students and faculty. In the class that I taught, I had no Koreans.

    Many come to SolBridge for its quality international education. SolBridge collaborates with Georgia Tech in the U.S. and Meiji University in Japan. Ony Jamhari, an Indonesian who has worked at Woosong University for nearly five years, told me that over 1,000 international students have come to Woosong. Summer programs are the most popular, offering not only education but also a chance to experience firsthand Korean culture.

    During class breaks, I enjoyed weekends at Busan, went to the Nongshim factory in Asan, and spoke to the Marketing Society of Korea in Seoul. I also watched “Michael Jackson's The Immortal World Tour” by Cirque de Soleil, spent the weekend at Walker Hill and visited the huge COEX Mall in Gangnam.

    Korea is now the New Asia. It is still very much Asian due to the Confucianism influence. But Korea also integrates technology and innovation. Samsung and LG prove this in the consumer electronics industry. Korean culture is also seen as cutting edge—Psy and other K-Pop artists have become international celebrities.

    The rise of youth, women, and netizens as the new drivers of contemporary Korea is also prominent.  Indonesian Ambassador to Korea John Prasetio told me an interesting insight during dinner with Chairman of Hankook Research Roh Ick-sang. Korean restaurants, he said, are easy to find in Jakarta but it is difficult to find Indonesian restaurants in Seoul. K-Pop is well accepted in Indonesia but Indonesian culture is less known in Korea. Indonesia is still “far” for Koreans. Although in political and business relationships, Indonesia and Korea are on very good terms, people-to-people relationships between the two are lacking. John told me that his homework is to promote Indonesian culture in a country that is becoming the New Asia.