Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our last day

It's our last day here in Seoul and what an adventure it has been. Seoul is simply an amazing city and the Korean people could not have been nicer. For as large of a city it is (12 million people), the streets and sidewalks are extremely clean and the only hint of smoggy or polluted air has been noticeable when there is a really heavy cloud cover.

As far as our students are concerned, Angie and I could not have asked for a better, more respectful group. Thank you all for being responsible, considerate, and genuine. It has been such a reward for us to spend time with all of you.

I also wanted to express our deepest thanks and appreciation to Professor and Mrs. Kang - we could not have survived this trip without you! THANK YOU for your time and patience and for showing us what this great city has to offer.

Tomorrow morning (Sunday) we depart for the airport at 7:30am. Therefore, this will probably be my last post while in Seoul. I apologize I wasn't able to upload any video - there were some technical difficulties. But, I'll try to upload them once we're back in the States. For now, I thought I would post a few more pictures from our week. Thanks for following us!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Samsung and the Korean Folk Village

Happy Friday!

Today we visited a training facility for Samsung where we learned all about their company and it’s training programs. It was an absolutely beautiful facility located in the mountains about an hour south of Seoul. Samsung itself was created in 1938 in Dae-Ku, Korea. People come first at Samsung and its motto is “A Company is its People.” Currently, Samsung has 272,000 employees around the world; 35% of which are foreign. Samsung has 465 offices in 70 countries worldwide. Because of Samsung’s reputation of being good to their employees, there is a book available to job-searches on how to get hired by Samsung. It’s been on the best-sellers list! One of the very unique benefits that Samsung offers its employees is the Samsung Summer Festival which takes place every June. The festival celebrates the 1 year anniversary of each new cohort of employees. As many as 10,000 employees participate in the 3-day long festival honoring the roughly 7,200 new hires. Here are some photos taken during our visit.

Next we visited a historic Korean Folk Village. This village gives tourists an idea of what Korean living used to look like years ago. Visitors can tour traditional houses and really get a sense of what the culture was like. We were also able to witness a drum performance while we were there.

Our visit to Samsung and the Korean Folk Village conclude our itinerary of scheduled events. Tomorrow is Saturday and marks our last full day in Seoul. Many of us plan to sightsee and visit some traditional markets.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cheil Worldwide and Kyobo Life

Good morning! We woke up to another beautiful day in Seoul. It may be C.O.L.D., but at least the sun is shining! Here’s the view from my hotel room.

Today we visited two Korean companies, Cheil Worldwide and Kyobo Life. Cheil Worldwide is a marketing and advertising firm whose slogan is “Passion for Ideas.” They label themselves as the “Idea Engineering Group” because they believe there is a science behind how ideas are created. Cheil Worldwide was founded in 1973 and is Korea’s largest ad agency and the 16th largest agency in the world. Their primary client is Samsung and, in fact, they are partially owned by Samsung. They are headquartered in Seoul, but have 28 offices worldwide, including the US. Cheil executives strongly believe in building a comfortable and healthy climate for their employees. New hires are actually taken on a one month retreat to learn more about the company and its climate. In addition, employees are given a 2-hour lunch break every day to rest and refresh their minds; granted most of the staff stays in the office until 7-8:00 in the evening. Overall, our group had a very enjoyable and informative visit with Cheil Worldwide.

The above picture is taken from the top floor of the Cheil Building. Not a bad view!

After Cheil it was time for lunch. Some of us headed to a well-known Indian restaurant in Seoul. I know, I know…Indian food in Korea? Let’s just say we’re soaking up as much of the “international experience” as we can while abroad. For the record, the food was delicious!

It was now time to head to Kyobo Life, which is Korea’s largest life insurance company and the world’s 8th largest. Kyobo is a privately owned company that has really taken off in the last ten years. The literal translation of “Kyobo” is “Education Insurance.” The company takes this translation to heart and really tries hard to educate its clients, as well as the Korean people, with various initiatives. Kyobo Life makes up 55% of the current market share of the Big 3 Life Insurers in Korea (Samsung and Korea Life are the other two.) Kyobo is expected to grow even more in the coming years due to the demographic change of Korea. We certainly had an information-packed presentation at Kyobo and learned quite a bit about their company.

At this point in the day, our company visits were over. We decided to head towards Insa-Dong for some shopping!

Lastly, I cannot conclude without sharing our experience last night with Mr. Joo, owner of several Din Tai Fung restaurants in Seoul. Mr. Joo is a Kelley School alumnus and graciously hosted our group for dinner. Members of the Korean chapter of the IU Alumni Association were present, as well. We cannot thank Mr. Joo enough for his generosity. The food (traditional Chinese) was superb! Thank you!!!

Tomorrow marks the last day of our company visits; we head to Samsung in the morning. It’s also our second to last day here in Seoul – it’s gone by so fast! Have a good day and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The DeMilitarized Zone (DMZ)

Today was another eventful day…although, I suppose I should start off by including our adventures from last evening. Namsan Park is actually a mountain and one of Seoul’s most popular landmarks. Atop the mountain is Seoul Tower, which has a viewing area that overlook’s all of Seoul. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong to take a cable car up to the top of the mountain, but the group made it there anyway – some took a bus, some took a taxi, others hiked!

Here is a view from the observation deck of Seoul Tower.

That leads us to today, Wednesday, March 17th. We started off the morning by heading north to the North Korea/South Korea border, oftentimes referred to as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The DMZ is a 4km stretch of land (2km on the North Korea side and 2 km on the South Korea side) that is impassable and heavily guarded.

The tour took us to the 3rd Tunnel, which is an underground tunnel that North Korea created in order to invade Seoul. The tunnel is 73 meters underground and was discovered in 1978 – just 52 km away from Seoul. So far, South Korea has detected a total of four tunnels, the first being discovered in 1974 and the last in 1990! South Korea is certain that there are more tunnels, maybe even as many as 10, but they have yet to discover them. Unfortunately cameras were not allowed in the 3rd Tunnel, so I cannot show you pictures of this portion of the tour.

Next, we headed to Dora Observatory, which is the northernmost observatory in South Korea to see the North. The use of cameras and video equipment is very limited in the area; there was a marked line visitors were not allowed to cross. Thankfully, no one in our group took the chance to cross that “camera line.”

After the DMZ tour had concluded, we stopped for lunch at another local Korean restaurant. Here we had bul-gogi, which is a traditional beef dish. It was delicious!

The next stop was the War Memorial of Korea that housed memorabilia from the Korean War. It was a very impressive structure with a multitude of actual fighter jets and tanks parked on the grounds outside.

We concluded the afternoon with a walk to the Itaewon neighborhood where there are a lot of shops and street vendors. This evening we are very much looking forward to having dinner with Mr. Joo, a Kelley alumnus who owns several restaurants, one within walking distance to our hotel!

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through our week here! Tomorrow we visit Cheil Worldwide, a marketing company, and Kyobo Life, Korea’s top life insurance company. We’ll check back in with you then.
(PS - it's snowing...brrr!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trip to Asan, South Korea

It's Tuesday, day two of our trip to Seoul. We woke up early to drive approximately two and a half hours to Asan, South Korea. Asan, while also known for its popular hot springs, is home of South Korea's 2nd largest Hyundai plant. Our group was able to tour the enormous facility and witness how the Sonata was made from start to finish. The only part of the process we were unable to see was the painting process. Minimal visitors can enter the painting facility because of the color sensitivity to dust and other particles.

The Hyundai corporation started building the facility in 1994 and cost two billion dollars to complete. The plant runs Monday through Friday for 20 hours a day. A single car takes 20 hours to complete from start to finish (11 hours of which take place in the painting facility) which comes to approximately 1,200 cars produced daily. An interesting note about the Asan plant is that they have an environmental processing facility that recycles waste water and turns it into usable industrial water. Hyundai claims that not a single drop of sewage is produced from its Asan plant.

After our tour of the Hyundai plant, we made our way to the Onyang Korean Folk Museum. Along the way we drove past farmland that consisted of mostly rice and ginseng. Our tour guide informed us that we should not expect to see any farm animals (like cows, pigs, or chicken), because they are confined to barns at all times.

We soon arrived at the Korean Folk Museum and made our way through Korean history. Artifacts from hundreds of years ago were abundant both inside and outside the museum grounds. Our tour guide was incredibly resourceful and informed us of cultural traditions, some of which only date back to just over 50 years ago.

Our day of visits was over at the completion of our Korean Folk Museum tour. We had a video below for you to listen to three of our students (Sammy, Michelle, and Felix) recap their experiences of the day - but, unfortunately we are having technical difficulties getting it to post. Hopefully we'll have it up for you soon. Regardless, tomorrow you'll get to read about our trip to the Demilitarized Zone and the War Museum - this is going to be exciting...we can't wait!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Our first official day

Wow! Our first official day in Seoul is not even over and we’ve already done so many amazing things! We started off the morning with a delicious continental breakfast in the hotel. Local Korean cuisine was available, as well as more traditional western style foods like cereal, scrambled eggs, and French toast. After fueling up, we hit the streets of Seoul (with our umbrellas!) to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

The Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty. There were once 330 buildings as a part of the compound, however, during the Japanese invasions of the 16th century most of the palace was destroyed by fire. Reconstruction of some of the buildings began in 1868 and an effort to restore Gyeongbokgung to its original condition has been ongoing since 1990. Currently, 30 buildings now remain on the palace grounds.

From there we headed to the National Folk Museum of Korea. The museum has four main galleries: History of Korean People, The Korean Way of Life, Life Cycle of Koreans, and the Children’s Museum. The museum itself is beautiful and the history inside is quite fascinating.

At this point in the day, we were all ready for lunch. It was recommended that we attend a local dumpling restaurant in one of Seoul’s trendier neighborhoods. Luckily, we arrive at the perfect time; normally this restaurant brings in lines of patrons that wrap around the block. And with good reason…the food was DELICIOUS. We all sampled the dumpling soup with noodles. It was a very fun time for everyone and we were also happy to share in celebrating Dan’s 20th birthday!

After lunch it was time to head to SKKU. Seoul contends that SKKU is the world’s oldest university, having been founded in 1398. It is a beautiful campus with a rich history and architecture that’s both old and new. We were greeted with an incredibly warm welcome by a group of SKKU students. They were able to mingle with our students and answer questions about living in Seoul. Thanks SKKU!

By this time evening is approaching and we’ve crossed off all of our scheduled visits for the day. Some of us wanted to check out the subway system and took it directly back to the hotel. Others stuck around SKKU for a little while to tour the campus and continue conversations with the Korean students.

We’re looking forward to another full day tomorrow with visits to Hyundai and the Onyang Museum.

(Here is us singing Happy Birthday to Dan in the restaurant.)