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Eureka : Korean peninsula: holding responsible talks
by Jay Gutman
2017-05-31 10:14:24
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Here are 10 things you need to know about the structure of Korean affairs and how that can affect peace talks on the Korean peninsula.

1-      1. Many Koreans are career-oriented

Since salaries, respect and reputation is gained through the number of years, months and hours spent on the job, and not on the quality of the results obtained or on ethics, many Koreans will simply try to spend 10 years, 5 years, 20,000 working hours or 90 months on the job without making a splash. That is because if you spend 90 months as a hypothetical example, or 20,000 work hours, you will be promoted to a higher position, with higher wages, more respect, and more subordinates to delegate to.

2-    kor01_400  2. Koreans like to delegate, delegate, delegate

Having spent 10 years in Korea, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a boss write his own speech, or a professor write his own paper for that matter. Get the subordinates to write the content, fix the content a little bit then produce the report or speech. This often means that during high-level talks, Korean delegates have no idea what they are saying. The speeches are often written by subordinates, often using flat tones and ambiguous overtones, meaning very little of what is said is clear.

3-      3. Many Koreans are scared of conversation

Conversation is for good friends, and is mostly gossip. Who is dating who, who cheated on who, who backstabbed who, who slept his or her way to a position, why such person is getting better treatment than such person. Conversation is rarely about getting the economy to work, getting the environment to work or improving military conditions or work conditions.

4-      4. “He didn’t get the hint T.T.”

Nunchi opta. He or she didn’t get the hint. Koreans often try to hint at things rather than say them plainly. If you receive an envelope opener as a gift, that probably means they’re trying to offer you money or split a business deal with you. If they show a documentary during prime time on television about you or your country, they’re probably trying to be in good terms of fix terms with your country. If they send you a group of pretty students to “hear you talk about yourself” they’re probably trying to hint that you can get all the women you want in exchange for help. If you do nothing after those hints, they’ll often complain you didn’t get the hints.

5-      5. Koreans don’t follow up on negotiations and are often disappointed to be deceived

There’s the negotiation part, then there’s the monitoring part. When many Koreans are done with a negotiation, they rush to their resumes and are quick to add that they successfully conducted an important negotiation, then try to hint to their boss that they want a promotion. They rarely follow up or monitor the negotiation to make sure the terms of the contract are being followed.

6-      6. The land of morning surprise

Korea is a country where you find out you have been promoted or have a new office on the very morning you arrive at work. You find someone else working at your desk and are led to your new office that very morning. Same goes with decisions at all levels.

7-      7. Many Koreans can’t stand criticism

If mistakes have been done, white tofu is usually served for lunch. Most negotiations involve the present and the future.

8-      8. Can you come to my office tomorrow?

Many Koreans like to delay conveying the news. They will call you to ask you to show up to their office the next day, will keep you waiting for several hours in the hallways of their office before they announce the news or suggestion. That’s their way of making sure you don’t refuse their offer.

9-      9. What is correct, I eat lunch every day or I’m eating lunch every day?

If you contradict Koreans, a lot of times they will shift the topic to irrelevant facts on linguistics or historical dates and will shift the conversation to trivia.

10-   10. I’m the boss

One of the main complications of culture on the Korean peninsula is ageism. They tend to avoid meetings with older people and prefer meeting with younger people because it’s considered rude to contradict younger people.

What’s the best way to negotiate on the Korean peninsula?

Joint committees are probably the best way, with permanent committees working permanently with both sides and having a certain amount of decision-making power. Joint committees with people very comfortable with both cultures on both sides, and with influential decision-making power might be one of the rare available solutions.  

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