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10 myths about South Korea 10 myths about South Korea
by Joseph Gatt
2019-03-04 10:09:53
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10 myths about South Korea and their counter-myths.

1.      Korea is a hierarchical society where age and rank determines the hierarchy. True South Korea is a hierarchical society, but one where nepotism plays a greater role than social status. In most Korean companies, the manager is married to the vice-president's cousin or the senior manager is married to the CEOs daughter, so the senior manager would technically be in a higher position than the vice-president or almost any other member of the board, and would be on an equal footing with the CEO. So don't just look at age and titles to determine rank, also look at who is married to who and how family relationships play out in companies, in the military or in government.

skore001_4002.      Koreans value long-term relationships, be it in business, with employees, or in love relationships. Koreans will tend to claim that they value long-term relationships, only to find out that they have high turnover rates and tend to opt-out of business deals fairly quickly. Don't be surprised if your Korean girlfriend dumps you after dating for two months, despite claiming that she wanted to be in this long-term.

3.      Koreans like to make long-term plans for life. There's no bigger corner cutting people in the world than the South Koreans. They want to work for Samsung because they want their first paycheck at their first job to be 5,000 or 6,000 dollars, rather than start at 2,000 and gradually go up the ranks. They don't realize that in exchange for 6,000 dollars a month at Samsung, their career is on the line and their job can be a living hell. Unless they marry the vice-president's cousin that is.

4.      Koreans save a lot of money. Savings rates are high in South Korea because of the low birth rate, meaning a high median age, meaning a lot of mid-career level managers. Having few children also means Koreans spend less on children and can save more. However, Koreans tend to have a bit of a debt problem, most of it being mortgages, along with credit card debts and car payments, and increasingly student loans. And a lot of times they can't find jobs that match their high debt rates, and have to struggle to repay their debt, leading their interest rates to spiral.

5.      Family plays an important role in Korean life. Korean families do spend a lot of time together, but they often avoid conversation at all costs, and save sensitive conversations for appropriate times. They can also go years without telling their parents they are dating, got fired from their job, or in some cases don't tell their families what they are up to.

6.      Korean husbands and wives shower their spouses with attention. A lot of times they will be so busy at work that they won't have time to see their spouse. They will come home, expect to find dinner, and fall asleep immediately after.

7.      Koreans are hard-working. Very often, Koreans dig holes that they refill immediately afterwards to show that they are getting work done. As being lazy is considered a fault in Korean society, most Koreans pretend to work, often on phony projects, rather than get any actual work done.

8.      Korea is a rich country. Poverty exists in Korea and Korea is not exactly a meritocracy. If you marry the vice-president's daughter, you will probably strike it rich. If you sleep with the CEO, you'll have a shot at being rich. But if you want to strike it rich through inventiveness, grit, talent, networks, and simply being brilliant at what you do, there will be a lot of hurdles. Hurdles include laws that will break your business before you have a shot at being rich.

9.      Youth unemployment is high in South Korea. Youth unemployment levels in South Korea are acceptable, and in many cases the youth is not underemployed. But given expensive housing payments, car payments, student loans and credit card debt, unfortunately young Koreans work but don't make nearly enough money to cover debt and other costs.

10.  Koreans have solidarity among each other. If they have blood lines than yes. But Korea has no real social welfare system. If you are visually impaired or disabled you basically have to work or need family support, because no one will look after you. If you invent the next big thing Koreans will steal it without giving you any credit for your invention.

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