Samsung protocol experts lead the way in showing firms how to greet VIPsProtocol: “In a narrow sense, it refers to international manners for national events and reception of high-level persons. But in a wider sense, it means sound courtesy that every individual should keep.” That is the definition of the word on the Web site of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In general, the word means “how to welcome high-ranking people,” but in fact it is “etiquette that everyone should keep.”
Meet Bang Jin-seon, Lee Su-hyang and Kim Min-jeong, three protocol experts at Samsung Electronics, and you will better understand the meaning of the term. Samsung is Korea’s largest conglomerate, with annual sales of 40 trillion won ($35 billion) and 7 trillion won in net earnings last year.
Protocol is not yet a familiar term to most local companies. Only a few firms, such as Samsung, Posco and Hyundai Motor Co., have protocol departments. But more and more companies are trying to learn the ABCs of protocol from Samsung, which is putting more of the responsibility on Ms. Lee, Ms. Bang and Ms. Kim. The three women recently talked about their lives at their workplace, Samsung Digital Center in Suwon, Gyeonggi province.
About seven or eight international VIPs out of 10 visit the company when they come to Korea, which the women say makes them feel important, “like some national athletes or something.”
Guests they have received include Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Abdul Aziz Shah, former sultan of Malaysia. Last month, they greeted Phan Van Khai, the Vietnamese prime minister.
The women prepare for such visits at least one month in advance. On top of the basic training in greeting and briefing, there is a number of things the women must learn, ranging from what drinks the guests would like to what kind of electronics interest them.
“Nobody knows what kinds of questions the guests will ask, so we should be thoroughly aware of not only the trends in the company but also how the whole industry is moving,” the women say.
Despite the heavy workload, they say they love their job, especially after they successfully complete a project.
There is a down side, however ― call it an occupational hazard. “When we go up steps, we should turn our bodies 45 degrees sideways, to show respect for the guests. By now, it’s become my habit,” one of the women says. “And if somebody asks me directions on the street, I automatically lift my hands up in the air, as if I were guiding honored guests. Some people actually ask me if I work for a department store.”
They all have future plans in the protocol field. Ms. Bang wants to train others, while Ms. Lee dreams about having a protocol agency. Ms. Kim says she wants to write a “protocol encyclopedia.”
The three women have one thing in common ― they were accepted at Samsung through a special appointment. Asked how to obtain a dream job, they give a rather simple reply: “If you want to have a job that you want to do, you should get yourself ready always.”
by Namgoong Wook
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