[Letters] Cultural awareness in business
Korea’s winning bid for the United Arab Emirates’ $20 billion nuclear power plant order has thankfully restored the public’s much depressed morale. We should, however, be careful to veer away from falling into complacency or vanity. Rather, we should take the celebratory news as a challenge to better understand other countries’ business cultures and prepare ourselves accordingly for future contract deals.
I wholeheartedly agree that Korea’s reasonable price and advanced technology were key factors that gave us the competitive edge.
They, however, are not the only reasons.
In fact, it is the very nature of our business culture that ultimately won U.A.E.’s confidence. Emphasis on human relations is deeply rooted in Korean culture, unlike in the United States or France whose business cultures tend to remain, well, strictly business. The latter approach tends to be aggressive in nature since it mainly focuses on the eventual outcome of contracts.
Countries like Korea and the U.A.E., on the other hand, pay much attention to human relations, preferring lasting bonds with business partners over just one-time contracts, negotiations and harmony over unresolved conflicts.
The success of Korean groups that won the bid didn’t happen overnight. In order to build mutual trust and confidence, the Korean team, over a long period of time, made an effort to get acquainted with the U.A.E.’s culture. The Korean Electric Power Corporation even had some 80 employees to learn Emeriti traditional belly dancing, showing an extra cultural sensitivity that other bidders didn’t.
Also, through continuous interactions, the Korean team’s relationship with its U.A.E. counterpart naturally developed into something more than just “business,” earning praise from U.A.E. officials.
The number of nuclear power plants to be built around the world by the year 2030 already exceeds 400, worth more than $1 trillion.
Although there are currently only five other countries that export the technology - the United States, France, Russia, Japan and Canada - the nuclear industry is projected to become even more competitive in the near future.
Thus, Korea still has many impending tasks left. In order to retain our competitive edge, not only do we have to move forward from our current technology with further research and development, but we also must stay sensitive to volatile international politics by acquainting ourselves with each nation’s unique business culture.
Park Myung-suk, Director of Hankuk University
of Foreign Studies Foundation