[Letters] For a truly global Korea

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[Letters] For a truly global Korea

Google, Facebook or Avast could have been Korean companies. After all, Korea has all it takes to create giant multi-billion dollar Internet companies. It has high speed Internet connection, excellent connectivity rates and an educated and talented workforce.

Cyworld, Korea’s social network, was created years before Facebook. The problem is that its creators had an essentially local expansion view rather than a global one. Only until almost every Korean had a Cyworld account did its owners decide to expand it, but then foreigners preferred Myspace or Facebook.

Why don’t Korean Internet companies try to set a global vision? After all, such Internet companies refuse to hire foreign staff, are not attentive to foreigner’s suggestions for improvement and eye an exclusively Korean market.

For example, most Korean Web sites require users to enter their ID number and software that is only recognized by Internet explorer, while most young foreign netizens use Google Chrome or Firefox. Furthermore, incessant pop-ups discourage foreign netizens from using Korean Web sites. When Cyworld decided to allow foreign users, they required users to fax a copy of their passport. In most countries, people will never bother sending a copy of their passport to be members of a Web site. And neither did I.

The Internet is a multi-billion dollar business. Although very competitive, people with knowledge of the field can easily succeed. For example, if Naver really wanted to keep their Korean customers, why didn’t they open another Web site under a different name for foreign users and try to expand internationally, while preserving the Korean version of their Web site.

My bet on that is that it all lies on human resources. China is hiring younger and older, experienced and less experienced web designers, content writers, localizers and other Internet experts to compete with giant Californian Web sites. Koreans may want to hire foreign English teachers, but when it comes to experienced foreign professionals in other fields, not so much.

I know the Korean job market is very competitive and even Koreans have trouble finding jobs. But there are millions of young future Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who are looking for an adventure in East Asia. Korea would be the perfect place.

Such young Western innovators are not very demanding when it comes to quality of life: they want to work and they want to have fun. Korea, Seoul in particular, has many fun activities to offer, and any ambitious company would also have a lot of work to offer qualified western minds.

Some expat scientists and engineers hired by Korean companies end up proofreading documents and typing e-mails instead of doing research and participating in the innovation process. Koreans should cultivate western minds by taking advantage of their creative skills, rather than simply viewing them as a linguistic asset.

For those purposes I will share my story. I speak nine languages and have excellent knowledge of global market trends, economic trends, marketing trends and cultural trends, among other skills. I applied everywhere for every possible job in Korea, but to my surprise, got nothing but rejections. Because of visa issues, I had to leave Korea.

Furthermore, a few years ago I worked in a small research institute in Korea. Though I did active research outside my working hours, the institute refused to publish my findings because they thought they would be embarrassed by the fact that I had a Master’s degree, not a Ph.D.

Although Koreans have a talented workforce, I believe that Korea has got to hire foreign minds to assist them in becoming global.

Indeed, I often tell Koreans “why force Koreans to learn English to get a job when they can hire English-speaking staff”. Foreign staff can bring inventive ideas and different perspectives for Korean companies willing to become global in all fields.

Korean companies often cite the fact that hiring foreigners would limit job access to Koreans. However, the new ideas that foreign workers would bring to Korean companies would only help them expand their market, which would in turn help create more jobs for both Koreans and foreigners.

Akli Hadid, a former student in Korea. Hadid is now residing in Algeria. He can be reached at [hadid.akli@gmail.com]
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