Think different, not differently

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Think different, not differently

Over the past few weeks, the person featured most on television in Japan is Cho Hyun-ah, an executive vice president at Korean Air Lines and the eldest daughter of Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho. For some reason, the media coverage of Cho is even heavier in Japan than in Korea. In the same period, she has even received more television coverage than Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Of course, the incident is shameful for Korea, and the unqualified heiress needs to keep her hands out of the operation and management of the company. However, the Japanese media’s ridiculing of Cho has crossed the line. Only a couple of years ago, the media in Japan argued that Japanese companies need to learn from the management of Korean conglomerates, otherwise there would be no future for Japan.

But is Japan really picking on Korea when our economy is thriving? Are we on the right track two years after advocating for a “creative economy?”

Noroo Paint Chairman Ahn Kyung-soo, who had held executive positions in Samsung and Daewoo in Korea and Sony and Fujitsu in Japan, cited Apple founder Steve Jobs’ famous line. “It seems that Koreans have misinterpreted Steve Jobs’ quote, ‘Think different’ as ‘Think differently,’” he said.

Strictly speaking, “think different” is very different from “think differently.”

The latter is in the range of “differentiating.” But when Jobs said “think different,” he was referring to creativity. The two concepts are completely separate. We should not continue to think differently but instead we should think of something different to create new values for the creative economy.

Also, the creative economy should be initiated by companies, not the government. Whenever a new idea comes out, President Park Geun-hye declares, “This is creative economy.” We cannot expect companies to explore creativity when they are given a certain direction by the government. The government’s job is to create an environment that allows companies to take risks. It should not interfere with their ventures unless they lead to corporate negligence.

The year is coming to an end. Many people I meet in Japan worry about the Korean economy. But most are busy mocking the “nut princess.”

Korean companies are at a critical juncture. If Korea had “innovative” companies like Google, Apple, Alibaba, or Softbank, any speculation of economic crisis would have been seen as a joke. But there are no such Korean companies. The answer is clear. The companies mentioned above have something in common. They “think different!” Now is not the time to discuss the scandals of executives.

The author is the Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 30, Page 30

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