Diversity prompts developmentWhen a close friend of mine started a business in Korea, I helped him because he was unfamiliar with Korean terms. After signing a real estate contract, we had to deal with interior construction. We had meetings with contractors and explained in detail what we really wanted. They complimented how good my Korean was and I was happy that I helped my friend. But the next day, the real estate agent called and said that the contractor turned down the job because they found working with foreigners hard. I was upset and frustrated.
In fact, “foreigners” are not strange beings in Korea these days. Every year, more than 15 million tourists visit Korea and various services for foreigners are offered. Tourism information centers provide information in various languages and interpretation services and translated signs are everywhere. However, there are still many inconveniences for foreigners who are not simply visiting, but live in Korea. Those who wish to start a business rather than being employed face even greater challenges.
The Korean government is making various efforts to resolve these issues, setting up systems and benefits. For example, the metropolitan government of Seoul provides business education, professional consulting and networking opportunities through Seoul Global Center, Seoul Global Entrepreneurial Center and the Seoul Business Agency. Despite government efforts, changes in the private sector are still far away.
There are many challenges for Koreans to start new businesses. On top of those issues, foreigners have to deal with discrimination. In the course of raising funds, making contracts and operating a business, the fact that one is a foreigner is a penalty. The prejudice that working with foreigners was uncomfortable and business will not go smoothly makes foreign entrepreneurs disheartened.
Rather than looking at foreigners with prejudice, I hope their passion and dream will be noticed first. Hopefully, many foreign entrepreneurs will succeed in Korea and contribute to the social diversity and economic development of the country.
The author is a former Brazilian cast member of JTBC talk show “Non-Summit.”
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 21, Page 27