Weekly Read 6: Supporting Korean teams


Continuing with our Weekend Reads’, this week we look at supporting Korean teams, although the lessons apply well for all of us “working within a Culture.

Here’s the link.  Enjoy.


BTW, we welcome consulting and mentoring opportunities to support you and the team. That said, as always if you have questions, feel free to reach out.

And, If you missed a previous “Read,” you can access under Case Studies at




Lunar New Year Alert: The Year of the Golden Dog, plus…


Korea (as well as China, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and many Asian countries) celebrate two New Years’– one on Jan. 1 and the Lunar New Year celebration.

This year the Lunar holiday falls on Thursday February 15 to Saturday February 17 (Korea time).

In Asian tradition, each Lunar new year has an associated animal, as well as a related element and color such as fire (red), water (black), earth (yellow/gold), metal (white) and wood (blue), all which rotate over a 60 year cycle.

And as examples, we see Lunar years’ referred to as Red (Fire) Monkey, Black (Water) Snake, White (Metal) Dragon, etc. and this year Golden (Earth) Dog.

Adding some significance to 2018, Gold is also the color of royalty and many feel adds to even more good fortune.

For us working with Korean teams, it’s a great time to re-connect.

For your Korean colleagues (in Korea), you can wish them “Happy Lunar New Year” by phone, text, or email, late afternoon on Tuesday February 13th (so, Wednesday AM in Korea, which is their last day in office prior to Holiday).

For expat Koreans working outside Korea/ globally, or in your local operations, you can wish then Happy Lunar New Year on Friday February 16 (in the West).

Here is the formal greeting–Sae hae bok mani ba deu say yo

 Give it a try.   You will find it will be greatly appreciated.

Question, just reach out to me … Dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com

Oh, BTW Korean has a twist on Valentine’s Day! This week women give men small chocolate gifts.

 No worries, Koreans’ celebrate a White Holiday in 30 days where men give women sugary treats.


Want to learn more about us www.bridgingculture.com 




Weekend Read 5: The Hyundai Advantage


I’d like to share the story behind what has become a cornerstone for Hyundai and Kia Motors. 


Please enjoy this weekend’s read, “The Hyundai Advantage, Creative Marketing and America’s Best Warranty—The Story Behind”


“A bold creative marketing ’10-year / 100,000-mile Warranty’ program was first introduced in the U.S. in 1998…not by Detroit’s Big 3 or the growing number of Japanese brands, but by Korean automaker Hyundai Motor.”


Here is the LINK http://www.bridgingculture.com/assets/advantage1998.pdf


​​​​​​​In my trip to SoCal this week, and KMA, HMA, GMA, MPA and HCA, many were asking about previous Weekend Read 1-4. No problem, go to: Case Studies




Weekend Read 4 Hyundai and Kia Motors: The Early Years


This week’s read (about 27 pages) is Hyundai and Kia Motors: The Early Years and Product Development.

Reaching back to the early 1960s, we will look at the political and economic forces long impacting the industrial growth and development of South Korea, including automakers Hyundai and Kia Motors.

In addition, we find the roots for the Korean export model where brands like Samsung, LG, SK and Daewoo also followed in partnered with global companies for technology and design prior to expanding rapidly in the domestic Korea and international markets.

I see this trend continuing even today… perhaps more so than ever.

Here is a link to the book in PDF. http://www.bridgingculture.com/assets/hkebook.pdf


Here if you need to chat, too.


Korea Business Insights Weekend Read 3: Shinhwa


Korea business insights. In addition to a number of books, case studies and commentaries, I’ve written several short articles that give snapshots into Korea business.  This week it’s a storyline strongly tied to the Hyundai Motor Group.  That said, it’s also very relevant for all engaged and interested in Korea facing business as I provide some deep insights into Korea business DNA. 

The Hyundai Galloper Shinhwa, Myth and Legend
With the introduction of Genesis, the Hyundai Motor Group’s premium luxury car division as well as Kia Motors’ Niro and Hyundai Motor’s Nexo, all part of an expanded model lineup of FCEV, hybrid and electric vehicles, many in the industry see these as bold moves by the Hyundai Motor Group and it leadership. 
More so, the Group has joined in a number of high profile technology partnerships and committed billions over the next few years to mobility, AI, and autonomous vehicles. Actually, it is but the latest chapter in a story and a legacy reaching back decades. 
Link to Full Story.

Korea Business Weekend Read 2


With the new year and 2018, I’d like to share a few weekend Korea business reads. All Korea facing– lots for overseas operations in the Americas, Ireland, UK, ME, India, Europe, and AU; lots that share insights into Korea and the workplace. Much very relevant for firms doing business with Korea or global Korean companies, too.

Here’s a link for a Download.

One question we are getting with the new year is “Don, How Best Do We Work with You and Get the Team Support?” I happy to say many companies do recognize the benefits in offering our training, coaching, mentoring strategy services…. and we take this role very seriously amid the uncertain changes soon to impact local operations .

Let’s chat.. dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com or better yet text +1-310-866-3777 then and we can chat by phone.



A Korean Business “Working Within the Culture” FAQ


Korean Business and Why do Americans/ westerners need Korean cultural training?

For westerners this may be the first time working with Korean business and a Korea team. This opportunity brings with it the need to better understand their new partner’s culture, workplace norms and expectations.

In most cases, the western team will be interacting with a Korean expatriate team. Some of the expatriates will hold a line managerial position with day-to-day responsibilities alongside western managers, while others will hold key management C-level positions, such as CEO, COO, or CFO. In many, if not most, cases these expats may operate as a “shadow management” with considerable oversight of local operations.

With the best of intentions, the expats will look to build strong collaboration and teamwork and advocate less a sense of us and them. However, they do bring with them Korean work norms that can conflict with western work-life balance and western ways of working.

More so, Korean teams may make seemingly one-sided decisions with the best interest of the company in mind but without consulting local teams causing mistrust.

A solid training program followed by on-going support can address differences, such as sharing work styles, hierarchy, and comfort levels, plus providing work-arounds.

 What are some typical issues that arise, especially without training?

As with all individuals, no two of us are alike –and the same goes for westerners and Koreans… Each has his or her unique strengths, skills, experiences and personalities.

That said, expecting local teams to simply “get it” without support and training seldom works. Even if a better understanding of the work culture eventually occurs over time, this “learn as you go” approach we see as costly, contributes to stress, poor productivity and even employee turnover.

 What have Koreans told you about Americans? Work habits, commitment, etc.

If you ask Korean expats how they perceive Americans and westerners in general, responses would be very positive and respectful, especially toward western work ethics and work habits. Koreans see great value in American and western teams providing them with new insights and perspectives, as well as best practice

What might be covered in such training?

I see the training as two fold — 1) providing teams with an understanding of the Korean partner’s history, heritage, trends and popular culture and 2) looking at the Korean workplace and its norms, practices, and expectations.

Above all I feel a best practice is to share similarities and shared values when possible, along with instilling an awareness of and respect for cultural differences.

Addressing the team’s questions and concerns is also vital with issues, such as work-life balance, safety and quality processes and procedures and the overall expectations of Korean partners.

 Anything else?

To conclude, the need for Korean business cross-cultural training programs for local employees and management is a high priority.

The assumption that local and expatriate teams can bridge cultural gaps through practical on–the–job experience might work with those few highly intuitive individuals with the exceptional ability to assimilate cultures.

What stands out in numerous studies, however, is the need for ongoing multicultural training, that can successfully impact people, especially those who need to quickly adapt to new or changing business culture and values, while fostering sensitivity and teamwork among all members of the company.

Finally, I would add that I have found a Korean business tiered service model – training, mentoring and on-going strategic support — to be the most effective approach for an organization.




Still Time in 2017


With a few weeks left in 2017, I’m happy to report that this year we offered over 33 Korea 101 and 201  “working within the Culture” workshops. Most were the new 2 hour format. We offered the Korean business sessions to not only across North America, but also to teams in the UK, France and Ireland.

BTW  There is still time left in 2017 for sharing the training to your teams.

And, the program is a great way to end the year strong and prepare the team for the many changes coming in 2018.

Contact me at 310-866-3777, Text or email.





Everything Korea: What’s Different? What’s Similar?


By its very nature Korean facing business is the interaction of worldwide teams.  This necessitates colleagues of different cultures working together on a daily basis.  How we see others culturally is often in the differences and similarities.

The Differences
Particularly for western teams in Korean overseas operations, I believe in the importance of learning about the workplace in Korea—the norms, practices, and day-to-day life. These insights allow us to better understand our HQ-assigned Korean co-workers and their expectations. Recognizing “true differences” can dispel stereotyping, prejudices and ethnocentrism.

The Similarities 
Adjusting does vary with an individual. Factors can include distance from the home country, scope and responsibilities of the new job, local social support, and duration of assignment. I would also add frequency of visits to new counties or regions is also a strong influencer.

For example during my recent trip to Ireland, I found that adapting to local culture was exceeding fast. Maybe no more than 24 hours. I found a number of similarities such as language, a well-educated middle class, and even a close-by Starbucks.

Recognizing similarities is one of the most powerful cross-cultural bridges. In other words, to what can you relate in routine day-to-day life? This requires identifying  the local beliefs, values, expectations, and traditions of host culture.

That said, as a best practice and to avoid issues I deal with often in Korean business expatriate teams need to defer to local norms — this includes Tripartite Socialization—the local culture, the host nation’s business culture, and the company’s corporate culture.

Although there is bound to be friction between home and host country cultural values, a successful model accomplishes:

• Awareness and appreciation of both the home and host country with the ability to gain an insight into one’s own personal traits, strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, and interests.

• Realization of similarities and shared values, along with an awareness of and respect for the cultural differences

• The ability to adapt quickly to the new workplace cultures, ideas, and challenges on the job and in the home.

In closing this week I have a request-

How do you see this applying to you and your own experiences as well as working with Korean expatriates?

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.


Everything Korea October 2 Episode — Exclusively Korea Business


In Ireland again this week. Very engaging Korea facing project.  Love the people, and the country. With a strong economy, it’s easy to see why Ireland is seen as the Celtic Tiger. (BTW South Korea has also been called an Asian Tiger)
That said, regardless to where I am at the moment in best sharing my work it’s exclusively Korea business focused.

A big part is supporting Korean global business outside Korea. In particular backing teams and leadership worldwide working with or for the major Korean business Groups—like Hyundai, Kia Motors, the SK Group and others.

Much of this is immersion. My approach is sharing common issues, workarounds, do’s and don’t, the context behind Korean business practices and above all “solutions.”

This can range within an organization to mentoring newly hired C-suite executives and leadership who are assuming key roles within a Korean overseas subsidiary, as well as working closely with team members new to these local operations.  Both I find highly rewarding.

Over time this support moves to mentoring and coaching– addressing issues as they surface.

In many cases I am also engaged to provide sound project strategies for major initiatives to ensure they align culturally with their Korean teams, leadership and HQ.

This is critical as many local projects fail to gain the needed support and traction without the proper approach.

One more thing, I have a number of resources in supporting local teams and leadership that I am happy to share. These include books, articles and cases studies…. Feel free to reach out and we’ll get you copies.