by Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org
After posting weekly Korea Facing updates over the past few months, I thought a short resource recap was timely. In part, with many readers demanding schedules and oceans of daily emails, some topics of interest may have come and gone unread. We have also added a substantial number of new readers since Korea Facing’s launch.
Here are the topics and direct links to each of the articles.
Korea corporate hierarchy
Workplace generation issues
Countermeasures (dealing with challenges)
Not taking “No” as an answer
As always, your comments, questions, and feedback is appreciated.
By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org
Over the years, I’ve shared much on business norms and expectations with Korean, American, and global teams and management. I, too, have learned much in exchange. In fact, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of senior Korean leadership share their opinions and thoughts.
Last year I was asked by a Korea client to find out if a successful and high profile American brand was interested in the Korean market. If so, the Korean firm would like to be considered as a potential partner. After talking to the American brand’s founder and CEO, he politely shared that their plans were to focus on the US market. Any Asia expansion would not be for at least 2-3 years.
Several month’s later while they were visiting the US, I hosted the Korean client’s Chairman and his wife at a VVIP lunch meeting. Over the meal, the Chairman’s wife quizzed me on my progress with the American brand. I explained that the US brand’s founder and CEO was polite, but they were not currently looking at Asia and Korea.
Pausing a moment, the Chairman’s wife expressed that their Group was still very interested in the brand for Korea. She then hoped I’d keep trying and not take “no” for an answer; adding firmly that sometimes we need to “Knock on the door a hundred times!”
I came away with 2 insights worthy of sharing…
1. My Korean client’s success was evidently rooted in their perseverance and not taking “no” for an answer. A trait I find in many of the top Korean Groups.
2. That the company’s success was also due to the Chairman’s wife–a strong and influential woman who has gained my respect and esteem.
When challenged with an issue, situation, or problem…we need to “Knock on the door a hundred times.”
BTW… I hope all is well. Let me know if you have any pressing questions or issues. I’d be happy to share my thoughts and perspective.
By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal Editor
In this week’s Korea Facing update we look at approvals, and the challenges.
BTW why not subscribe to Korea Facing.
In the Korea Facing article on Decision Making, we pointed out that in most cases leadership made key decisions and teams implemented. Getting these approvals in itself can be a challenge, time consuming, and should take into account such subtleties as senior management’s mood.
At times, teams can wait days for an approval. This can be because senior Korean management is out of the office and traveling. But, it can also be that Korean teams try to be sensitive to their boss’ mood, well-being, and workload, along with an awareness of pressing issues impacting the company and their division.
In other words, if senior management is dealing with a major challenge, or looks stressed, team leaders may delay requesting a meeting that day. In contrast, if their senior management looks to be in a good mood, timing might be better to get an approval. Again timing is everything and good timing–being sensitive–is the sign of a savvy team leader.
In once instance when I was in Korea I witnessed teams (there was a line) waiting all day to meet with an overseas business Vice President to get approvals for a wide range of projects. One specifically involving a merger of services in the world’s largest and most competitive car market. The delay: the VP was on the phone with his back turned to the door making arrangements for his daughter’s wedding…a personal matter, but one which the teams and subordinates would not infringe.
In a word, be patient when waiting for an approval. Recognize that to be effective Korean teams often need to wait and time their meetings with seniors for an approval. Be sensitive and do not unduly press Korean teams. If the issue is time sensitive, (which many usually are), communicate this, and seek clarity on the status. In many cases, pro-actively sharing with your clients, suppliers, and service providers the Korea facing approval process can greatly reduces stress on your side.
Questions? Comments? Challenges? Let me know by email.
Just email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org Editor
When I first began coaching at both Hyundai and then Kia Motors a few of the older highly experienced industry veterans got some satisfaction in pointing out “issues.” More so, if they had previously warned the Korean team what would happen if the company took a certain approach and it ultimately failed to meet expectations. It’s no surprise that tensions ran high.
My strategy to improve relations was to persuade the American team that pointing out “issues” wasn’t culturally productive. It was obvious to all when mistakes and poor judgements surfaced. Moreover, Koreans often took a trial and error approach. What was needed were “counter-measures,” an English term the Korean teams were using.
This mindset was reconfirmed a few years later while conducting a team building leadership workshop. In the discussion, one of the Korean participants pointed out that they looked for at least 3 options to solve a situation. He went on to explain that in Korea when a problem surfaced, they would prepare at least 3 or more “counter-measures” providing a solution for senior leadership to review.
Just pointing out the problem, he said, which is common in the West was not productive–noting that his boss already knew there was a problem. They want to see options. Most often the best approach turned out to be a combination of the 3 possible solutions.
When issues and problems surface be the one to step forward with solutions.
By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org Editor
Amid the Samsung and Apple IP drama, the Kolon–Dupont struggle still warrants attention. It’s a long and complex case, one that required not only the facts, but an understanding of the cultural aspects…:)
Progressive and independent Korea media Hankyoreh notes–Kolon must suspend production, now appealing ruling in dispute over trade secrets
By Lee Seung-jun, staff reporter
A thread of aramid fiber just 1.6mm thick can support a weight of 350kg. It is used to make bulletproof vests and helmets. It has also been suggested as a material for firefighting uniforms since it is five times the strength of steel and can withstand temperatures of up to 500 degrees Centigrade.
It’s been 50 years since Delaware-based company DuPont developed aramid fiber, called by some the “golden fiber” and “super fiber”. The market for the material grows fiercer by the day.
One example of this trend was a decision handed down August 31 (US time) by the US district court in Richmond, Virginia slapping a 20-year ban on global production, sales and marketing of Kolon Industries’ aramid fiber product “Heracron.”
DuPont had sued Kolon for violating trade secrets. The court has accepted Kolon’s request to suspend the ruling, so the Korean manufacturer will avoid having to suspend production for now.
Kolon’s factory in Kumi, North Gyeongsang province.
However, the challenge for Kolon, a latecomer in the market, and the tensions that have erupted due to DuPont’s efforts to keep its challenger in check are racing towards an extreme. The global market for para-aramid fiber (used mostly in bulletproof vests), which Kolon produces, is currently 1.7 trillion won (about US$1.5 billion) and growing.
The tensions between the two companies are due to the character of the aramid fiber industry. It is also a fairly closed market, with US-based DuPont (46%) and Japan’s Teijin (44%) accounting for about 90% of the market and latecomers Kolon (5,000t) and Hyosung (1,000t) accounting for 10%.
Aramid fiber currently accounts for just 2% of Kolon’s total sales, and the company’s sales in the US market amount to just 3.3 billion won (about US$2.9 billion), but the Korean manufacturer has been cultivating aramid textiles as a next-generation business.
The tensions between Kolon and DuPont go back 30 years. The late Yoon Han-shik, a Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) researcher whose research into producing aramid fiber domestically began in 1979, received a US product patent for aramid fiber in 1985 with support from Kolon.
Later, he received patents in seven other countries, including Great Britain, Japan and Germany. In the process, DuPont offered to start a joint venture with Kolon, but the two sides weren’t able to agree on terms.
DuPont responded in 1986 by launching – with Dutch firm AkzoNobel – a patent violation suit at the European Patent Office against Yoon.
In December 1991, a European appeals court ruled that Yoon’s research was original, but the war continued.
Kolon jumped into full-scale aramid production, but experienced difficulty getting the raw materials. At the time, the Korean press reported that DuPont had pressured AkzoNobel, the producer of the raw material for aramid, not to supply the materials to Kolon.
In an interview in the Jan 21, 1994 edition of the Dong-A Ilbo, Yoon said, “We could monopolize this technology by 2002, but far from competing in the market with DuPont, we’re just wasting time day to day.”
Tensions flared once again when, after a series of ups and downs including an investment suspension due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Kolon began commercial production of aramid fiber in 2005, becoming the world’s third largest producer behind DuPont and Teijin with 500 tons that year.
Kolon said DuPont began moves to keep the Korean producer in check as Kolon sales grew upon its entry into the US market in 2006. DuPont made an issue of Kolon’s hiring in 2007 of consultant Michael Mitchell, a 24-year veteran of DuPont.
Dupont headquarters in Delaware
DuPont informed the FBI and US Justice Department and launched a suit. In September of last year, American jurors ordered Kolon to pay US$919.9 million in damages. The court confirmed the decision in November. It was a huge sum that included even DuPont’s product R&D costs.
Kolon admitted it hired former DuPont employees, but claimed the hiring of former employees of other firms was industry practice. It also argued that it never received any trade secrets from Mitchell, and that the 149 trade secrets DuPont claimed were violated were already public knowledge.
Kolon has also raised doubts about the first trial being held in Richmond, Virginia, the site of a DuPont factory, and judge Robert Payne’s 21-year stint at the law firm McGuire Woods prior to becoming a judge. McGuire Woods has enjoyed a relationship with DuPont. Kolon’s legal team asked the court to provide a different judge, but was turned down.
Kolon also filed an antitrust claim at a US court against DuPont, which controls over 80% of the US market, but this was dismissed in July. An appeal is currently ongoing.
DuPont filed a petition against Kolon for trade secret violation at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in 2010. Prosecutors decided to stop calling in witnesses in March, ending its investigation without a ruling.
In a September 1 statement, DuPont welcomed the decision, saying, “The judge’s order sends a clear message to Kolon and others that they cannot benefit from the theft of our trade secrets.”
Kolon, on the other hand, made clear it would appeal the verdict, saying, “We have sufficient grounds to set right the results of the first trial in an appeal.”
By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org Editor
Korea Facing represents both the title of the new book in progress, and the theme for our training and coaching programs. The programs support those working for Korea based companies globally, Korean expat teams, and companies who work for and with Korean-based Groups…. To get a weekly bulletin/ update fill out the form on the sidebar.
Don Southerton, Korealegal.org Editor
Who stole from who in the Samsung Apple IP case is the question. Wired Magazine did a well-illustrated article on the case and issues at stake. For the full article see LINK
Wired notes: Did Apple rip off Samsung’s intellectual property to create the iPhone, or did Samsung pilfer Apple’s patents when it took on the iPad and iPhone with a slew of mobile devices and tablets?
Those are the burning questions at issue in the biggest trial so far in the ongoing worldwide mobile-phone patent war that’s broken out between Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Samsung, HTC, Motorola and others.
Apple and Samsung, both competitors and business partners, have been jousting over the issue for more than a year, in what’s really a proxy war between Apple and Google. But after 1,400 court docket entries, on Monday, in a San Jose, California, federal court, a nine-member jury is expected to be chosen to resolve the dispute in a highly anticipated patent and antitrust trial.
See article for full text copy.
By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org Editor
In what is another chapter in the saga, a UK Court remarks Samsung tablet not “as cool” as Apple.
LONDON (Reuters) – Apple has been instructed by a British judge to run ads saying that Samsung did not copy its design for the iPad in the latest twist in the ongoing patent battles between the two tech giants, according to Bloomberg.
Judge Birss, who ruled last week that Samsung did not infringe Apple’s designs because its Galaxy Tab tablets were not “as cool” as the U.S. company’s iPad, said Apple should publish a notice on its website and in British newspapers to correct any impression that the South Korean company copied Apple, Bloomberg said.
The notice, which is in effect an advertisement for Samsung, should remain on Apple’s website for at least six months, the report said.
The judge, however, rejected Samsung’s request that Apple be forbidden from continuing to claim that its design rights had been infringed, saying that Apple was entitled to hold the opinion, the news agency said.
Samsung said in a statement after the hearing: “Should Apple continue to make excessive legal claims based on such generic designs, innovation in the industry could be harmed and consumer choice unduly limited.