Global Asset Management: South Korea Overview
There are many reasons why Seoul, South Korea is a great location to do business. Global Asset Management finds many advantages being based there. In addition to having the world’s fastest internet speeds, they have one of the highest-educated workforces anywhere.
Student math and science scores are second only to Singapore, and they have a high literacy – over 95%. Most people speak English. Most importantly, the cultural attributes that have made the country an economic success also support GAM’s success.
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- Official Name: Republic of Korea (ROK)
- ROK: Han’guk – shortform of Taehan-min’guk
- Language: Korean (Hangul) is official language. Most people speak English.
- Government: Presidential Republic
- Population: 2019 estimate 51,709,098 (27th largest in the world by population)
- Geographic Size: 100,210 km²
- Capital City: Seoul, 10 million inhabitants
- Second Largest City: Busan, major port
- Economy: 11th largest economy by GDP.
- Life Expectancy: 3rd highest in the world, credited to high quality healthcare
- Local Landmark: Lotte World Tower in Seoul is 5th highest building in the world
- Ethnicity: 96% ethnic Koreans (one of the most ethnically homogeneous societies)
South Korea is one of the 20th Century’s great economic success stories, growing from one of the poorest countries in the world into a member of the G20 with a GDP in excess of one trillion dollars. Modern history begins following the 1950-1953 war with North Korea.
People were encouraged to save and invest, rather than consume, and the government directed resources towards export-oriented industries. Confucian values, that still dominate the culture, made this possible. There is an ethic of hard work and living a simple life. This combination led to South Korea having the fastest growing middle class in the world for several decades.
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SOUTH KOREAN TIGER
Today, they are considered one of the four Asian Tiger Countries, along with Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Asian Tigers are high-growth economies fueled by rapid industrialization and exports. As a group, they have enjoyed steady economic growth since the mid-1960s and now rank among the wealthiest countries.
South Korea and Taiwan evolved as essential manufacturing hubs for electronic parts, information technology and automobiles. Singapore and Hong Kong grew into worldwide financial centers.
Today, South Korea boats the 11th largest global economy by nominal GDP. South Korea’s main trading partners are China, the United States, Japan and Germany.
Major conglomerates include Samsung, LG Electronics, Hyundai and the Lotte Group. Main exports are to China (25.1%), the United States (12.2%), Vietnam (8.2%), Hong Kong (6.9%) and Japan (4.7%). These include semiconductors, petrochemicals, wireless communication equipment, cars and auto parts, flat displays, ships and steel. Imports come from China (20.5%), Japan (11.5%), the United States (10.5%), Germany (4.2%) and Saudi Arabia (4.1%).
The largest commodity imports are crude oil & petroleum products, natural gas, coal and steel. Manufactured goods include semiconductors, computers, wireless communication equipment, automobiles, textiles and chemicals.
Modern Confucianism in South Korea is more a template for society than a religion. Korean Confucianism is a major influence and a fundamental part of society. The values imbued contribute to a great workforce, a growing economy and a stable social order.
Respect for education is a vital part of South Korean culture; the emphasis is placed on an ability to study and to memorize. The focus on family and the group over the individual, along with respect for elders, translates into a people that thrive in a corporate structure.
CONFUCIOUS AT WORK
Confucianism supports group harmony, hierarchies and traditions. Maintaining ‘kibun’ (face, honor and personal dignity) is important. Businesses built on Confucian ethics instill harmonious relationships among workers and company loyalty.
Punctuality is highly valued and an essential sign of respect. Efficient and time-oriented workers make decisions and complete tasks quickly. Western societies focus on diversity and inclusion. Korean culture focuses on a sense of belonging. This involves developing deeper personal connections and harmonious relationships. The corporate culture focuses on what employees have in common, rather on what their differences are.
“Nunchi” literally translates to “eye-measure”. It is close to the western notion of emotional intelligence. Nunchi is the art of sensing what people are thinking and feeling in order to respond appropriately. It’s been described as “speed-reading a room with the emphasis on the collective, not on specific individuals”.
This Korean concept was introduced 2,500 years ago as a teaching of Confucius and is credited with the modern economic miracle. On a global scale, Nunchi explains the country’s ability to determine the needs of other countries, to manufacture exports to meet those needs and to continually adjust as those needs change.
This awareness also helps people function well in the workplace. It gives Global Asset Management local staff a special ability to work with both a diverse expatriate staff and a global clientele. It brings harmony to the GAM Seoul office.