An Indian’s perspective on “Working in Korea”

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Working in Korea – How different is it from India

Are you planning to explore South Korea for work? If your answer is in the affirmative, you might want to spend sometime understanding the rising Korean economy and its unique, traditional culture, to make your life a tad easier.A couple of years ago, I had the rare opportunity to fulfill one of my most cherished dreams — work as a technical communicator for Samsung Electronics, one of the biggest conglomerates in South Korea. Back then, none of friends knew about the country, leave alone the people, the cost of living, or the culture there. With little help from folks, I turned to the Internet as my only saving grace. Not surprisingly, every bit of information I garnered from the web, helped me enormously with my decision to relocate.

The Initial Cultural Pangs

If you are an expatriate, you can get a firsthand view of how the Japanese occupation and the war with North Korea have left its footprints in the modern Korean culture. It just took me a week to realize how different the Korean culture was compared to India.

South Korea is known for its unique, contemporary culture. The traditional values in South Korea stem from the deep-rooted Confucian ideology.

Confucianism or “The School of the Scholars” revolves around social, political, philosophical, ethical, and religious thoughts that have influenced the culture and history of South Korea up to the 21st century.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Korea’s corporate system.

Try addressing a Korean colleague of the same age group and higher designation with his name, and chances are you will be asked to prefix a title. If you do not use a title to address someone higher in the value chain, Koreans will consider you as disrespectful or discourteous.

Koreans lay a lot of emphasis on title the higher you get in the value chain, the more likely people expect you to show respect in the organization. It would be fair to say that nowhere in Asia does the title hold more prominence than Korea.

This Korea, That Korea

Confucianism has introduced a structure of hierarchy, rather than matrix in most Korean organizations. Professionals are hired on merit in tandem with social considerations. School affiliation and age play a major role in most hiring decisions in Korea. Beyond doubt, Korea is not an egalitarian society, and that leaves little scope for individualism.

According to an in-depth analysis of the “2004 Time Use Survey,” South Koreans spend more time at work than their western counterparts do. I could not agree more! Most Korean managers will throw a fit each time a subordinate enters the premises late, even by a minute.

A typical workday in Korea entails that you should reach the premises at the crack of dawn and leave only after the sunset. Yes, Koreans are suckers for time, and it only gets worse for someone accustomed to flexible hours and comfortable timings. Most jobs vary from 30 to 40 hours weekly, but if you want to work overtime, you will always be encouraged to spend more time at the workplace.

Regular or Contractual Jobs

As far as work goes, most jobs for expatriates in South Korea are contractual jobs. If an employer in Korea decides to engage you, chances are, you will be required to produce copies of your passport, university degree, experience certificates, and original set of passport-sized photographs. You may also be required to visit the Embassy of India located in Seoul (http://www.indembassy.or.kr/). The employer will only issue a contract letter, after the issuance of an alien card by Korea Immigration Service, Ministry of Justice Republic of Korea (http://www.immigration.go.kr/HP/IMM80/index.do).

The Rise of Korean Economy

Hailed as the third largest economy in Asia, and the twelfth worldwide, South Korea has risen from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest. Presently, the country enjoys a national per capita gross national product of $25000+, a sharp contrast from $100 in 1963. The locals call it a “Miracle of the Han River,” which is not surprising, given the radical transformation that took place over its six-decade long existence.

Seoul also happens to be the world’s third most expensive big cities, according to a report by Mercer Consulting published in June this year. As a foreigner, you must check with your employer about the cost to company (CTC), tax deductions, and net savings after tax, even before you enter Korea.

Independence and Forth

Korea received its independence from Japan in 1945. Since then, the Korean economy has witnessed an exponential economic growth. In the past, the Korean economy largely depended on agriculture for sustenance, but restructuring measures implemented in the post-crisis Korean economy boasted the resurgence of heavy industries, and in turn, led to the formation of a sizable manufacturing sector. The rapid economic growth can also be attributed to major events that took place in South Korea, such as the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, and the 2002 Soccer World Cup, a joint effort with Japan.

The Korean government has ably supported the IT revolution in the country, by granting public funds to companies like Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG Electronics. The government is focusing on making South Korea a leading IT nation worldwide. In just five years of promoting Korean IT products and services, both locally as well overseas, the country is en-route to becoming one of the Next Eleven economies in the world by 2025.

The Non-Korean Advantage

In general, Koreans are less cynical than others. This is not to say it is a perfect haven for job seekers across the world. Like anywhere else, you too can find terrible situations at workplace, like a bad boss, or a communication gap. On the other hand, entering Korea as a foreign worker can have distinct advantages that even some natives don’t get to enjoy. You will be treated politely for one. Second, you will be provided accommodation (in most cases), plus two-way airfare to visit your country once or twice a year. Last but not least, your family can stay with you in Korea and the hiring company can take care of their moving expenses.

Korea might seem intimidating at first sight, but it is truly a place to grow. The country is reminiscent of an unimaginably rich culture, mirroring ancient and western values. Somewhere in between the tall skyscrapers, ravishing malls, and urban Starbucks, is a beautiful country that truly stands up to its name – the land of the morning calm.

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About the author: Rahul Prabhakar works as a technical communicator with Samsung Electronics Company Limited, South Korea. He is a leading member of the technical communication fraternity and has single-handedly spearheaded many initiatives to elevate the profession in India. Rahul holds a Bachelors of Technology in Electrical Engineering. He worked as a technical writer for some of the world’s leading technology industry companies, such as Oracle India Pvt. Ltd. He is the owner/ moderator of a technical writing discussion group called Technical Writers India (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/technical_writers_india). Any comments, feedback, or suggestions for this interview are welcome at prabhakar.rahul@gmail.com

14 Comments

Filed under Business, Business practices, Communications, Expat, Interesting..., Jobs, Korea life, Legal, Opinions, Work

14 responses to “An Indian’s perspective on “Working in Korea”

  1. jood

    Dr. Afia Siddiqui, was arrested along with her three children by a Pakistani intelligence agency in early 2003 and has been missing since then. American and Pakistani intelligence agencies confirmed that she had been arrested in connection with Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organisation run by Osama Bin Laden. However, later both agencies denied that she had been arrested. Dr. Afia’s whereabouts remain unknown but it is suspected that she is being held in an American detention centre.

    CASE DETAILS:

    The press reports claimed that Dr. Afia had been picked-up by Pakistani intelligence agencies while on her way to the airport and initial reports suggested that she was handed over to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). At the time of her arrest she was 30 years and the mother of three sons the oldest of which was four and the youngest only one month.

    A Monthly English magazine of Karachi in a special coverage on Dr. Afia reported that one week after her disappearance, a plain clothed intelligence went to her mother’s house and warned her, “We know that you are connected to higher-ups but do not make an issue out of your daughter’s disappearance.” According to the report the mother was threatened her with ‘dire consequences’ if she made a fuss.

    Whilst Dr. Afia’s whereabouts remain unknown, there are reports of a woman called ‘Prisoner 650’ is being detained in Afghanistan’s Bagram prison and that she has been tortured to the point where she has lost her mind. Britain’s Lord Nazeer Ahmed, (of the House of Lords), asked questions in the House about the condition of Prisoner 650 who, according to him is physically tortured and continuously raped by the officers at prison. Lord Nazeer has also submitted that Prisoner 650 has no separate toilet facilities and has to attend to her bathing and movements in full view of the other prisoners.

    Also, on July 6, 2008 a British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, called for help for a Pakistani woman she believes has been held in isolation by the Americans in their Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan, for over four years. “I call her the ‘grey lady’ because she is almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continues to haunt those who heard her,” Ms Ridley said at a press conference.

    Ms Ridley, who went to Pakistan to appeal for help, said the case came to her attention when she read the book, The Enemy Combatant, by a former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg. After being seized in February 2002 in Islamabad, Mr Begg was held in detention centres in Kandahar and Bagram for about a year before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He recounted his experiences in the book after his release in 2005. Mr. Imran Khan, leader of Justice Party (T.I) suspects that prisoner 650 is the Dr. Afia Siddiqui and USA and Pakistani authorities are hiding facts of ‘Prisoner 650’.

    SUGGESTED ACTION:
    Please write to the relevant authorities listed below and request them to investigate immediately. Dr. Afia’s whereabouts must be confirmed and the safety of her children assured. Regardless of whether Dr. Afia is Prisoner 650 or not the fact is that she has been missing, along with her children for five years. The governments of the USA and Pakistan at first confirmed her arrest and then denied it. Both governments have a duty to report any information they might have on the matter.

    SAMPLE LETTER:

    Dear________,

    PAKISTAN/USA: A lady doctor is missing with her three children since five years after her arrest

    Name of victim: Ms. Dr. Afia Siddiqui and her three children
    Block 7, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, Sindh province
    The units of the alleged perpetrators: Intelligence agencies of Pakistan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI-US)

    I am shocked to know that Dr. Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani citizen has been missing with her three children since April 2003, after her arrest by intelligence agencies of Pakistan. The whereabouts of children is also unknown, which is a serious act of negligence on the part of the government with regard to its responsibility to protect the citizen of the Pakistan.

    According to the information I have received Dr. Afia was picked-up by Pakistani intelligence agencies while on her way to the airport and initial reports suggested that she was handed over to the American FBI. A few days later an American news channel, NBC, reported that Afia had been arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of facilitating money transfers for terror networks of Osama Bin Laden.

    On April 1, 2003, a small news item was published in an Urdu daily with reference to a press conference of then Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat when, in reply to a question regarding the arrest of Dr. Siddiqui, he said she has not been arrested. But in another report the minister for interior said,”You will be astonished to know about the activities of Dr. Afia.” A weekly English magazine in its special coverage on Dr. Afia reported that after one week of the incident, an intelligence agency official, a motor cyclist in plain clothes, came to the house of her mother and warned “We know that you are connected to higher-ups but do not make an issue out of her daughter’s disappearance” and threatened her with dire consequences. After this development the whereabouts of Dr. Afia and her children are yet unknown.

    What is also of grave concern to me is that when she was arrested by Pakistani intelligence authorities she was handed over to American intelligence agencies without being tried in Pakistan, I do not find any rationale in sending her along with her children to other country when there are Pakistani laws to deal with the suspected terrorists. It is known that President Musharraf handed over 600 suspected terrorists to America.

    There are reports that in Afghanistan’s prison of Bagram there is a woman prison known as Prisoner 650 and that she has been severely tortured. It is also widely suspected that Prisoner 650 is Dr. Afia Siddiqui. This prisoner has reportedly lost her mind due to constant rape and ill treatment.

    I remind you that this is the duty of coalition government under Prime Minister Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani to probe cases of those Pakistani suspected terrorists who have been handed over to foreign forces in the name of war on terror. The government should also inform Pakistani citizens about the whereabouts of Dr. Afia Siddiqui and her children. I also demand that government should also ensure the safety of her children.

    Yours sincerely,

    ————-
    PLEASE SEND YOU LETTERS TO:

    1. The Chief
    Allied Joint Force Command
    Head Quarters Brunssum,
    Public Affirs office, P.O. BOX 270
    6440, AG, Brunssem
    THE NETHERLANDS
    Tel. No.: +31 45 526 2409
    Email: pio@jfcbs.nato.intHeadquar
    t

    2. Mr. George W. Bush
    President of the United State of America (USA)
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
    Washington, DC 20500
    USA
    Email: presidents@presidentsusa.net

    3. Mr. Hamid Karzai
    President of Afghanistan
    Gul Khana Palace
    Presidential Palace
    Kabul
    AFGHANISTAN
    Email: president@afghanistangov.org

    4. General Pervez Musharraf
    President of Pakistan
    President’s Secretariat
    Islamabad
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 51 922 1422 / 4768; 920 1893 or 1835
    E-mail: (please see: http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx)

    5. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
    Prime Minister
    Prime Minister House, Islamabad,
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 51 922 1596
    Tel: +92 51 920 6111
    E-mail: webmaster@infopak.gov.pk or infominister@pak.gov.pk

    6. Mr. Farooq Naik
    Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights
    S Block Pakistan Secretariat
    Islamabad
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 51 920 2628
    E-mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk

    7. Mr. Rehman Malik
    Advisor for Ministry of Interior
    Room No. 404, 4th Floor, R Block,
    Pak Secretariat
    Islamabad
    PAKISTAN
    Fax: +92 51 920 2624
    Tel: +92 51 921 2026
    E-mail: minister@interior.gov.pk

    Thank you

    Urgent Appeals Programme
    Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

  2. personal positioning

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points about how to sales works on the Internet.

  3. Sanah

    Wow! That was quite helpful. Its been years since you wrote this blog. Do you still stick to what all you’ve written here?
    There is something about the Korean culture that makes me want to know more about it. I’ve heard they’re racist towards dark skinned people.We Indians are not really dark but yes darker than them. Are they, really?Do they happily welcome us? Going to South Korea has somehow become a dream of mine. Does it sound weird? Do you think it can be easy for an Indian girl to survive in that country?
    I don’t know if you’ll even check this comment & reply back. If you don’t, I’ll mail you 🙂 because I really want the answers yo my questions & this is the first time I’ve come across an Indian in South Korea. Who else can give me better answers, right?

    • Brighty

      Hi Sanah I am Brighty from India I also love to work in Korea and Korea is my dream too..I have the same question what you have…will they receive us caz of our dark skin?! If you got the answer means will you please help me too.Thank you

  4. Vidya

    Hey, dis z vidya from india. Am a B.E. Electronics n Communication student n as u said at this point of tym, i am so fascinated about Korea. N i want to join Samsung as soon as i pass out next year. Wat wil b ur advice. N wat do u think i require 2 get there. Wel am ok with d language as i watch a lot of korean movies n dramas..

  5. Vidya

    Actually wat i want to ask u ya tell u.. Sanah already did that. Hope u’ll reply

  6. Sreejith S

    Hey, I’m Sreejith from Kerala, India. I’m doing my final year in Computer Science n Engg. Ever since I started my engg, its been my dream to go to Seoul, South Korea. Is there any chance for a fresher (no experience) to get a job there? If language is a problem, I think i can learn korean quick. I wish to learn Animation and Graphics Design(But my dad doesnt allow me to) , and want to find a job that’ll suits me well. Also I dont have any frnds or relatives there who can really help me.
    So I hope you can help me with your suggestions and what should be my requirements to get there. Awaiting ur reply..

  7. Aijaz alam

    I want work in korea

  8. Rikth D'cruze

    Thanking you a lot for giving us all those above information…
    i also dream of working in South Korea…
    now i can work to reduce the communication gap….

  9. Pewang Yonzon

    hey i was wondering if you know any Indian working as an esl teacher or aleast know if its possible for a indian citizen to work there as an esl teacher..?
    thank you in advance ~~

  10. therealsouthkorea

    Not sure, but you can check out the Korean Immigration Service which should have details: http://www.immigration.go.kr/HP/IMM80/index.do

  11. Somashekar

    Dear Fellow Indians, need one info from you all. How fast can I get my passport renewed if I apply for it here in South Korea. Please advise and do the needful

  12. A.sebastin

    i want job in korea
    help me pls

  13. aishwaryaselvan

    What is the present status quo?

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