Ceremony (in Korea) – 1

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This is why events unnerve me,
They find it all, a different story,
Notice whom for wheels are turning,
Turn again and turn towards this time,
All she asks the strength to hold me,
Then again the same old story…

Ceremony by Joy Division


“I didn’t know our institution opened on October,” said my director, “maybe we’ll have to do some thing special, like an event or ceremony. Oh, and a special booklet for our 10-years of history would be great.” And all of us, the humble program managers, thought “oh s*it, more works.”  Usually we have a day off for memorial days, like “school foundation day,” no? But in the top-down decision making society, you can’t talk back or give your opininon to your boss.  So there we are, shutting up and prepare whatever he says.

My instinct says the director is not doing it because he really thought this year is special.  Few months ago, he was invited to the 50th Anniversary of Korean language school, which is located right next to our building.  I am sure it was a grand something – after all, they are 50 years old, internationally renowned for people who study Korean language out of Korea, and also one of the biggest institute in our campus, with tens of thousands students.  I wouldn’t be surprised if director says “yeah, what the language school did was awesome and I want to do the same.  Let’s follow their track.”

So the date was set.  Wednesday. From 3 pm, there’s little 6o min seminar stuff going on regarding executive education and three people will speak.  Two are from Korea.  But there’s this one person from all the way from US.  Not that I don’t like this person from US (in fact I like her a lot – such a cool lady), but you invite this person all the way from US for 15 min presentation, paying all accommodation and flight.  I think it’s kind of waste of money. We could have done 1-2 presentation from domestic practitioners, and have this lady over Skype for panel discussion or whatsoever.  In addition, it’s frigging 3 pm, Wednesday.  Honesty, and especially considering Korean office culture, how many people would be here?

Here comes the ceremony day.  Like I expected, less than 20 guests showed up for the seminar.  Our photographer says it is impossible to take a good picture since the room is too empty. Great. 20 min before the actual seminar, this managing director lady from W, mid-sized conglomerate, said she doesn’t want to go first.  Well, the order of ceremony was already printed out and distributed.  Could you NOT tell us EARLIER?  In addition, on the last minute, my director asked this lady from US to do the presentation in Korean.  And her Korean is not perfect.  Great job.

There were some unexpected guests, not listed on our guest list.  So we did not have their name tag.  Common sense, you can just have some blank papers and marker so they can DIY the name tag.  No, it doesn’t work here.  You just HAVE to print out nice and neat name tag.  I guess asking the unexpected guests to DIY their name tag is way to impolite. Some of the unexpected guests were not dressed up, being the Ph.D. student of my deputy director.  Of course they all have jobs and titles, no lower than the guests here.  I think your professor openly inviting his/her student to such an occasion is great, and in certain ways a responsibility of business professor.  Interestingly, my colleagues were not happy about it, saying how deputy director is being too personal and his Ph.D. students are messing up the nice, business professional air.

I placed three bottled water for the speakers.  Lee, a sunbae (senpai, 先輩) manager, said I should bring glass since they are special guests.  I’m used to this now.  So I did.  Then Lee again, says: “no, not that one.” “er…you said glass.” “I meant the special glass cup, with crystal and all that sculpted ornaments on it.”  For god’s sake, it’s a cup!

So the seminar ends with  a small number of guests, and the reception and dinner was to be followed.

To be continued…

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