Tag Archives: business


The following post was uploaded in anonymous forum on Korean website about working abroad.  Translated by myself.  It’s okay to take this article to somewhere else, but please cite.  Basically, this post sums up my feelings on working in Korea, and this is what I’ve been through, until I decided I can’t do this.

Original post from http://www.gohackers.com/bbs/zboard.php?id=j_work_life&no=370&page=1&sp1&sn1&divpage=1&sp=off&sn=off&ss=on&sc=on&sf=off&sa=off


I know everyone has different priority on getting a job in Korea or America.  This is just a subjective opinion based on my personal experience.

I had an interview with Sam**ng Electronics, a company often called as the best in South Korea.  I didn’t apply there directly.  A recruiting agency contacted me whether I’m interested, so I went for it.

My sentiment before the interview:

You know, working in Korea isn’t bad at all.  I’m not the only one here.  I know a lot of people who couldn’t get a job, but got a place in Sam**ng.  People go to Sam**ng Electronics a lot.  It’s a big, well-respected multinational firm now.  Payment isn’t bad.  And think about all that racism, glass celing, visa/green card shit and high tax. Korea is a good option.  I’ve been doing job research on Korean companies anyway.  The economy nowadays in America is terrible.  It’s not like past.  Life is tough.

My sentiment after the interview:

WTF.  What’s up with this suffocating air?!?!  ME NO LIKE THIS Even if Sam**ng offers me a job, I don’t want to go there.  I’m going to do everything I can to get a job in America.  If America scores -10 in this recession, South Korea scores -20.  Jesus.

Some highlights of the interview:

First, I hated how the interviewers kept using broken English in really unnecessary moments.  It annoyed me so much.  If you want to use English, then just speak in English from the beginning, for god’s sake.

Interviewer 1: nae gah CONCERN de nun gun…(=What I’m concerned about is…)

He repeated this phrase for more than 4-5 times.  Exactly same phrase, over and over.  So annoying.

Interviewer 2: CONSENSUS ruel ga jyo ya haji anketsoyo? (= don’t we need to have a consensus?)

This is something you can express in Korean, just fine.  Why do you have to use some dead English vocab and overuse it?  Does that make them look smart? Or, do they have so much sense of inferiority so they have to camouflage it in this way?

Now comes the best part.

Interviewer 1: You haven’t written any research papers yet?

Thing is, I sent several beforehand at their request.

Me: Oh, I sent it and it should be there…

And, in the paper, you write the author’s name.  Below the name goes address.  For example:

John Smith — my professor
123 ABC avenue
San Martino, CA (I don’t live in San Martino. Just for the sake of example)

 Interviewer 1: I see the paper written with San Martino, but not with your professor.
I: (at loss of words.  But I did my best to answer politely) Um, it’s written on the paper.
Interviewer 2: Yeah, John Smith, written above there.

Interviewer 1 doesn’t even know which is first name and which is last name.  Then he started all this bullshit excuse.

Sam**ng is so-called the best company in South Korea.  And this guy is in charge of international recruiting.  I don’t understand.  Shouldn’t he know which is name and which is address, at least?

And they have no concept of job description.  I asked over and over, before and during and after the interview, about the opening’s field and work.  Their answer? “we don’t have such a thing.”  WTF?! Then how an earth can you evaluate people and what’s the point of interview?

Seriously, Sam**ng – is this all you got?  I am beyond disappointed.  For a starter, do something with people in charge of international recruiting.  All American companies I interviewed with asked my availability first, and then we worked together to get the best time. Sam**ng just notified me the interview time, without asking me.  Just one email with dates.  It was impossible schedule for me, so I asked whether it’s possible to move the interview to some other dates.  They simply answered “no.”

Their basic mindset is this: shut up, just be thankful that you are given a chance to have an interview with usOf course you have to adjust your schedule for us.  Isn’t that obvious?

Everyone knows how Sam**ng thinks its employees as parts of machine.  My experience confirms it.  No wonder why all those employees quit within 1-2 years.

[Translation] After an Interview with Korean Company

Snippet of Borderline Case


As I walked back from the public library to the bus station, the gigantic franchise bakeries on the main street were throwing opening special events.  One was Paris Baguette and another one was Tour les Jours.  In front of Paris Baguette, a bras band made of three or four white men was constantly playing tunes, wearing uniforms as if they are one of the Paris Baguette crew or bakers.  Of course they are not.

In front of Tour les Jours, they, too, had a random white guys in front of the newly opened store.  Also in Tour les Jours uniforms.  But I doubt they are actual staffs. Either way, the stores hired some random white boys for a one-time event boys.  Like how old Harrods department store used to have exotic animals to attract more customers.

I couldnt’ help thinking how they are like caricatures of foreigners in South Korea: good ornaments, looks like they belong ,but not so in reality.  But who cares, they are 외국인 (foreigners).

Then what about me?  I look like belong but not so in reality.  I might be a good ornament, but less so because my passport, looks, blood and names are not foreign enough.  I can’t really tell which is worse or better.

“Sorry, You are Disqualified Because You are Not Foreigner”


So while I am struggling with the endless battle with LSAT, my friend called me about a possible part-time position.  I was not too keen on it, but hey, at least someone thought of me and that is a terribly nice gesture.  And earning a few more wons won’t hurt me, right?

Friend: Well, they are looking for a native speaker, or “foreigner” for the position.
Ceberus: What?  For the English-Korean translation part-time position?
Friend: Yeah.
Ceberus: That. is. insane.
Friend: I know! I told them they won’t be able to find a “foreigner” with a good-enough control on English and Korean.  But as I heard about the position, I thought of you.  You grew up in the States, speak good English and Korean, right?
Ceberus: Yeah I guess so.  So should I write to this person in English of in Korean?
Friend: Er…both?  ‘Cause that shows you are good at both languages?
Ceberus: Er…I’ll just write in English, since you said they want a “foreigner.”  You know it always helps to be foreigner in Korea, as much as you can.
Friend: AH, TRUE.

There goes my resume.  Which clearly shows my extensive experience on dealing with foreigners, foreign documents.  And I have seperate block for my freelance translation/interpretation.

Oh, and my friend did not have a clear idea about job description (after all, the job wasn’t for her company – it was for her client company), so I also asked them to give me a job description.

The job description never came, nor the reply.  Naturally, I thought the position is bygone.  Well, as I munch down my lunch today, my cell rang. It was the company.

Company: Thanks for the resume.  But we are looking for the foreigner, I mean, native speaker for the position.  I think there was some kind of misunderstanding.  And you are Korean, so unfortunately, we believe you are not the best match for our position. 

And then “we hope to see you again if there is another opportunity” blah blah shit.   Yeah thanks whatever.   Oh and I never thought being a “foreigner” matters that much in terms of job performance.  I didn’t even bother to argue, since my friend already said that they are looking for a “foreigner,” and I am very well aware of Korean (Asian in general) companies’ fantasy on having a foreigner in their office.  Oftentimes, it’s usually a white person from North America.  Never mind that there might be some other Korean who speaks better English AND Korean than that person – it looks cool, who cares?  But if they are really looking for a “foreigner” who can actually translate Korean – English, I say their chance is really, really slim.

It reminds me of how I wanted to join FBI, CIA or MI-5 back in the old days.  The things looked good, because many of these organizations are always short in people speaking good East Asian language.  I happen to speak 2 East Asian languages quite fluently, and my educational background is a good match.  However I had to give it up quickly.  All of them were only accepting US citizens and UK citizens.  No surprise, they are still short in people who can do that.

It’s not my first time, nor this is something that happens only in Korea.  Maybe there was a miscommunication.  Nevertheless I hate this bullshit.

TCKs to be the good of this world


The Rise of New Ruling Class: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-rise-of-the-new-global-elite/8343/

Back in the college, a lot of my reading assignments were the copies of The Atlantic Monthly’s article.  I hated it, since they were pretty long.  Ironically, after the graduation, I started to like it, and now I am a regular subscriber.

The main article of February issue was the new riches and how it is affecting the inbetweeners and have-nots.  And also how the opportunity pool is becoming slimmer and slimmer.  Me being both (pretty much…), I was very interested in what the article would say.

According to the article, the nouveau-riche of globalization are young, self-made and working, which is a difference compared to old-school riches.  Fine, and I know a lot of hardworking, self-made riches.  In fact, I do not object when someone says most riches are rich because they work harder than others (plus some luck).   But as the article goes into the description of average attitude of new riches, I became increasingly uncomfortable – a lot of them, being a self-made hardworking people, tend to think the rest of the world is jealous of them, and others who did not make it to their level are just incompetent.  Think of how Wall Street bankers pissed the public off during and after the bailout.  It makes sense under that rational.

At this point, I could not help thinking about my high school experience and college volunteering in a local homeless center.  Back in the college, I was (probably) the only international student in my department to participate in a local community service – I worked at a local homeless shelter late evening shift as a proofreader and resource manager (helping people using PCs and books).  Originally, I wanted to work in the city hall but the seat was taken, so the only choice left for me was homeless center night-shift.  Like most people, I too associated homeless with many negative images – junkie, lazy, dangerous, sick, dirty, etc.  I still remember the nervousness on my first week.  Boy, but I was flat wrong.  Many of the folks were so friendly and kind.  And most importantly, a lot of them were able, good-natured and hardworking people who simply missed out lady luck’s blessing.  If I remember correctly, 19th British term for poor people were “unfortunate ones.”  They couldn’t be more right.

I don’t deny the nouveau-riche’s sweat and blood.  Many of them worked for it and they deserve it.  However, is it really all because they were smart and worked hard?  Some never get a chance no matter how they worked their blood and sweat out.  Their hard work came to fruition, because the right chance came at the right moment with right luck.  Sure, these don’t fill up the large portion of wealth fruit pie – but without them, no matter how hard you work, it will never be realized. Those are out of control, unlike a person’s hard work.  And I believe that is why you need to be able to share what you have with have-nots; what came as your luck might not be yours, originally.

Some of the nouveau-riches’ attitude and bubble described in the article made me think of my rich, six-digit-median-income suburban high school.  I mentioned in my blog that the whole neighborhood was a real-life J Crew/Ralph Lauren catalogue.  Everyone spent their entire life in the town bubble, hanging out only with similar kinds, and their international experience was nothing except summer trip to Bahama and Carribean.  Though I had some of my favorite people in school, I, who came from a small country in East Asian corner, could never relate to them (and I wasn’t much of interest to most of them, either).  I still don’t consider myself as a member of that community.  The attitude depicted in the article was very much like that neighborhood – even in the recession, the town’s median income is still six digits, and made it to one of the top 10 most expensive suburban town in America.

However, one person mentioned was different: Dr. Mohamed El-Erian, current Chief Executive Officer of Pimco.  Born to Egyptian father and French mother, he grew up in Egypt, US, UK, Switzerland, France, studied in Oxford and Cambridge, and now working for American company.  He was mentioned as a different nouveau-riche, someone aware of that the new elites cannot turn away from have-nots, and how turning away from them will ultimately crumble down what elites have now.

El-Erian sees this because he grew up in multiple, different spheres: he grew up in rural Egypt, a poverty-stricken country where the gap between haves and have-nots are huge, and prosperous western Europe.  It wouldn’t be possible if he were just like another new elite, who spent his/her entire life in one country and fails to understand the world as a whole, other than commodity.  And I think this is how TCKs should be, and can be – we can be the positive force.  Hopefully, how non-TCKs view us will change soon, and give us a chance.

Choi family of Kyoungju city, Korea, is a legendary wealthy family, often quoted as one of the original Asian noblesse oblige.  Some of their family rules tell a lot to this situation:
– Do not earn more than 10,000 sacks of rice: whenever the annual earning sum exceeded 10,000 rice sacks from their serf, Choi family either lowered the land fee or returned the rice to the servants and farmers.
– Always use 1,000 sacks of rice for the have-nots.
– In time of famine, do not deal real estates.
– Make sure no one is starving within 24 miles.

The new elites/riches might think noblesse oblige is out of date, and today is time where only the fittest survive and everything is purely meritocracy.  I disagree. Wealth without restraint is the worst form of vulgarity – and it will hurt the wealth itself someday.

From 1:00ish – he can’t he more right.  And he is self-made man, too.  With a bit of luck.

Being Smart Doesn’t Help You.


At least in hiring process in Asian company.

Sorry for being MIA for a long time, readers.  While I’ve been studying for LSAT, my motivation started shake pretty badly, because the employment for graduates were bad, and even worse for non-citizen internationals like myself.  People who graduated from top10 schools, like Columbia, were coming back to South Korea because no one was offering them a job, let alone internship.  Now that is something I really do not want, especially after busting your butts for 3 years and paying huge sum of tuition.  And my score stalled (which isn’t impressive at all, by the way).

Then I randomly ran into a global hiring posting by a prominent Japanese company (henceforth JC).  This company is fast-growing, young Japanese company who did really well even in the global recession, and they are very aggressive in international expansion.  Most importantly, they sponsor your visa and you get to work in Tokyo.  There aren’t many employers willing to sponsor your visa in times like this, and in my humble opinion, it is a bit foolish to not to take such an opportunity.  After all, I didn’t have much to lose.  Even after law school, I would love to work focused on Japanese market, and I thought it would be a good chance to test myself and the company – whether I can fare as TCK in Japan, and the company really means what they say.  And, I wanted to check I can actually handle the daily work.  Plus, they pay for the flight and accommodation – and the JPY is frigging expensive.  Hell yeah!  I applied, passed the resume screening, 2 interviews, and 2 personality tests.  Then I was invited to Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan for final interview.  According to the official e-mail, the chosen candidates were to spend 9 days in Tokyo, having some presentations, group discussion, 2.5 days on field, and then final interview.

The flight arrangement was not smooth at all.  Some of the factors are my fault, but again, many things could have been better if the outsourced company planned a bit more carefully.  For instance, my flight schedule was changed once.  The flight number and time were same.  I went to the Incheon airport on the day of my flight, and handed my passport and e-ticket.  The lady at the desk looked really confused, and said: “ma’am, your flight doesn’t leave from here.  It leaves from Gimpo airport.” (Seoul city has two airports).  Fortunately, I did not miss my flight but I had to give up all my practical duty-free shopping, like my formal black coat which was 30% off.  I am just glad Tokyo’s temperature did not drop much during my stay.  It turned out that the flights have exactly same numbers, but two different flights leaving from different airports.  I wasn’t the only person confused.  Honestly, it would have been more convenient to let people book their flight individually and file compensation to the company.

Then, for some reason, the company did not make a solid plan for meals.  So 15+ people who flew from all over the world had to just follow chaperon, visited a restaurant, wait outside for a seat availability, kicked out, walk, then another restaurant.  Had they thought more, they could have divided us into smaller groups (Roppongi doesn’t have big restaurants with lots of seats!) or made reservation to somewhere else.  Really, it’s not that hard.

But all of this are nothing compared to people from Russia and Mongolia.  Something went wrong in immigration, and they were locked in the airport for 3+ hours.  As soon as they arrived at the office, they were greeted by 3 hours long personality test.  During the program, We were given 2.5 days to spend in actual workplace.  After the first day, each group’s field experience was vastly different, and it wasn’t hard to infer that the pre-arrangement was next to non-existent.  Around the middle of program, a strange rumor was spread- that after the interview, the company’s human resource officers will secretly pick candidates to have final round of interview with the CEO.  Not everyone took it seriously, and many thought it is just some urban legend created by frustration and nervousness.  After all, you wouldn’t do such a covert operation when you are doing “international hiring,” and many people came all the way from the other side of earth, flying 10+ hours.  Right?

The 6th day was supposed to be wrap-up/review meeting with human resource people.  Well, in the morning, the human resource officer said the plan has changed and the interview will be today.  Not an ideal situation but not impossible to be understood.  But then, the interview arrangement was shit.  They had only two interviewers to interview 27 people in a day.  Expectedly, interviewers were totally worn out, and toward the end some candidates were given only 4-5 minutes, if not waiting for 6 hours locked in a waiting room.

Then on the next (and also the last) day, we were supposed to have a group discussion.  A lady from human resource picked 7-9 people, saying there is something wrong with their personality test so they will have to retake it.  Now, this already sound strange – retake? On the last day?  And those people were asked to bring their translation receiver.  When one candidate asked, “excuse me, but why are they taking receiver for taking a test?”  The officer said “well, they just have to be returned for a while.”  Nice excuse, ma’am.  The rumor turned out to be true.  In addition, the “chosen ones” were asked to lie to others (that they took test, not the final interview with CEO) by human resource in order to “keep everyone happy.”  Instead, the intention of “keep everyone happy” really made everyone awkward with each other.  And people knew it anyway, so what was the point of “lying?”  If you want to hide something, hide it well.

Since I had a working experience in South Korea (where the business culture is very similar with Japan), my reaction was more like “well, I should’ve expected it…” (not that I was happy with it).  Now, the people from UK were flipped.  Totally flipped.  They pretended that they are just asking others’ opinion, but really they made a pretty clear complainant to the company.  By no means I am saying the chosen ones were undeserving losers – but everyone who were called to the “secret final interview” were people who don’t really have their own opinion (or don’t really state it), a bit naive, zero to little experience living in Japan, and speak zero no little Japanese.  Now, if you say you are looking for someone who are going to work in Japan yet hire someone who has zero to little Japanese experience, I think the message is clear: the company wants people who are easy to deal with, follow their way unquestioningly, and easy to train. Some people who were active and/or received positive feedback on in-field experience did not get the job.

If the supervisors who actually spent time with us were decision makers, I think the result would be very different.  But they were not decision makers, and usually, Asian middle managers don’t want smartest/brighest/talented/skilled people to be hired – they don’t want to be outsmarted and lose their face in public.

Now I really don’t hold any hope on Asian big-shots’ “globalization.”  If you are doing everything in a very local way while hiring, how would you expect to have a diverse, fresh view in your company?  I would not expect the companies to be 100% honest on their intention.  But if what they want is “nice” malleable people, they really should not say they want someone active and self-thinking – for three days straight.  This company calls itself as young, active, and a totally new type of Japanese company.  They could’ve just told us such-such things are to be expected, instead of hiding everything (and never admitting it even after everyone knows everything).  Go and screw your sorry ass, and forget about globalization.

I don’t want to sound like ugly American/Westerner who believes everything  western is better (after all, I’m not exactly the westerner).  But in terms of communication and getting to the goal, west is better – there’s no crap and meaningless effort involved to hide.

On the positive side – my supervisor liked me, I got some compliments, and people whom I spent time together liked me.  And I got to visit some of my dear people in Japan.

This is why South Korea’s average birthrate is the lowest.


translated an interesting (?) article – if you have to copy this to somewhere, please site.  Or better yet, use trackback please.

Behave like dull bear in early stage of pregnancy…Behave like a cunning fox when the pregnancy becomes visible


The government is launching all kinds of pregnancy/childbirth encouragement plans.  But still, only a few of people decides to give birth to children so they can take advantage of these plans.  There are so many obstacles they have to face during the journey of pregnancy, childbirth, and nurturing.  This is especially so for working woman who has to work for nine months, bearing a child within them.  For them, the wall of reality is too high even before giving birth to their children.  We have complied stories from 10 workers, including pregnant employees and collegues of pregnant employees, so hopefully we can gather some street-smart wisdom from them.  All names are written as alias, for the sake of honesty and privacy.

+ “I didn’t behave like you.” vs “I’m not faking this.”

Mrs. Kim (30), an 8-month-pregnant working woman, had a sharp ache on her lower abdomen few months ago.  She told her female supervisor that it would be hard to do overtime, explaining her situation.  “In front of me, she said that’s fine.” Mrs. Kim says, “Few minutes later, she texted me: ‘Hey, I did all overtime when I was pregnant.  Why do you want a special treatment?’  I was baffled.  I mean, I appreciate her directness, but we are women and she should know how hard it is sometimes!”

Another Mrs. Kim (36), a unit manager of cosmetics company with a kid, commented: “I know I should have more understanding of pregnant colleague.  But in the office, you have to be professional before being a pregnant mom.  Emphasizing that side sometimes hurt pregnant employees.”  She then went on, joking “People serve in the military for 3 years, and there are many people thinking they can bear waiting for 13 months (10 months of pregnancy + 3 months of maternity leave).  I hope the working moms understand it.”
+ Not sure what to do vs. Impolite

Mrs. Lee (32) recently had a miscarriage at the 6th week of her pregnancy.  Her male supervisor’s reaction was something she did not expect.  Upon hearing the news, the supervisor gave her a big hug, saying how sorry he is.  Naturally, Lee expected some days off.  However she never received the days off.  consequently, she had only one day off after the day of miscarriage, and then had to go to work.  Mr. Park (45), a manager of fashion retailing company, said “sometimes I do wonder whether they are really in pain.  But as a man, it can be quite embarrassing to be inquisitive about symptoms so I just let them go.”

Though improved, there are male supervisors smoking at the presence of pregnant employees.  Mrs. Park (27), an 8-months-pregnant employee of medium-sized company, said:” there are male colleagues who just smoke inf front of me.  I feel like I am a unecessary burden of this office.”  Mrs. Ko (28), a 6-months-pregnant employee of well-known big conglomerate, agreed: “you don’t dare to say refrain from smoking to your bosses.  It kills me!”

+ From bear to fox –  be cunning
Of course, the implementation of office culture respecting pregnant female is necessary.  But at the same time, the pregnant employee has to coordinate their behavior.   Taking others’ care granted really takes others’ willingness to help.  Mrs. Yang (38) who gave a birth to her child last year advised, “according to my experience, act like there is no problem at the early stage of your pregnancy.  As your pregnancy becomes visible, broadcast all over that you are pregnant mom.  Doing so will cause your colleagues to help you out voluntarily.  As your body becomes heavier, take days off smartly.  That will make fewer enemies in your office.”  Obviously, if the pain is too much, don’t bear it.  Mr. Shin (43), a director of public relations firm, mentioned:  “I had no idea how bad it was because my female pregnant subordinate said nothing.  One day, she was absent without telling me.  Constantly telling others how painful you feel isn’t the best idea, but if it really hurts, tell them.”

Like Mr. Shin said, saying way too much about the troubles of pregnancy will turn colleagues into enemies.  Mr. Cho (29), a computer programmer, said: “a pregnant colleague of mine keeps showing her ultrasound picture of her kid and saying ‘look how cute she is!’ I smile and compliment, but sometimes it’s just too much, I almost want to scream ‘I am not your husband!'”  Mr. Lee (35), an employee at service industry, commented: “Given the job’s characteristic, you have to look nice.  Sometimes there are pregnant colleagues who are just way too untidy at workplace.  You can’t help thinking they lack the professional spirit.”  Some others mentioned being way too “bragging” about their pregnancy at the early stage (i.e., wearing maternity clothing at the very early stage of pregnancy), quitting business trips/hweshik (business social, usually involving alcohol intakes) are not good to see.
+ The worst colleagues of pregnant employees
– Women supervisor giving them hard times, in the spirit of “I beard it so should you.”
– Supervisors who say all the nice things, but never giving them a day off.
– Colleagues who keep asking “are you going to keep working here after giving your kid a birth?”

+ The worst pregnant employees
– People who are way too excited, or bragging when they are only a month pregnant
– Talking too much about her kid
– Quitting business trips and hweshik no matter what
– Forcing colleagues to be emotional while watching her kid’s ultrasound picture
Miri Kim miri@chosun.com


Read the rest of this entry

God chose me to be his/her prank target today.


In order to balance out my study life and actual real world life, I force myself to do regular socials.  Few weeks ago, there was a nice social for expats so I and my friend went there.  We met a fellow foreigner (wait…can I say “fellow foreigner?”) who was just transferred from Japan.  Since my friend and I both lived in Japan and speak Japanese, we formed a nice little Japanese bubble.   During the follow-up emails and such, he suggested me to send a copy of my resume.  I did, and ta-dah, the interview came along.

Now, after having been duped several times and experienced multiple interviews with domestic and international employers, I don’t hold my hopes high.  However, I thought this might be a good opportunity for me.  I lived in Japan/Korea/US, know the local culture very well, and speak Japanese, Korean and English fluently.  The company was sort of business consulting, specialized for westerners trying to enter Asian market.  The office wasn’t far from my place either, which was a bonus point.

So I went to the office.  Thought they seriously lacked personnel in the office, I did not mind, knowing the company just opened their Korean office few months ago.  I was to be interviewed by my reference-person’s boss (either British or American), who is in Korea for a business trip.  The surrounding looked alright, given that I tend to work better with non-Koreans.  I came prepared.  I read off their company website, read job description, thought of few typical interview answers – such as, “tell me about yourself” – and took a copy of my own resume.  There I was, ready to play catch-ball with questions, waiting for my interviewers to throw the questions in.  Instead, the interviewer went on and on for about +20 minutes, explaining what their company does.  I appreciate his thoughtfulness, but I really think he could have cut it down to 10 minutes.  He saw my copies of his company website and I told him I read the company website.  Growing up under Korean parents who have zero tolerance on impolite behavior, I am brainwashed to not to ever cut off when someone is talking (even more so if he is my potential boss).  What could I do?  Just nod, smile and let him finish.  Thus, after that 20+ minutes I was pretty exhausted.

Then he asked, “have you read our job description?”

Well hello, I’m already DOING the interview for the very position, and who on earth with their right mind doesn’t even read job description and go to the interview?!?!?!

Finally we moved on to questions.  Which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, if not strange – because, according to my experience, a lot of interview is about what kind of person I am.  Thus many questions, if not all, are about your strength, weakness, unseen experiences on resume, background, etc.  I don’t think he asked any of that…except that he asked where do I see myself in future.  Now that I think of it, I think he just asked it because he felt he needs to do.  Generally all the questions felt like he is either quizzing me with answers already in his mind, or “Can you do this? that? this?” Most of them, I think, can be inferred from my resume…but this is a subjective opinion so I’ll put it aside.  Then as he answered my questions, I was further confused.  In the beginning, he said whether I am familiar with high-tech industry (which I answered, “well given that I am fast-learner and always curious person…” blah blah, you know the drill).  Then, in the end, he said they are looking for generalists.  Er…sorry, so your job description is…?

I came back to home after the interview.  Took a short break, checked my e-mails and LinkedIn, and changed to do some workout.  It would be a good idea to pick up my pants, which I left to local seamstress shop because the pants were a bit too long for me.  Few days ago, I left my perfectly fine and new two pairs of Uniqlo pants to the seamstress shop.  She said she make the adjustment by Wednesday.  So I visited there Wednesday.  She said it’s not ready yet.  Honestly, I wonder how long does it take to shorten your pants, especially when you already pin-tucked your pants with the length you want.  Oh well.  I went back today.  I said my address and told her I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.

Then the seamstress was going here and there, looking for my pants.  She said she doesn’t see them.  I said:

Ceberus: Well, I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.  Don’t you remember?
Seamstress: I don’t see them though…
Ceberus: A pair of jeans and another pair of black pants?
Seamstress: (blank face) Er…could you describe it for me?

Yeah, like it is so easy to describe your own pair of jean.  Unless you are talking about some limited edition premium jeans with swarovski crystals on the butt or grand decoration, how can you really describe your jeans? Oh it’s blue and there’s white washing on your knees?

Ceberus: Well, it’s from Uniqlo.
Seamstress: (another blank face, searching for the rack)
Seamstress: I will have to look for it…can you come back later?
Ceberus: I can’t believe this.  You put another day of delay, and now you are saying my pants are gone.  Fine.

I was on the border line of getting late for my workout, so I backed out.  After the workout, I visited the shop again.

Ceberus: well, did you find it?
Seamstress: You’ll have to come back tomorrow.
Ceberus: …(visibly unhappy) Do you mean, you found the pants but it’s not done, or you just don’t know where the heck my pants are?
Seamstress: (smile) Well…I’ll have to look for them.

Like seriously.  What can I say.  How hard it is to track down your customer’s stuff?  I’m not talking about she should have a grandiose account managing system.  All she needs to do is tuck the memo or copy of receipt on each hanger.  I almost wanted to unleash the hellfire but I was too tired.  I just gave her a visible eye roll, and dashed out without talking.  I will visit her tomorrow, and if she has not located my pants’ whereabouts, I’ll have to make her pay for the pants.  But then, that means I’ll have to do shopping again, just to buy identical pairs of pants.  Fudge…alright, empty-brain time.

I logged on to internet.  Then, I found a cheaper deal than the pair of ankle boots I ordered a few days ago – my old boots are so very old, it’s visibly falling apart.  So I tried to cancel my old order.  But they say, by the store policy, cancellation is not possible.

Those three happened all in one day.  One fucking day.  I am so sure that someone high up in the sky got pretty bored, rolled a dice, and made me his/her prank target for today.

Things I Still Don’t Get Used To on Korean Hiring/Resume


1) Family Information

Basically, the idea is, it is possible to guess someone’s personality by taking a look at your parents.  Works to some degree, I guess.  But at the same time, thinking that there are people who might be automatically filtered out just because their parents are marked as divorce, not living together, have some not-very-grand occupation, or have low-level of education, it is not entirely fair.  And, what about the candidates who is “exceptional” from his/her family?  For instance, if you see someone grew up under alcoholic and abusive father, thus divorced parents and raised under single mother, people tend to assume (at least in South Korea) that the person is sheltered, have too strong personality, probably abusive if not potential alcoholic.  But there are always people who did not follow their parents’ footprints.  What about them?

2) Physical Information

This is one thing I just can’t get used to it.  If I am applying for a receptionist, salesperson, or beauty-related industry, it is understandable.  But why, oh why, do you have to put your height, weight, gender, photo, blood type and eyesight when you are applying for human resource assistant manager, or marketing manager, or IT maintenance officer?  I wonder what would happen if I put the height for 4’5″ and 160 pound for applying for English editor.  Probably the employers here will trash my resume, not really giving a look at my language skills or background.  What if there is a genius marketer with great personality who happens to be a transgender?  I will be surprised if he/she is hired by Korean company.

3) Boot-Camp Style Training/Candidate Filtering

Again, basically, companies believe this is great way to find out the real personalities of candidates by putting them into extreme situation.  For new employee training, they think this is the best way to build a team-spirit.  I can see why, and it is true – your real personality comes out when you are in an extreme situation, or under tight surveillance for days.  By boot-camp style, I mean it.  LG makes the new employees to do some 12-mile hardcore hiking as a part of new employee training.  During the entire hiking, you have to wear a company uniform.  Samsung’s new employees do mass-games.  If you do a good search on Youtube, you will be able to find some leaked videos.  It has been a sensation in South Korea when it first leaked, and people (public including current and past Samsung employees) had a split opinion.  I couldn’t help myself thinking about North Korean mass games.  It’s still group > individual in South Korea and yet they say they want a creative individual.

After all, putting that hiking and marine boot camp retreat means, physically handicapped candidates have no hope in applying.  How can you bear it if you are a candidate with your lower half of the body paralyzed, or have dwarfism, or have cerebral palsy?  Basically, the companies are indirectly saying: we don’t want any physically handicapped people here.  Few days ago, there was a news article saying there is zero physically handicapped employees in top 80 firms of Korea, despite the government’s effort to increase the number of physically handicapped employees.  Reading this, I could not help thinking about people I know back in college and a blind Korean girl who took LSAT in Korea: in college, one of my classmate was legally blind but he attended all classes with his guide dog.  Another dorm neighbor of mine had a cerebral palsy and could not move above her shoulder.  The school lend her an electronic wheelchair and installed automatic door on her room.  Recently, there was a blind girl who took LSAT in Korea.  LSAC sent her a separate copy of test booklet all written in Braille, along with official answer marking person.  That probably won’t happen here.  The moment you check the box of “physically handicapped, level X,” your resume’s chance to make it to next round decreases dramatically.

If you want to apply for a position in a well-known insurance company, you have to visit their building and turn in all applications and documents by hand.  They don’t accept any on-line application or fax.  Why?  Well, the CEO thinks that shows how passionate the candidate is to the company.  Fine, but he needs to think that job seekers need to open their options wide – they can’t just put all eggs in one basket!    And really, do you want someone living in Busan yet willing to apply to this company, spend $120 for train ride to just to turn in his/her resume?  Some well-known companies actually make the candidates drunk by endless suggestions of soju-bomb.  Yes, your alcoholic intake limit is counted as a job skill set, and if you can’t, you lose points.  In Korea, it is possible for companies to hire a candidate who drinks shit load of sojubomb well with their bosses over someone who is experienced in the job.

And they probably won’t like a fellow Korean bringing up all these questions up to their face.

Don’t complain about joblessness when you can’t behave.


All names are in alias in order to respect their privacy

People say it is important to plan and prepare about your job before you graduate. But let’s be honest – how can you when you are only 22? After all, many of students take a long time to figure out what they really want to study.  Then there’s killer workload.  You do your best to catch up and get a good grade, not to mention doing something meaningful in your college club life or social.  Then, all of sudden, you realize you are college senior.  If you want to pay off your humongous college debt, you’d better get a job as soon as possible.  You haven’t even thought about what kind of job you want.  If it was back in 80’s, there is not much to worry about.  But not anymore. All the good and tasty entry-level jobs are open to only math/econ/biz/engineering/finance majors.  Did I mention the economy is really bad? Oh shit, what do I do, what do I do?!?!

Many of my college friends chose to go to grad school.  Some of them want to study more about their major.  But let’s face it – a lot of people who choose this path did so because they don’t know what to do, except hoping that they would have better chance with higher degree. I hate to say this, but sorry buddy, you are wrong.  The depression might last 3-4 more years.  Even PhDs are having tough time to find a slot in university teaching position.

An ex-classmate of mine, Ben, was one of the people who went to grad school right after college graduation.  I assume his reason for going grad school was both: he liked his major, and lost in the job market.  So he went to Ivy League grad school.  Sure, he’s a nice person.  But many of me and my friends (street-smart and not very sheltered), we can totally see he is very sheltered.  You know, looks nice, wear J-Crew, talks a lot about politics and social problems in a very conservative way, but when someone counters him with life-example, he can’t answer back.  He probably never had a chance to have a conversation with homeless people or drug addict.  By the way, he hates Obama (not that I am Obama supporter, but this gives you a general idea).

He has been complaining a lot about joblessness.  I could feel for him.  It is nervous and draining.  Sometimes employers don’t give us chance because what we have is “too high” for them.  But reading his status today, I almost wanted to say, “you are crazy – you will never get a job in that way.

He got an interview offer from a pro-choice NGO called Planned Parenthood.  The lady there called him and said, “hello Ben, this is Jane from Planned Parenthood calling.  We found your resume from ABC grad school’s student resume data, and wonder if you are interested in taking a paralegal position in our organization.”  (Boy, things are tough for sure – placing non-legal background candidate to paralegal position was unimaginable until few years ago)

Ben ended up saying, “sorry, I’m not a baby-killer.

The lady said “oh, that’s okay.  Bye.

Apparently he is pretty proud of how he reacted.

In terms of job-searching, he made a big mistake.  There are many ways to say “sorry, I’m not a baby-killer” much nicer.  He could have said, “thanks for your interest, but I am not interested.”  If he really wanted to express his conviction, he could have said something like “I am interested in your position, but I don’t agree with your organizations’ belief.”  She will understand.  World is small.  Business fields are even smaller.  What is he going to do if his potential employer is an acquaintance of this lady?  Or, what if your next interviewer is that lady?

And, even if this was not a job-searching time, it’s still rude.  When a beggar come to you and asks for a quarter, are you going to say “you are lazy bum and that’s why you are poor?”  All you have to do is “sorry!” If the lady was really pushy, or if this was a demonstration site, I would understand.  But it wasn’t!

Now I get a feel of why some professors were so difficult to work with, and why the professors with real-world experience were much easier to work with.  Seriously, people, be nice and go out to the real world, even if it is temporary.

How to do Job Interview in South Korea – Interlude


While job hunting, I am also reading the Law School Confidential.   I had a chance to have some talk with K, a lawyer who is now teaching at local university.  Back then I was interested in law school but it was not imminent.  After I quit my job, I asked him whether it would be okay for me to ask him several things about law school.  K said he will gladly do it, but recommended me to read it before I send him any questions.  So I am doing so.  It is a good book, if you are seriously interested in law school.  Some sections, like the studying method section and professors, do not click to me yet (because I’m not in it), but many of the contents give me what to expect and what to do in law school.  Now, in the middle of my job hunting, I am still somewhat dubious whether I will be really happy to work in Korea for a long time (unless I am to be surrounded by diversity but very unlikely in here), and that makes me the choice of law school looming even more vividly in my mind.  I know going through all that job hunting/interview process in Korea is a good experience and to some degree necessary, but I can’t really give all of my heart on it – can’t find the right word, but hope this explains it.

Yesterday, I was reading the Recruiting Season section of the Law School Confidential – oh, all that memories of my college senior year job fairs and mock interviews.  Then there was one of the contributor’s commentary:

“Once in a while, you hear a horror story about a partner (usually one of the older ones) making an off-color remark or asking an inappropriate question…first ask to have the comment or question repeated to assure yourself that you heard it correctly.  If you did, and it is an inappropriate question, it is then perfectly acceptable to respond by saying, “I’m sorry, Mr So-and-So, but that question is out-of-bounds.”  Inquiries about marital status, sexual orientation, religious persuasion, ethnicity, political beliefs, and offers from other firms are regarded as inappropriate…If the interviewer makes an off-color remark about race, sexual orientation, religion, or the like, and you are bothered by it, politely call him n it by saying, “Excuse me, Mr. So-and-So, but what exactly did you mean by that comment?”  That should be enough to get the interviewer to move on – and will probably be reason enough to get you look elsewhere for employment (p255).

And another one:

“Remember that you are interviewing the firm, too”…Asking the tough questions of an interviewer shows the interviewer that you have done your homework about the firm, and that you are concerned about those things…it also shows the interviewer that you are seriously considering the firm as a place of employment…give the interviewer a softball, like, “I couldn’t help but notice that you guys ranked last in associate satisfaction last year.  I’m sure it won’t happen again, but what changes have been implemented to try and improve the situation?” (p256)

Ah-ha.  A small spark went on in my head.  So basically this book (focused on American style job-interview) encourages readers to 1. don’t bear it when the interviewer is asking something that is not very relevant to your skills, 2. do ask questions to your interviewers, and 3.  speak up!  Sounds good, and that’s something I grew up with.  But if I apply these to the Korean job interview, I could easily imagine what would happen.

What the book considers as “inappropriate questions,” are, in fact, very commonly asked in South Korea.  Interviewers ask about marital status, or for single woman with significant someone, plans to get married.  If she says yes, then another question follows: what are you going to do with your job, then?  The support for married women at work is next to non-existant (despite the government’s effort).  You get married.  You have a kid.  Still, you are expected to work just as same as when you were single.  As same as your male employees.  Of course you will have to join after-work social drinkings, or backbone breaking overtime.  I once heard that a female executive manager who was pregnant kept working and working.  One day, she felt something strange so she filed for a half-day break, and took a subway to hospital.  In subway her water broke.   I’m not even kidding.  Technically, you can file maternity vacation.  The labor law guarantees it – 3 months maximum.  The government is trying really hard to implement it.  But in reality, filing the maternity vacation means your desk will be cleared from the office while you are gone.  I’ve seen so many women who wouldn’t “dare” to even ask about it to her boss or pressured to quit her job rather than “damaging the team.”  And the government wants the birthrate to rise.  No wonder why there are 60%+ women in people who passed the Korean bar exam, or medical school students.

Skip the sexual orientation and ethnicity (told you, homogenous society!).  Sometimes the companies do discriminate candidates by nationality.  Just today I saw a job opening description saying clearly “US national only.”  Well, if you are looking for an English PR officer/copywriter, why does it have to be US?  Heck, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada speaks English, too!

Let’s say your Korean interviewer did ask one of those inappropriate questions.  Therefore you said, “I am sorry, but that question is out of bound.”  In Korean context, you can’t even imagine saying that.  You have to answer that somehow.  You don’t talk back to your boss, or senior.  Say something back to Korean interviewers – they will mark you as “hard to break, not obedient, unfit for the organizational life and social.”  Tough questions?  Consider yourself lucky if you are given an opportunity to actually ask something to them at the end of interview.  Of all the job interviews I had with Korean firms, I was never given an opportunity to ask any questions.  Say you are given the chance, and you ask one of those tough questions.  Your Korean interviewer will be flipped just by the fact you asked it, and will think you are rude – he might even yell “how dare you!”

In short, there is major difference between US and Korea – what is considered as inappropriate/appropriate question (well, there’s very little inappropriate question in here if it is given from your boss/senior), how one should react, and questioning.  That was my little “bling” moment of realizing why I feel so uncomfortable, unhappy and something shoved down to my throat whenever I an interviewing with Korean employers.

Well, so, am I going to go to law school?  If I don’t have any more choices.  And I do hope the answer will be revealed quickly.   Apparently, one of the firms – the one that I am most interested in – closes their application site on my birthday.  So for the next 2 weeks, I will work pretty hard on my personal statement and application.  Wish me luck!