Saturday, June 5, 2004

LG: A cult above the rest

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LG Training Program

For those of you who don’t know, LG is one of the big conglomerates in Korea. The name recognition isn't up there with Samsung yet, but no matter where you live in the world you’ll find their products (mostly electronic goods). Needless to say, getting employed by LG is a dream come true for most Koreans and it is extremely competitive to get in.

Last Friday I was drinking with a friend who was recently hired by LG. She is in the middle of their mandatory training period for all new employees. She had just finished the first week of training and had the weekend off before going back for another 2-week stint. I asked her exactly what they trained her to do. Her reply was that it wasn’t training; it was brainwashing.

Here is what she went through for the first three days of the 5 day training program. I’m writing this from memory, so I’m sure I have some of the details mixed up and I know I'm forgetting some good bits (I really wanted to write down notes as she was talking, but it didn't seem appropriate).

Day 1: LG: Great Company, Great Employees!


Memorize LG slogans
Trainees spend several hours memorizing the various slogans (about 15 or so) and the philosophy and mission statement of LG. At one point, each member must stand in front of the whole group (about 150 in total) and scream (yes, scream) all the slogans correctly. If any mistakes are made or the trainers deem that the employees did not scream loudly enough, they have to start all over again. No one passes the first time; most have to do it over and over again because they fail to scream appropriately.
Later, trainees memorize a moderately lengthy sales pitch for some general LG product. Again, this is tested in the “scream mode” in front of the whole group (they have four people on stage at a time screaming to move things along a little more quickly). This went on for hours (7PM to midnight). Either you were screaming yourself or listening to 150 other people scream hour after hour. Most get to bed about 1 PM.

Day 2: A little song and dance

After a nice 5-hour sleep, they wake up at 6 AM for 45 minutes of exercise (mostly jogging).

Today they memorize and sing company songs over and over and over again. That’s just the beginning.
A professional dancer comes and teaches them basic dance steps. Next, the employees are put into groups for a song and dance contest. Each group takes a random pop song and changes the lyrics to promote LG products (the cheesier the better). Then, with their new dance skills, their small group arranges a dance to go with the song.
That night they have the big performance. Each group goes up and performs their song. The trainers tell them that if they pass they can finish and go to bed early...

Nobody passes in less than 5 attempts however. Each time your group fails you have to wait while dozens of other small groups give their performances (gives you time to practice before trying again). They continually demand them to be redone, always with more enthusiasm.
Show me more enthusiasm!!


In my friends words, after the 3rd or 4th time everyone was out of their minds. People were no longer themselves at all, just some insane cartoon characters killing themselves to dance and sing with more and more energy and enthusiasm (I have the image of a cheerleading competition where everyone is on crack). My friend’s group was one of the lucky ones that passed on the 5th attempt and got to bed a little after 1 AM. Others went up to 7 times and got in after 2 AM.

Wednesday: It’s all in your mind
Again, up at 6 AM for more exercise. I ask how people are able to keep functioning with such active schedules and so little sleep. She said that every hour or so they would have everyone stand up and chant out the slogans or sing company songs.

Can you feel it!!!!

Today they had some motivational speakers come in and give workshops and seminars. It sounded like pretty standard Tony Robbins kind of happy sunshiny shit (Awaken the Giant Within!).


I don't have a picture of the motivational speaker, of course, but let's just imagine he looks something like this:

A few interesting things she remembered from the speaker:
1. She said she was able to make one of her fingers grow longer. The speaker said that the mind has power to really change anything you focus on and he had them hold their hands out and concentrate on making one finger grow longer. She said she was pretty skeptical at first, but after a while of intense concentration it really happened for everybody. Now, her finger didn’t seem abnormally long to me, but I didn’t press the issue. Considering what she had already been through up to that point, I’m sure she would have been willing to believe that she could change herself into a butterfly.

2. The speaker also talked about the power of words, not just over our lives, but also over nonliving things like water. Here’s the proof. Take two glasses of water and write “good” or “pretty” on one, and “bad” or “ugly” on the other. Leave them overnight and then take samples from each glass and look at them under a powerful microscope. The water samples from the “pretty” glass looked, well, pretty (like snowflakes, she said) and the water samples from the “ugly” glass looked dirty and “ugly.” They didn’t witness the experiment, the speaker just showed some slides. She was pretty convinced. As above, I let it slide.

The Adventure Event

Later that night they had the “adventure event.” This was kind of like a treasure hunt/obstacle course. Each group had a dozen or so things to find and accomplish on the LG training compound (this is in Pyoungtaek by the way). At times they had to do some very difficult tasks (all physical). The only example she gave was “group jump rope.” 10 people had to get in a line and jump rope 10 times before going on. Apparently, this is quite a difficult task to do because she said it took over an hour. At this point, she actually injured her leg just from sheer fatigue and over-exertion (she was still walking with a limp when I met her last Friday). Again, they didn’t finish until after midnight.

I didn’t get to hear about the rest, but she said the first three days were the worst. Keep in mind that beginning Monday she will start the 2-week program where she can expect even more. Her best friend is in Samsung and she says that it is pretty much the same there.

I'll be sure to do a follow-up post when she gets back in 2 weeks. I'm really interested to see if she will be changed in any way. I do know that before the first part of her training she was talking about staying in LG for only a year and then moving on, but on Friday night after the first week in her "re-education camp," she said she'll probably stay there for at least two years since she is "so lucky to have gotten in the company."


Next thing you know I'll be reading in the newspaper how she perished in an LG factory fire because she ran back into the buring building to rescue a portrait of LG CEO Koo Bon-Jun.

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