Wednesday, July 14, 2004

LG Training Program Update and Ajoshi Cavorting

I met with my friend who is currently in the LG training program. As you may recall when I first posted on the LG training program, she had just finished a 5 day training period and was about to enter another 2 week period.

Basically the additional 2-week training program was really just more of what she went through the first week of training. The only thing to note is that this went on every day for 14 days.

She said that after a while you just didn’t think about anything. You didn’t think at all about what you were doing, just what you had to do to finish the task at hand. No questioning, no wondering what the point of anything is or how silly you look; just do whatever they want quickly so you can finish and hopefully get the full 5 hours of sleep before you start the insanity all over again the next day.

She’s not quite done yet. She has one more workshop called, Orwellian enough, “Innovation Workshop.” This is something that everyone has to do once every three years. Basically it’s five days of training and study (in addition to seminars and workshops, you have to read a lot and write daily reports). Oh, one more thing: you are only allowed ONE hour of sleep per day and they have ever-present "minders" who make sure you don't nod off.

That’s right, 5 days, a total of 5 hours of sleep.

Why do they call it “Innovation Workshop”? Who the hell knows.

Her coworkers who have been through this tell her that it is a good experience. After you complete it, you feel like you can do anything. You also realize (contrary to what every physician and sleep expert in the world would have you believe) that sleep is overvalued.

Of course, what it really means is that no matter what kind of insane demands you receive in your department in the future, they will seem quite reasonable and tolerable compared to what you went through in the “innovation workshop.” You are now perfectly conditioned for future gruesome hours of hard work.

The worst thing is that most departmental managers continue this military style leadership. The concept of calling in an errant employee into your office for a private berating is rather foreign. Workers are screamed out and humiliated in front of the whole department.


This is Kim Ssang Su, the CEO of LG Electronics. Read more about this dynamic guy in a write up here.

Since the article will be archived before long, here are the opening paragraphs:

Call Kim Ssang Su a man of the people. On a chilly night in the picturesque mountains south of Seoul, Kim, CEO of LG Electronics Inc., holds aloft a paper cup filled to the rim with soju, a clear, sweet potato-based Korean alcohol with a vicious bite. Surrounding him are a dozen of the 300 LG suppliers' managers whom Kim has spent the day lecturing and rallying. They have also been hiking up a snow-covered mountainside, nnecessary training, he says, for the grand plans he has for South Korea's second largest electronics firm. At the end of the day, he treats a group of LG Electronics employees to an outdoor barbecue of grilled pork and bowls of fiery red kimchi. "Great people! Great company!" he barks. "Great people! Great company!" they chant back, pumping their fists in perfect unison. Kim downs the soju in one gulp, then marches off to another table for another round of soju and another cheer. Then another, and another.

Eight tables and countless cups later, he is red faced, still screaming chants and bear-hugging an unfortunate reporter. When dancing girls in short skirts and blond wigs start jiggling to ear-numbing Korean pop music, the tireless Kim, 59, cavorts in a mosh pit of drunken workers near a makeshift stage. Later he ascends the stage himself, microphone in hand, to croon out a popular oldie called Nui (Sister). "We love our CEO," says Kim Young Kee, an LG executive vice president. "He shows us a good time."

"Shows us a good time," by the way, actually means "he gets us drunk and laid."

I know this may just be a cultural difference, but I would totally lose all respect for my boss if he were to get publically shit-faced and "cavort" with “dancing girls” (of barely legal age, I’m certain). And if you think the dancing girls are there just for some eye candy and minor fondling, you have a lot to learn about the standard after-hours practices of male company workers.

Now, I don't want to get too preachy here, but in my humble opinion "cavorting" is something you do in your early 20's. If your desire for regular cavorting continues into your 40's, you become quite pathetic in my book. Kim SSang gu, age 59, acts like a 21-year-old frat boy in public ("Dude!! The Gu-miester's got dancing chicks coming to his all-night kegger! Bitchin!!"). This is beyond pathetic. Can you imagine a CEO in the States or Europe (outside of France, anyway) doing this?

Does the maturity level of most Korean men top out at age 19? These are "father figures" in the Korean household?

Son: Mommy? Where is daddy? It's late.

Mother: Oh, daddy's out drinking and screwing girls about the same age as your older sister again. Don't worry, he'll stumble home drunk off his ass around 4 AM, scream and slap us around a bit, and then pass out on the living room floor in a puddle of his own vomit just like he always does.

Son: Wow! That's my dad!! I hope someday I can be just like him!

Mother: I'm sure you will, son. I'm sure you will.

To their credit, a considerable number of Koreans quit companies like LG and Samsung after a few years. They go on to smaller companies or start their own businesses. The money can't be as good, but at least they save their souls/humanity.

Some sad but true advice to pass on to Korean girls: I don’t care how sweet and faithful your Korean fiancée may be, if he is in any company that encourages/demands after-hours parties like the above (and that would be most of them), he will eventually be corrupted. The higher he goes up in the hierarchy, the more temptation he’ll face.

The advice? If you can’t develop some “open-minded” views or lowered expectations about marriage and fidelity, marry someone who is not and will not be in a “prestige” position. Sure, you’ll struggle financially, but at least you have a reasonable chance of having a meaningful marriage.

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