Mindsharing Launch in South Korea
December 13, 2015
by LIOR ZOREF @lior
I wrote this post during my flight back from Seoul, after having an amazing experience.
I was invited by the South Korean publisher (Mirae) to launch my book after it had been translated to Korean. In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think the book will lead me to adventures in such fascinating distant places.
As a part of my visit, I’ve been invited to lecture, do press interviews, and meetings with key opinion leaders while trying to excite Koreans about Mindsharing and crowdsourcing.
I decided to use this opportunity and learn as much as I can about Seoul and the Korean people. In the weeks prior to my visit, I did my homework. For example – reading the excellent book “The Birth of Korean Cool“, talking to Israelis and Koreans engaging in commercial cooperation between the two countries, watched the award-winning Korean film “Old Boy” (an amazing movie but highly violent), read about the local food, Kimchi (we will get to that later).
Since this was my first visit to East Asia, I decided to take a 24-hour stopover in Hong Kong.
I’d like to apologize in advance if I’m being overenthusiastic and using the word “amazing” too often, but I’ve been through so many exciting experiences that left me slightly off-balance…
Let me tell you about my journey, starting with a short visit to Hong Kong on my way to Seoul.
I was traveling with a dear friend, Oded Toledano, who was on a business trip to the biggest electronics exhibitions in Hong Kong and China.
Hong Kong is amazing. I took this photo on the Victoria Peak, on top of the mountain, above the city’s striking buildings. Truly, a breathtaking sight. A gripping combination of views that reminded me of New York’s intensity, India’s density and strange sights I have never seen before.
For example, anyone interested in chicken feet soup?
Or maybe living frogs (for eating)?
Feeling sick? Why not come to one of the ancient pharmacies, and try a rhino-horn-based remedy (or something else along those lines)?
After less than 24 hours, I was back at the airport for my connecting flight to Seoul. I got to visit more than a few airport lounges, but the Cathay Pacific Lounge is no doubt an impressive one. It has a giant kitchen that offers wonderful fresh food.
I arrived at Seoul and got to the hotel, which was designed like a luxurious palace. But I felt somewhat lonely. It turns out there aren’t many tourists in South Korea, especially Western ones. The hotel was almost empty.
I’ve been told that the Korean people are tech savvy. It is no coincidence that Samsung and LG are Korean companies. But only when I got to my hotel room, I understood how extreme that was. Allow me to present my bathroom. What could possibly be interesting about a mere toilet, you may ask.
Well… I tried to flush the water. Turns out, this is no toilet. This is a spaceship developed by the Korean equivalent of NASA. There are no buttons on top of the toilet. Suddenly, I found this panel which had 34 (!!!) buttons. A few minutes passed before I could find a button that would flush the water. At some point, I even pushed a red button near the toilet that turned the alarm on!
After many attempts, I found the elusive button. It was hiding at the top part of the panel. At that moment, I realized I was at a country where things were done differently. But, hey, at least I learned how to flush.
The big day came. I arrived at the place where the event was supposed to take place, excited and quite curious.
People were very welcoming, smiled at me, bowed and introduced themselves. Many of them were named Kim. At some point, one of them came up to me and said “I brought you the book!”.
“My book?”, I asked, embarrassed.
“Yes”, she answered and gave me two copies of the book in Korean. It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing the texts in a language that is so unlike anything I’m familiar with. Here are some photos.
And then I was called into the room where I was supposed to have an interview with a local journalist. The interview was done with an interpreter who translated everything I said for him.
The journalist asked all the obvious questions, but at the end, he asked, “what is it about the Israeli education system that makes so many Israelis successful around the world?”. I wanted to answer that the way I see it, Israelis are successful despite the education system, rather than thanks to it, but I saw the enthusiasm in his eyes and didn’t want to let him down. I talked about the good parts of Israeli Hutzpah. Almost every language has a word that cannot be translated, and it describes that country’s characteristic very well. In South Korea, that word is “Han”. It’s a feeling of anger and revenge in a level that we can’t picture. We have the word “Chutzpah”. Whoever wants to understand why Israelis are successful should investigate the characteristics of this Hutzpah.
In the weeks preparing for my lecture, I’ve been warned that Koreans don’t participate in lectures. “They will be quiet, and don’t try to make them laugh – they won’t”, that’s what an Israeli who knew Korean crowds well told me.
I decided to try anyway. I explain what is collective intelligence, how crowd wisdom changed my life and about the connection between crowd wisdom and dreams coming true. To my delight, they reacted the way any other crowd would. They participated in an experiment I conducted, they laughed a lot, they were excited and asked wonderful questions such as: what do you want your boy to do when he’s older? I answered that of course, I wish he does whatever he wants. I told them how much he likes dancing. He’s learning from K-pop [Korean pop] videos on YouTube and used the opportunity to thank Koreans for helping my son evolve as a dancer! Here’s a video – only for the brave of heart.
At the end of the lecture, dozens of participants came up to me, bowed and thanked me. They said the lecture has inspired them, they hugged and took photos. They were charming.
Only one of the participants came up to me and seemed very disappointed.
I checked on her, and she said she understood the book will be sold only in two days, so she won’t be able to ask me to write a dedication for her. I asked her to wait a minute and went to the back room, where copies for the VIP party that was held that night were kept. I took one copy, wrote a special dedication, and gave it to her as a gift. She was so excited…
The organizers invited me for lunch in a nearby restaurant. What’s on the menu? Ox foot soup!
That evening, there was a rooftop party for guests and VIP. Here’s one of them, for example, Jungwook Li. He told me about his dream, and it seems we found a way for him to make it reality.
From there, I went to familiarize myself with Seoul with two great young Israelis. Almog Gorovitz and Omer Har Shany.
We went to an amazing observation point at the top of the Seoul Tower. What a magnificent city this is. An amazing one. A city full of action, impressive buildings, charming streets, some of the most beautiful entertainment areas I’ve ever seen. And everything is neat and tidy.
We went to some of the entertainment areas. Every second store is a makeup shop. Korean women use heavy makeup (and as result, look a bit like dolls). I tasted octopus skewers (weird) and admired the hypnotizing view of the glowing streets.
We went on to a traditional Korean dinner with barbecue at the center of the table.
This is a good chance to talk about Korean food.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t find most things to be tasty. Raw beef with seaweed and uncooked eggs, ox foot soup (remember?), octopi and animals that are hard to identify and of course, the pinnacle which is Korea’s national dish, the Kimchi. Cabbage pickled in hot sauce. I didn’t like it…
In the morning, a nice tour guide took me on a short trip in the city. Picturesque allies and beautiful shrines.
So, in conclusion, here are some things I’ve learned about the Korean people – they are very nice, polite, quiet, and full of appreciation and respect to Israelis and Jewish people. They want to learn from Israelis about innovation and creative thinking. The Talmud is one of the most popular books in South Korea.
Seoul is an amazing city! Hypnotizing shopping districts, combinations of tall mountains, a big river, modern skyscrapers and ancient picturesque structures. Everything is clean, neat, a very effective subway. And if you love meat and seafood, you will love the food. Just be wary of the Kimchi.
Korean culture is the opposite of Israeli culture in almost everything. Israelis don’t like being told what to do, whilst they are used to being a part of the hierarchy and are always being told what to do. Israelis improvise, while Koreans work in an orderly manner. Israelis aren’t afraid to fail, while Koreans do everything not to fail. Israelis can be noisy, while Koreans are quiet and organized. In Israel, we say “it’s going to be fine”, Koreans already have it that way. Israelis look for opportunities to go on vacation, Koreans have very good work ethics. Israelis hug, Koreas bow from a distance.
Thank you to all my new Korean friends for your nice hospitality.