Thoughts from South Korea

So I’m on the plane flying back from a wonderful week in Seoul, South Korea for the International Conference of IT Administrators. I was invited as part of their Future Leaders program and spoke to the group about “Recruiting and Retaining Gen Y” and “Web 2.0 and Social Media.”

There were colleagues from approximately 20 different countries including South Africa, Belgium, New Zealand, Estonia, UK, Taiwan, Canada, amongst others.

A number of quick observation

-Same issues. It is really amazing how similar the issues are in all these countries. Everyone is worried about Getting Gen Y into Gov’t. Lots of talk about telework – I mentioned that it isn’t about working at home, Gen Y really wants to just work at Starbucks. Web 2.0 is also a hot topic and everyone is looking at ways to connect its employers and connect with the citizens. I mentioned the great community on GovLoop. Also, came out a big fan of Matt Lane’s work in New Zealand.

-Facebook. So everyone is on Facebook which is amazing. Almost everyone from the conference had a profile and were friending each other and communicating. Now I’m getting them into GovLoop to extend that conversation. We saw a presentation from CyWorld – which is South Korea’s Facebook which is immensely popular there but has failed in expansion attempts to U.S. and Japan. I wonder what makes Facebook grow and succeed internationally while other local products never develop.

-Odd chain sitings. So I assume McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Burger King are everywhere. But I saw a bunch of Dunkin Donuts (big fan here) that were packed with Koreans as well as Outback Steakhouse (also big fan). Also Quiznos.

-Electronics – I was prepared to be blown away by South Korean technology and prices. I even went to their electronics market which is basically a huge 6 story mall full of entirely electronics gadgets. To me, it looked like the products were 10% better and 10% cheaper. I was expected 2X better at half the price. Big trend was that everyone seems into 10” laptops these days. Saw a lot for sale plus a bunch of people at conference had them.

-U.S. Elections – Everyone follows the U.S. elections every minute and seem to know more than me with every little detail. Obama could make some money as a movie star if he doesn’t win based on the amount people like to watch him.

-Exercise – South Korea has these awesome parks with outside gyms in them. Combine our simple pull-up bars and stretching areas to their full gyms with machines and actual bench press with weights (I have pictures).

-Tailor – So even my tailor who made my suit has a blog and showed me. I think that’s awesome. He wants me to send my picture of me and him from my camera so he can post it to his blog. If the suit and shirts work well, I will probably go ahead and make him my tailor for life. With email and low shipping, it’s worth the price.

-Kids are awesome. All these Korean kids would come up to me and my buddy Matt (bearded New Zealander) and get pictures with us. At first it was weird and then we got into it. We would take our own pictures of them and they would love it. Many mentions of Michael Phelps. Lots of Boston Red Sox hats (I guess they really are the new Yankees).

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Matthew Stephen Worner

My tailor in South Korea is Hilton Lee, the tailor I sent you, comes recommended from the Embassy, Magic Johnson, and Tom Daschle. You should have told me you were goingi… next stop is Singapore lol.

Seoul tailor, dude. My place is Hilton Lee’s tailor shop in Itaewon. Here’s the address: 395 5 Ka Namdaemun Ro Chung Ku Seoul

Adriel Hampton

Sounds like a great trip. On the technology note, I recently bought an Eee PC – 9 inch – for school and Skyping with my wife. These little netbooks are amazing.

Tom Suder


Welcome back. Having been over there myself, I agree with your technology assessment. The media makes it sound like the US is hopelessly behind in technology, which it isn’t.

It is easier to get everyone higher speed internet access when 87% of your population lives in the city for instance. The one thing that I like over there is that all of their credit cards have RFID chips in them so they don’t have to manually slide them in a machine.

I like how their phones can pay for a coke wirelessly at a vending machine as well.

Very modern and impressive country.

Great tailors as well!


C Porche

Sometimes it all in the timing for these small notebooks. I had a compaq aerojet subnotebook in 93. People were not ready for it then.

Adriel Hampton

Some of it is size of the internals – I mean, this tiny machine is faster than my full size from three years ago, and was cheaper. But in ’93 I hardly knew about computers. At least Compaq is still leading in the entry-level laptops.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Welcome back, Steve! I would be curious to learn more about their telework initiatives…also, happened to give a presentation over at State while you were away. In prep, I learned that many countries (South Korea included?) have greater than 100% mobile phone subscription rates…more cell phones than people! These stats appear to make cell phones even more important than the smallest of laptop computers. Observations?