Would you eat a steak cooked only on one side?

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Very rarely I get to do the Carousel pitch.


We have our big exhibition coming up in Busan this month, KORMARINE 2013. I should be there on the Friday (October 25). I’ll be really easy to find; just look for the one foreigner wearing the blue jacket at the biggest exhibitor booth.

In other news, I have a date for the magazine interview. I’ll be interviewing the project manager from an FSRU project. These are floating storage regasification units; awesomely complicated stuff.


Aside from the usual media monitoring and other PR stuff I do, I’m sometimes given speeches to edit. Most of the time these speeches are for the opening of events (“It’s an honor to be here, thanks for coming, take ONLY good memories of Korea with you, goodbye”) but sometimes I get to work on a real speech. My favourites were two by the previous CEO.

The first was one I did before I was even officially working for this company (shhh, don’t tell my previous employer). It was a speech the CEO gave to the prime minister of Iraq when he came to visit in 2009. He was here on a tour after a deal for packaged power stations. We make them the size of a shipping container so they can be easily and quickly moved and set up. Really useful in warzones and during emergencies. The second one was the speech the CEO gave at the G-20 meeting in 2010. It was about the viability of green energy.

A big issue when working with speeches is that they are nearly always written in Korean and then translated into English. The translation itself isn’t the biggest problem. More often than not the speech is translated word-for-word and left as that before it gets to me. Think of a steak that’s only been cooked on one side.

Sure you could eat this as is, but it’s better to finish cooking it
Credit: thepauperedchef.com

If you’ve ever tried to translate Korean using Google Translate, welcome to my world. Often it’s easier for me to see the original Korean speech and cobble together a workable translation.

The second problem is that most of the people giving the speeches don’t speak English well enough to actually be able to translate their Korean speech themselves (translation is usually done by the lowest level employee of a department and even though everyone claims to have a TOEIC score of over 9000, this usually only means they are good at passing TOEIC tests). There’s no one to blame here though, since this is just the reality of being an exceutive at a Fortune 500 company; you WILL have ot give a speech in English. Thus the danger is that once the speech has been revised by my department (according to our PR policy, at the very least) the person who will deliver the speech might not understand that while the words have been changed, the meaning is the same as it is in the orginal Korean version.

Another tactic that I’m seeing more these days is to send something to us for editing just before the end of the day. The idea is that we will not have enough time to thoroughly analyze it and will simply be a rubber stamp. All this does is make me work harder better faster because as a PR officer the assumption is that you could be working 24/7.

The reasons for this tactic? Speculation ahead: If we have more time to thoroughly review material we would inevitably find errors. Since our job is pointing out these errors and suggesting alternatives, this could lead to the person/department sending us the material being embarrassed at their relatively poor level of English (ie, they lose face; this must be avoided). What is usually forgotten is that we are all working as one towards one goal; this is actually my company’s prevailing corporate ideology, other Korean companies have a diffferent ethos. Also, it stands to reason that the Overseas PR team has a better command of the English language than other departments.

The most common tactic is to ask the department to check something for GRAMMAR ONLY. This shows a complete disregard for the intended audience. After all, one can write a sentence that is grammatically correct yet completely devoid of meaning. Worse still, one that is completely ridiculous. Luckily, the intended audience is not usually anyone outside the company. This in turn raises the question of why the document is written in English to begin with (see TOEIC score above).

As an aside, I’ve been in pitch meetings where I’ve been made to feel like I was at fault for not understanding the concept. Buddy, the onus is on you to get your concept across; pouting doesn’t help. 9 times out of 10 I do understand the concept because I’m familiar with my company’s philosophy (ie, Korean), but as the token foreigner someone decided to hire me to point out these anomalies and improve our communications with the non-Korean world. Imagine the confusion of someone who’s only knowledge of Korea is Psy and the Kim dynasty.

On the plus side, pitch meetings usually end with cake if during the day or barbecue pork belly if finishing in the evening.

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