Quality has no finish line

I started reading Daniel Tudor’s book Korea: The Impossible Country after finishing Julian: A Novel (should write my thoughts on that one since I annotated it heavily). Not very far into it but already got a bone to pick. The author says the Japanese business term kaizen (gaeseon in Korean) shows obvious Buddhist influence. Except that the inventor of this concept of ‘continuous improvement’ was the American W. Edwards Deming. Was he a Buddhist? It is possible, but unlikely as he would have had to have been a Buddhist before he was recommended to work in Japan based on his expertise in statistical control. Perhaps he was aware of Buddhist philosophy? Either way, he is kind-of-sort-of a hero in Japan for his work in quality control and quality management (though mostly unknown outside Japan until the later years of his life). Deming’s idea was that one makes continual improvements in one’s work and work processes. Forever. Ergo….


What sometimes happens is that there are certain ideas associated with The East (you’re in the presence of a construct, show some respect) but what we think of The East is moving ever eastwards. Of course, this is east of Europe since they are the ones that started “discovering” the world and writing about it, as far as they know. The Europeans tended to attribute the behaviour of these non-Europeans doing non-European things to some philosophy or some religious practice that they thought influences every part of their life and society. This has been happening since Herodotus. (I especially like his description of the Scythian practice of using the skin from an enemy’s hand as the cover for their quivers)


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Something happened to my knee last week. I woke up and all was fine but as soon as I tried to run across the street I heard a popping sound and had to stop after a few steps. As you probbaly know, knees shouldn;t ever be making a popping sound, and so I went to the inhouse clinic and they decided to tape my knee for a few days. And drugs. In Korea, drugs are always the answer. The nurse warned me that it would hurt when they take the tape off. I already know this as I’ve had my legs waxed before (favour for a friend).

Insert Skyrim joke here


Donga Ilbo showing a little schadenfreude with The Rise and Fall of Sony Empire (sic). Some interesting quotes from the article

Even as the global markets were undergoing a paradigm shift, the Japanese firm remained complacent and was in full conceit, and adhered to its own standards.

That sounds familiar, as does this,

Bureaucracy prevailed in the organization where no employee could put brakes on the executives` wrong decisions that led to worsening long-term competitiveness.

And how Korea Inc can avoid Sony’s demise

Korea`s flagship companies….should be armed with global mindset, make constant innovations and eradicate bureaucracy, to raise competitiveness.

Of course, those words mean different things to Korean companies. Global mindset is similar to what globalisation means at my company (ie, selling stuff overseas even though the word used to describe that is usually exports). For example, “diversity” tends to mean that the company will be in many industries and markets and attempt to enter unrelated industries and markets (ie, exactly what chaebols have been doing, here’s an example of my company growing soybeans in Russia) rather than the meaning of the word in the USA.

I’m not even going to bother addressing ‘eradicating bureaucracy’.


We received our Chinese New Year Lunar New Year gifts yesterday. Times have changed as I was not the first in the office to receive my gift. Also, the VP was not the one doling out the company’s favours, instead it was the Department Head. It is always the small details that give away the most information.

I didn’t realise this, but twice a year my company becomes Korea’s largest distributor of cooking oil. And so I have far more oil than I will ever need. In more prosperous times we would receive olive oil, but for the last few years it has been grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil is not so bad for cooking or for dressings as it has a somewhat neutral flavour compared to olive oil. Of course, if it is a simple dressing like one you would use on a Greek salad, nothing beats olive oil. Also great for dipping bread into once you’ve eaten all the vegetables.

What will I be doing this Lunar New Year? We have a 4-day weekend so I will probably make pancakes for breakfast. I think I’ll make some lamingtons and maybe a creme caramel, too.



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