The Height of Wisdom

Signed my non-disclosure forms yesterday. My contract with my employer has always had the standard non-disclosure clause (essentially it summarises the Korean documents I signed yesterday). I had the secretary translate some of the items because I wanted to know what it was that I was about to sign. She was kinda surprised that I understood most of what was written on the papers anyway, but sometimes it is the height of wisdom to feign stupidity.

Apparently I’m supposed to have a debriefing where I will likely be asked in person the questions the resignation form asked: why are you quitting (read: seriously, why would you quit secure lifelong employment*); where will you be working; where will you be living; what is your contact number. Big Korean companies like this one tend to be very paternal towards their workers. This approach fosters the idea that everyone is one big family and that in turn becomes “Us vs Them”.

As far as meeting planning goes, it’s likely that they’ll say “Do you have time for a meeting now?” rather than “Do you have time for a meeting at X o’clock?”


Of course, not everyone drinks the Kool-Aid. But the permanent workers will try to make you drink the Kool-Aid with promises that you will become a permanent worker (didn’t happen to me as I’m a foreigner and therefore will never be a permanent worker; typically it is the female contract workers that get tricked by this). Why they do this is not entirely clear. In my office at least, it is the lowest ranking female contract worker that deals directly with the foreigners. Having the lowest ranking worker dealing with the foreigners is a very common practice at Korean companies. When that worker gets promoted or quits (permanent or contract) then the newest lowest ranking worker takes over the role. The problem is that the foreign clients never get to build any kind of relationship with the representative Korean and therefore it is very hard to build any kind of trust. On the Korean side, the mentality is usually “Welp, they’ll be gone in two years and I’ll be doing something else. Why waste time with a relationship here when I can build a relationship with my General Manager?”

This is also the main reason my masters degree disappeared. Why should the HR person in charge of the foreigners’ documents actually carry out their charge when the foreigners will be gone in a few years and there are no penalties for failing to do so.

*contract workers don’t have lifetime employment. These are the workers that are protesting almost every month at Hyundai Motor Company (good luck reading about those protests though), the idea being that if they do the same work as permanent workers then they should have the same benefits as permanent workers.

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