When my editor offered me a chance to cover the Korea International Boat Show I jumped at the opportunity. It was a chance to experience a different culture, see first-hand how a country with a recreational marine industry in its infancy is growing its boating culture, and learn about a different part of the world.
Then came the comments from friends and family members: Aren’t you afraid to go there? Is it really safe? Are you sure it’s a good idea?
No, I wasn’t afraid to go. Yes, it’s really safe. Yes, it was an excellent idea.
The show was held about an hour or so outside of Suwan, a city in the Gyeonggi Province. This province, and the city of Seoul that it surrounds, contains a third of the country’s population — about 23 million people.
At no time did I feel unsafe or in danger. I walked around on my own, and people were helpful and friendly. Granted, I didn’t walk around at 2 a.m., but I wouldn’t do that here in the U.S. either. I didn’t feel any more unsafe in South Korea than I would in Miami, New York or any other major metro area of this country.
I think many people in this country have misconceptions about South Korea because of its portrayal in the media. We hear about the ongoing tensions between South and North Korea, and think bombs could explode any minute. Well, maybe they could, but as we know all too well, the same can happen right here in the United States.
In my humble opinion, that’s no reason not to do business there.
South Korea is a world leader in shipbuilding and semiconductors, and is among the top producers of cars and communication devices. In the decades since the end of the Korean War, it has transformed itself from a Third World country to a modern, vibrant, technologically advanced nation.
Obviously, doing business in South Korea is not right for every company. But it shouldn’t be dismissed off-hand because of outdated stereotypes that don’t paint an accurate picture of the country or its people.
Look for my report on the Korea International Boat Show in the August issue of Soundings Trade Only.
— Beth Rosenberg