Gašper and his unforgettable Korea experience
27. 09. 2019
I look forward to every summer, but this year I was especially excited about it. Within the GETM3 project, co-founded by the European Horizon 2020, I – of all Kolektor grant recipients – was selected for a one month exchange program in South Korea.
Soon after having landed on Korean grounds on the largest airport in the country in the city of Incheon, as I waited at a bus platform for a bus to Gumi, I was approached by two local students. The two very talkative fellow passengers wanted to know all about me.
In the late hours of the evening we arrived to our final destination. My new acquaintances were very helpful and called a taxi for me. Throughout my entire staying in Korea, I was most pleasantly surprised about the helpfulness and friendliness of the Korean people.
"Powered by rice"
When I think about Korea, the first thing that comes to my mind is rice.
Yes, they eat rice in Korea, lots and lots of rice. Rice is served instead of bread and instead of different side dishes. Since I am not a fan, and had not been converted to one, a few times me and my colleagues opted for a Korean BBQ. But even in this case, instead of digging right into grilled ribs, we were presented with charcoal, a net and raw ribs. So we got to be the grill masters.
Anyways, the majority of Korean food is pretty spicy or hot, so they set their standards for what is and what is not spicy very high. At numerous occasions I ordered a dish designated mildly spicy and still ended up in tears.
Work, work, and some more work
The first 14 days of my visit I lived only a 10 minute bus drive away from the company Kolektor Sinyung. The company director, Jure Brus, presented the company and its operation to me and taught me about the working culture in South Korea. The working tempo in Korea is extremely strained. I got the feeling that the time spent at work is way more important than the time spent at home. I learned that only weekends are reserved for the family. The Korean way of life is maybe best reflected in the working hours of one of the shopping centers in Seoul – it opens at 8 pm and closes at 5 am.
During my stay I visited some local companies, ABB and ENGEL in the north and Dongshin in the south of the country, and some smaller companies in other industrial zones in Gumi. For purpose of expanding knowledge and acquiring new projects I made a presentation of the Additive Manufacturing technology. I was very pleased with a positive attitude, great interest displayed and numerous questions from the employees regarding my presentation.
After the initial fourth night I moved to Daegu and the well renowned Kyungpook National University, where I met with professor Ui Wook Hwang. We talked about my travels in Korea and about collaboration with young start-up companies within the KNU. I asked him about the proverbial and the actual Korean devotion to work, and he explained that it origins from the time of the war. At the end of the war, most of the cities were destroyed, people were left with nothing, and had to work hard to restore their lives and their cities, although there was no guarantee of success.
I had a few more days to spend as a tourist, so I visited the capital, the most traditional city Gxeongju, and the well known island Jeju – a truly extraordinary ( 'jej(u)' ) place.