Saturday, October 05, 2013

Korea's Need for a Culture of Discussion?

Crash Site of a Three-Way Train Collision
Yonhap News
The Korea Herald

I'm teaching a course titled "Rhetoric and Composition," and we've just finished reading and discussing my article "Points Toward a Culture of Discussion," a paper I presented at the "2011 Global Forum Civilization and Peace." By coincidence, an article in The Korea Herald by John Power and Kim Joo-hyun, "How safe is Korea's rail?" (September 30, 2013), touches on a related issue, a culture of safety:
Shin Seok-kyun, business development manager of Korea transportation at Lloyd's Register, said many lower-level employees at KORAIL failed to grasp the safety implications of their work.

"They need to feel, 'Why (do) I think safety is first in my work?' They don't think that. 'Yes it is just routine work, that's all. I need to finish the work and go home earlier.' But such routine work can affect or cause a problem . . . . We recommended training. From the senior level to the lower level, we emphasized (that) maybe you need training for safety management, because . . . the lower level doesn't have any chance to have such training from the senior level. The company, especially the senior level, just thinks about money and any profit or (about how to) avoid any blame from the government or blame from the public."
Here's the connection to my paper's theme:
According to Shin, this laxity is compounded by the hierarchical nature of the company and general Korean culture.

"Everybody just follows such a structure and the safety culture cannot be changed within such a culture. That is the big difference between Korea and the other, Western countries . . . . In such a hierarchy, the lowest levels do not want to report the reality to the senior bosses. But the safety issue should be open to all levels, no matter the position. But still the safety culture is maybe 50, 100 years (behind) Europe or other Western (countries)."
Clearly, this issue indicates the need for a more developed culture of discussion in Korea, one in which hierarchy doesn't stifle the raising of questions, a general point upon which others, including Koreans, are agreed.

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