Intercultural Partnership: Goal Seven

When conducting PR abroad it is essentially important to understand the media market of one’s host country.  Sriramesh said most public relations practitioners would agree that media relations are a significant focus on an organizations efforts and strategies. In order to understand the media market in South Korea, I interviewed my intercultural partner Heny and her friend Jenny.  Heny said the main media sources in South Korea are the same as in the United States. For instance, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet are all ways that Koreans stay informed and updated with all current events.  However, the more frequently used outlets are television and online media. In today’s world, most of the information gathered comes from Internet resources. For example, Heny said that most newspapers in South Korea have recently become available online. The use of paper form newspapers is no longer common.

According to Heny and Jenny, one of the most popular television shows in South Korea is called Muhandojun. Muhandojun is a comedy show in which contestants face “unlimited challenges.” Heny mentioned some characteristics of television shows in Korea, which are cartoons, comedy, and reality shows. However, she said that her personal favorite television show is Korea’s Next Top Model. There are three prime television networks in South Korea, which include NBC, SBS, and KBS. NBS and SBS are privately owned stations, but the government runs KBS. Sriramesh said it is extremely important that “a public relations professional understands who controls media content in a given country” in order to “maintain effective media relations demands.” In the past, South Korea experienced heavy governmental control and censorship over the media and it’s outlets. In the more recent years, Korea has leaned towards freedom of the press where journalists strive to be independent and protest against any form of governmental censorship. However, the Korean government does still have some authority over the media market and therefore require organizations and individual business owners to follow the basic rules and regulations.

One of my favorite television shows is America’s Next Top Model. I found it very interesting that Heny and I both like the same show. I decided to watch one of the episodes of Korea’s Next Top Model. I found that Korea’s Next Top Model is based off America’s Next Top Model and follows the exact same format. I did not find any differences between the two television shows.

These past seven weeks have been such a blessing to be able to meet with Heny and learn about her culture. It has been such an eye-opening experience for me and I am proud to say that I have become more culturally aware and sensitive to the differences of others. My relationship with Heny has grown tremendously since the start of the semester. I look forward to meeting new friends from other cultures in the future and will take the extra step out of my comfort zone to do so. Overall, I really enjoyed this project and it has given me hands on experience and knowledge on how to interact and communicate with people from different cultures. This is definitely a step in the right direction for me as I am interested in working abroad one day!

Episode can be found here:

Korea’s Next Top Model: Cycle 3. Episode 1.



Intercultural Partnership: Goal Six

The goal for this week was to explore different companies messages and logos and understand how they would translate if presented in South Korea. I asked Heny about many different slogans such as Nikki, Disney, and McDonalds and she said each of them had relatively the same meaning when translated from English to Korean. Sriramesh stressed that many “comprehensive analyses of the nexus between public relations and culture are needed.” Essentially, it is necessary to be aware of how messages will be translated across different cultures as they are not always interrupted the same. As Zaharna said, “ a lack of awareness about the culturally prescribed rules and norms of communication behaviors can cause public relations projects to fail, or worse, backfire.”

Heny and I talked about many popular sports in South Korea. According to Augustine, being able to identify “some phenomenon or activity of a nation’s culture that all or most of its members consider to be very important and with what they identify closely” is an important tactic to understanding their priorities, cultural norms, and perceptions. Sports in South Korea are predominately imported from Western Culture. I asked Heny about Women’s Volleyball, as this is our favorite sport. The South Korean Women’s National Volleyball team participates in both competitive and friendly matches. Women’s National Volleyball was and still remains teams in the Asian culture. For instance, they won Bronze Medal during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

The team consists of 12 members and positions such as captain and libero. The rules of the game can vary depending the location (indoor, outdoor, beach, etc), but the rules and practices of Women’s Volleyball are relatively the same worldwide. For example, they are the same in the United States and South Korea. Heny informed me that when attending any sporting event, Koreans prefer to analyze players and how they actually perform during the game opposed to just enjoying the event itself. This makes complete sense, as South Korea is a collective culture. Augustine said in “a collectivist system, competition is managed and controlled, and there is collective success or failure, praise or blame.” In American sporting events, we tend to focus more on the game and beating the opposing team(s). Individualistic countries like America, “the culture of competitiveness permeates” (Augustine).

In South Korea, the audiences are very enthusiastic, supportive, and celebrative. For instance, Heny said that individuals would hold flags, cheer, make posters, and even paint their faces. As Sriramesh said learning and describing the nature of public relations practice in a country is a good beginning, true advancement of any body of knowledge when studies go beyond describing the public relations activities with environmental variables external to an organization.” In other words, learning a popular sport in one’s host culture is a great step in learning about culture and values in another country.


Intercultural Partnership: Goal Five

This week my intercultural partner and I discussed common products that are used in both South Korea and the United States. We choose to focus on Samsung, as this company is extremely popular in Korea.  In fact, Heny informed me that Samsung is the most wealthiest and largest business conglomerate in the country.   Samsung has a powerful influence on South Korea’s politics, economic development, media and culture. It also has been a driving force between the “Miracle on the Han River”, a separate project created by the company. Heny and I looked at advertisements for one of the newest cell phones developed by Samsung, the GALAXY S4. The Samsung Galaxy S4 aims to make each customer’s life “richer, simpler and more fun.” As a real life companion, the new Samsung GALAXY S4 helps bring individuals closer, capture each memory, and is designed to simplify “our daily lives.”

samaung galaxy 4 korea


The Korean print advertisement for the Samsung GALAXY S4 is full of color and very dynamic. Samsung does an excellent job in transmitting their overall message with the use of “nonverbal cues and social and physical contexts” (Augustine). High context cultures such as South Korea place “greater confidence in the nonverbal aspects of communication than the verbal aspects” (Wultz).  An image of people separate or even together with the product is one of the tactics that Samsung displays really well in their print ad. A lady is holding the GALAZY S4 with a huge smile on her face. In the screen of the phone the lady is holding, we can a hot hair balloon and the visibility of the screen very clearly. In the poster of the phone behind the lady in the print ad, we see we an image of a beautiful sky with a closer shot of a vehicle, which appears to be driving rather fast down the highway. When displaying a product together with an individual, Samsung is reflecting “the values of HC cultures by drawing focus away from what the product offers and towards what the person receives when enjoying the product” (Wultz). This Samsung print ad is very diverse and elaborate as the overall structure, layout, and color scheme was carefully put together.


Samsung Galaxy_S4_1

After analyzing and understanding the Korean advertisement for the Samsung GALAXY 4S, I looked at an American print ad for the same product. The American print ad is very direct and to the point. As we saw in the Korean ad, the message was very thoroughly delivered. The ad appealed to be very full of life with vibrant colors and placed extreme emphasis on what the customer will receive while enjoying the product. However, in individualistic societies such as the United States, marketers “tend to value products and consumerism” (Wultz). The American Samsung GALAXY S4 print ad does not have much color or vibrancy. Blue, black, and white are the only visible colors. According to Fletcher, color usage on websites and advertisements is extremely important. In the United States, the color blue would represent dependability, trust, power, and expensive. I believe the color blue is used on the background for the GALAXY S4 in this ad in order to show consumers that Samsung’s newest product is reliable, trustworthy, and powerful. In low context countries, such as the United States, we place “a greater emphasis is placed on words” (Augustine). Although, the ad displays very little words, the meaning is extremely powerful. For instance, “life companion” is the overall message that Samsung is trying to send to customers. This message is short, direct, and to the point. As we know, American culture is very formal and prefers not to beat around the bush.

According to Augustine, in high-context societies like South Korea, advertising is “based more on moral authority, social status, and the need to maintain social harmony”. Heny pointed out that she has seen many American commercials and advertisements consisting of one brand being compared to other competing brands. Comparative advertising is a very known and common form of marketing in the United States. In contrast with U.S., comparative advertising in South Korea was deemed illegal until 2001. Koreans see this method of advertising as arrogant and pushy. However, due to recent shifts in cultural values, Korea has become somewhat influenced by Western culture in the way that most products are represented by a celebrity. Celebrities are a powerful marketing tool in Korea and have a strong influence on the public.

Intercultural Partnership: Goal Four

This week my intercultural partner and I talked about popular business customs in South Korea. In South Korea, relationships are developed through informal social gatherings that often involve a considerable amount of drinking and eating. For instance, managers and employees will meet at the bar once a month to enjoy a social, yet important business meeting. This social engagement is arranged solely for one company and it’s employees. In South Korea, individuals prefer to do business with people whom they feel a personal connection and thus will help one another succeed. Employees sing, dance, and enjoy beer, especially Soju. Soju means “burned liquor”. It is Korea’s most well-known and beloved alcohol. These social gatherings are important in South Korea as relationships are fully established when there are mutual levels of trust and respect. Heny also told me the most senior or highest position holder in the company covers the entire bill for the social gathering as well. Although, most business gatherings take place after dinner; businessmen sometimes meet for lunch or dinner.

In the United States of America, business meetings and gatherings are more formal and direct. In American culture, time and punctuality are crucial. Therefore, it is important to arrive on time for meetings. Meetings are to be taken seriously and typically follow some sort of agenda. At the end of each meeting, there is always a summary of what was discussed, the finale decision, a list of who will implement which facets, and a list of the steps that need to be followed next. Business meetings are conducted rapidly and there is very little small talk before getting started. The main goal of each meeting is usually to get a contract signed. In South Korea, the importance of each meeting is building relationships among colleagues and establishing mutual respect and trust. However, in the United States, the emphasis of each meeting is on getting a contract signed and building a relationship with another company. Communication is always direct and to the point. Americans prefer to “tell it how it is” than simply waste time.

It is important for PR practitioners to understand business customs in his or her own culture as well as the business customs in the country he or she will work with abroad. Kent and Taylor state “a group’s perception and valuation of time significantly influences decision making.” This is critical to understand because each culture has different perceptions on time. As I have learned from my intercultural partner, business and social gatherings in South Korea are conducted in a timely manner where the emphasis is placed on relationship building and working closely with personal connections. Meetings are not rushed and are used to understand the client’s needs and wants. In high-context societies, like South Korea, “social and harmony takes precedence over strict time control in communication transaction” (Augustine). However, in the United States, Americans thrive off the saying “time is money.” Business and social gatherings are quick and to the point. The main objective is to get the contract signed and move forward with the next step of business. As Sriramesh said, it is important to “identif[y] the factors that cause the cultures of society and understand how culture is manifested in a society.”

Intercultural Partnership: Goal Three

As Augustine has said “globalization of business has created the need for the international public relations practitioners to identify, study, and understand the world views, mindsets, and habits of their global publics in order to effectively communicate.”  Sometimes, “without a conscious awareness of how another culture is different from one’s own, there is a tendency to see differences of another through the prism of one’s culture” (Augustine). Verbal and nonverbal communications are key components when it comes to public relations practices.  Therefore, it is important to be aware and informed about other cultures. When conducting business abroad it is crucial to avoid any lingering perceived notions and assumptions about another country.


South Korea is a low context culture. This means Koreans tend to “keep job tasks separate from relationships, value individual initiative and decision-making, and present facts, statistics, and other important details” (Augustine).  In high-context cultures such as the United States, individuals “believe that laws can be shaped by circumstances, see a task as a function of the relationship, except decision-making within the relationship, and de-emphasizes detailed information” (Augustine).  For instance, in American culture, “the verbal component, language, is the most prominent” (Zaharna).  In contrast, South Korea uses a more indirect style of nonverbal communication. In other words, “behaviors such as gestures, body movements, facial expressions, and eye behavior”(Zaharna) are used to deliver a message. The concept of the Kibun is very import in South Korea. Kibun is a word with no actual English translation; the closest meanings would be mood, feelings, or state of mind.  Understanding one’s state of mind or “kibun” is necessary in Korean culture. Most of the time, an individual can determine another person’s “kibun” by eye behavior. It is crucial to maintain a harmonic and peaceful atmosphere at all times even if it is a “white lie.”


Heny informed me that the customary greeting in Korea is to bow. However, business professionals typically follow the bow with a handshake. Koreans place a high value on respect especially when it comes to someone who is elderly or of higher status. When speaking to an elder person, businessman, teacher, or someone of higher status, it is considered very rude to refer to them as “Mr.” or “Ms.”. For example, it would be considered impolite to call a professor “Mr. Smith” or “Professor Smith”. The correct way to refer to one’s professor would be by just simply calling him or her “Professor”.  In America, when speaking to someone it is considered polite to refer to him or her as “Mr.” or “Ms.”. 


Both business and social settings follow strict rules of protocol in South Korea. In the United States, the social atmosphere is more relaxed. When talking with family and friends, we often tend to be informal. Americans show affections towards their friends, even those of the opposite sex. For example, it is acceptable for two friends, even a boy and a girl, to hug. Hugging is simply just a friendly display of affection. When two people are in a relationship, it is seen as socially acceptable to display affection such as holding hands and kissing in public.  However, in Korea this type of action would be considered socially unacceptable. Even in social settings, friends of the opposite sex are not allowed to show any sort of affection as it could lead to an altered meaning. In other words, men and women do not interact unless there is meaning and feeling present. Communication between men and women is strictly verbal.


Understanding the differences between verbal and nonverbal communication within two different cultures is essential to a PR professional. As Augustine said, “adequate information of language and culture is needed to effectively communicate in an society.” 

Intercultural Partnership: Goal Two

My intercultural partner and I discussed job roles and responsibilities in South Korea. She said business practices in South Korea are set up much like American businesses. The boss or manager of a company is at the highest level of authority. He or she would attend meetings and assign each employee a set of roles and responsibilities in the workplace. CEO’s and executives of most companies always dress formally no matter what part of the country they are in; much like in Korea, businessmen typically wear a suit and tie. However, my intercultural partner and friend, Heny said that the Korean business protocol has changed in the recent years. For instance, South Korea has moved away from the traditional American hierarchy ways to having more respect and concern for employees. Employee privacy is considered to very important and everyone is now seen as equal. CEOs, managers, employees and all of the other positions in the workplace are on the same level. Macnamara said that most Asian cultures have a system of ‘go between’; “mutually respected individuals who can mediate between an organization and key people in government or business.” In other words, no one is seen as “higher up” or “more important” than another. American business protocol follows a more systemic approach in which “people are ranked one above the other according to status or authority.”


In South Korea, gift giving is a cultural norm within businesses. According to Heny, gifts reveal a lot about relationships. In most Korean businesses, gifts are distributed monthly to bosses and employees. This is simply a generous offer, and is not followed by an award of some kind. In the United States, many employers give employees a gift or award for certain achievements. Kent and Taylor define achievement as “how people treat other people based on their status or performance.” Many organizations aim to award employees for their achievements because they “seek to enhance their reputation with publics across the world” (Kent and Taylor).


Augustine said it is essential for international PR practitioners to recognize differences in business and family relationships as they change among countries. Henie and I talked about some of the cultural differences between America and South Korea.  Spending time with family is extremely important in Korea. Each day for dinner families will sit down and dine together. Dinner usually lasts about an hour, and this is the time where families will catch up and socialize about everything from their work to relationships. Macnamara stressed that family is one of the four key elements that shape culture. As I have mentioned before I believe that we sometimes take time for granted. Since America is a busy fast-paced and busy culture, families do not always dine or spend much time together. Also, in Korea, families and friends often gather at a Karaoke Bar to enjoy some recreational time together. Heny said that they love to sing, dance, laugh, and just have a good time.  Another cultural difference that Henie pointed out was in Korea larges cities (districts) have their own sports teams, musicians, bands, and orchestras. However, in America, each state has their teams and afflictions.   


As I talked with my intercultural partner Heny and her friends, they did not find many of our American practices to be odd or unusual.  The only thing they found strange was the carpeting in our apartment. In South Korea, there is no carpet in their homes.


According to Augustine, “the recognition of cultural patterns in the world may be one positive step in understanding the global publics.” As Heny and I have moved farther into our project, I believe I have gained a better understanding of the cultural norms and practices in South Korea. 

Intercultural Partnership: Goal One

The United States of America is primarily a western culture, but it is shaped by a wide array of other cultures such as Native American, African, Asian, and Latin American cultures. My grandpa was my main parental figure in my life and he had taught me many different mannerisms and etiquettes that I still assume to be to true today. For example, when meeting someone for the first time, a handshake, smile, and simple “hello” are all that is needed. Similarly, when conducting business, a proper handshake is firm, brief, and confident. It is acceptable to refer to a person by his or her first name as well. During a social setting with family and friends, Americans are more affectionate by exchanging a hug or two, and a kiss on the cheek. Americans are known to be informal and friendly during most occasions. I do not believe it is acceptable to be rude or impolite towards anybody. Gift giving is a very popular tradition in American culture. On major holidays such as birthdays and Christmas, it is acceptable to give gifts. However, when invited to someone’s home for dinner, it is considered polite to bring a box of chocolate, bottle of wine, or flowers for the host. Time is critical to Americans. It is important to arrive on time to dinner and business meetings. Table manners tend to be more relaxed in the United States, however it is considered impolite to begin eating before the host or hostess says so. Proper mannerisms at the dinner table are still to be remembered. For instance, remain standing until offered to sit down and once seated place your napkin in your lap. Also, one should avoid placing his or her elbows on the table. During a business setting, it is important to dress professional and conservatively. Communication is typically very direct and to the point. Overall, most of my cultural assumptions of right and wrong I learned on my own and through my grandfather as he grew up in a more rural area. However, I have learned most of the American business ethnics from my marketing and management classes. As Augustine said, “recognition of one’s own culture, and awareness of how it is different from others are needed to successfully carry out PR functions abroad.”

My own perceptions of cultural ethics influence my perception of other cultures because I have never encountered different cultural settings until I was older. Therefore, I was very naïve and unaware that each culture has their own ethics and traditions. I did not really grasp the idea of culture. It was easy for me to assume that most cultures shared the same values and customs as me. Once I was a bit older, I had a better understanding of other cultures and their customs. However, it is easy for individuals to stereotype people from different cultures before actually understanding their customs and why they do things a certain way; I found myself doing this as well. LaRay Barna said one of the stumbling blocks in international communication is that we have a tendency to believe “people are people” and “deep down we’re all alike.” According to Augustine, “even in the same culture, there are marked individual differences.” In the United States, freedom of a person predominates where as in many cultures around the world; individuals “get their identity from an affiliated organization or immediate family” (Augustine). As I have become more knowledgeable about different cultures and their ethics, I am not stereotyping anyone and I have developed a sense of understanding and sincerity. For example, during my junior year of college I lived with two Chinese exchange students. At first, I found myself being judgmental towards them. I thought that they would be very shy and dependent on others as China is a collective country. This means that in Chinese culture, there is a need for group affiliation. By the middle of the fall semester, my roommates and I were very close. I learned many different things about China and their customs. For instance, when my roommate, Jade, would eat soup she “slurped” and made noises. In America, slurping your food at anytime during a meal is considered rude and impolite. Jade informed me that in China, slurping one’s soup and making noises while eating food implies that one is enjoying his or her meal.

After analyzing and underlying these three main elements of international communication, I have increased my understanding and knowledge of other cultures. I also have gained a basic overview of my intercultural partner, Hyehyeon Hong, who is from South Korea. My partner asked me to refer to her by her American name, Heny. Heny said in Korea said that quality time with family is extremely important and each day for dinner families will sit down and dine together. Dinner usually lasts about an hour, and this is the time where families will catch up and socialize about everything from their work to relationships. However, in America I believe that we sometimes take time for granted. Since we are fast-paced and busy culture, families do not always dine or spend much time together. During business settings in Korea, a formal greeting would be to shake hands and bow. However, in America, when conducting business, a formal greeting would a firm and confidant handshake. It seems that the United States and South Korea are much more similar than I thought. Although they are similar in some ways, it is important to be aware of the differences. Zaharna says “a lack of communication about the culturally prescribed rules and norms of communication behaviors can cause projects to fail, or worse, backfire.” Communication is not easy and we tend to interrupt things from our own ethics. We carry ideas of different customs within a culture, but the transition from awareness to acceptance is a major step. I am looking forward to working with my partner and learning more about Korea.