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Monday, April 18, 2005

Vegetable shop keeper to securities company board

Kyunghyang Sinmun tells that Korea Investment & Securities (I won't link to the company homepage because it doesn't work with Firefox) has nominated Mr Yi Yông-sôk, a keeper of a vegetable shop, to its board of directors (saoe isa 社外理事). Well, Mr Yi is after all not just your ordinary neighborhood vegetable shop keeper, but has 10 shops in Seoul after beginning with one 18 pyeong (60 sq.m - not that small) shop back in 1998. Yi's business is called Ch'onggak'ne Yach'aegage ("Bachelor's vegetable shop") - fitting for an eye-to-eye economic enterprise in which the image of a human dimension is important - and Mr Yi is actually a bachelor. (노총각네 야채가게라 그래야지...)
Mr Yi is a graduate of a vocational university (chônmundaehakkyo). The article doesn't tell what he did between his graduation and the opening of the shop, but the time of the opening (1998) tells that it just might have something to do with the economic crisis of that time. Mr Yi won't reveal his income, but tells that it's not enough for any investment, as it's mainly used to pay his debts, which he expects will all be settled in five years. (So he does have a quite a pile of debt, doesn't he? But I guess they've taken that into account in the securities company.)

Chonggakne logo
How he ended up getting recruited to the board of the securities company is that the reputation of the success of his veggie business reached the ears of the president of Dongwon Financial Holding (of which KIS is a subsidiary), who thought that Mr Yi's service-mindedness would be of use for the company. (A small search shows that he has already been introduced in the media, and has a book out with the name of his shop - see Aladdin Bookshop.)

Kyunghyang's article tells also that even people from Samsung Electronics have made "learning visits" (kyônhak) to Mr Yi's shop. Quite interesting that the secret of his success is put in terms of "affective-minded service" chông(情)jôgin sôbisû; there we got the concept of chông (or jeong 情), which is one of the important formulations of motives for practices and behavior in Korea, which I need to (or better: which I'm privileged to) discuss in my own work.

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