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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

informative non-news of student exchange

I admit that sometimes I browse for Korean news just to see what they write about my country - the small nation symptom - but this time I didn't need to. Not only Chosun Ilbo (see also the caption) but also Hankyoreh saw it fit to have on their starting page the piece of Yonhap news that the son of the CEO-elect of Nokia Corporation goes to Korea as an exchange student. (Several other papers have had it as well.) I took the Chosun Ilbo caption here as the example because it implies as a fact what is given only as a surmise in the article - that the next CEO of the number one mobile company would have personally sent his son for studies in Korea, the home of the competing mobile phone company. This otherwise worthless piece of non-news is interesting in what it tells about Korea indirectly.

According to the normal Korean practice, the article states that the father, in this case the next CEO of Nokia, had "sent" (ponaeda) his son for study abroad. In line with this kind of thinking, it's only commonsensical to suppose that the father must have been behind the decision to go to Korea as an exchange student - and being a high executive of a mobile technology company, there must be meaning in this. Also as a high executive, he must be training his son for the company, as if he was a kind of an owner-manager who's making decisions like Lee Kun-hee with a few percent ownership of stock...

Now, I have no idea what's been in the minds of the father and the son; it's not inconceivable that the father encouraged the son to apply for just that place, but from our point of view it makes very little sense to think that one semester's student exchange had something to do with the company or that the son would be filling his company executive father's ambitions and goals.

Update, Aug 19, 2005.

This doesn't make any sense any more. Seoul Kyôngje has written an editorial on this issue. An editorial! Above I've been willing to show understanding towards paying attention to the matter from the Korean point of view, but this is totally out of proportion. Speculation can help inferiority complex for a moment but I don't think it gets cured.

Update, Aug 23, 2005.

Now the Yonhap report has been picked up by the Digitoday here in Finland from Korea Times. My old buddy Kari Haakana describes this as "Nokialogy":
Nokialogists can be found especially among journalists and analysts. For a Nokialogist, no piece of information concerning Nokia is too small to be reported and analyzed. The word analyze can and should often be put in quotation marks. (Hasty translation AL.)

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