Exploring the old and new normal in Seoul and Guangzhou amid coronavirus

We speak to two corporate figures on work and life today in Guangzhou, China, and Seoul, South Korea as some cities around the world begin their recovery process.

Mark Raine (left)Vice-president of product and marketing, Mercedes-Benz Korea Ltd, and Andrew Khan, Chief marketing officer, Carlsberg Group China.

Mark Raine
Vice-president of product and marketing, Mercedes-Benz Korea Ltd

I have been living and working in South Korea for 10 months, together with my family, relocating here from Kuala Lumpur in the middle of last year.

South Korea, Seoul in particular, is very fast-paced and vibrant and progressive in many ways.

In terms of technology and digitalisation, it is a forerunner and yet, it is also a country of contrasts, with many norms and traditions. On the one hand, you have the speed, progressiveness and a very driven, goal-oriented society that places advancements, achievements and material success above most things. On the other, it is a traditional society, quite hierarchical and Confucian.

All these elements, coupled with the language barrier, can be challenging to newcomers trying to adapt to both country and the environment. But the music, fashion and pop culture — particularly the music and television dramas — as well as discovering all the new trends, amazing food, dessert and coffee culture, make Seoul a very cool and interesting place to live in.

I have since learnt that, in addition to many other fine qualities, Koreans are disciplined and hardworking. South Korea is also a safe and clean country, very advanced in many ways, especially the infrastructure and social services. This, I personally believe, played a pivotal role in the country’s success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

As South Korea was pretty much the second country, after China, to feel the severe impact of the pandemic, it was, at first, very scary and intimidating. Adding to that was the sheer fact that no one knew how the whole situation would evolve; not to mention feeling restricted far earlier than other countries in the region, which, at the time, did not seem as badly affected yet.

For many, locals and foreigners alike, it created a state of uncertainty, if not fear, because all we had playing in our minds were the drastic measures imposed on the people of Wuhan by the Chinese government.

Here, the government and authorities went about things in a structured and orderly manner, with strong measures from the beginning. This led to the virus being contained, mostly in the Daegu region.



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