Category Archives: Jeju, Korea

Our final presentation

Very big week this week, so no blogs until now. Most of us have worked well past midnight as we created our final presentation, revised and revised again. Our Korean team-members had a huge workload to then translate our deck, they worked non-stop.


On Tuesday we had a review meeting with many departments – there was a lot of discussion on some of our themes which we were able to take on board.

We scripted the final presentation, then translated the script and began our rehearsals.

So what did we say?

Our presentation set out our observations of Jeju, its challenges and our vision of the way forward. Jeju has achieved incredible things…a strong economy with almost full employment, it is a world leader in renewable energy and smart grid development. It has a World Heritage area and other UNESCO recognition for its natural features.

Jeju’s economy relies heavily on tourism. Our work focused on how tourism could be enhanced and how Jeju could expand its economic base for a more balanced economy. We also looked at the challenging issue of balancing development with preservation – we heard from many people they had concerns in this area.

We developed 16 recommendations and these came under five different themes;

– the positioning of Jeju tourism and products,

– digitizing the Jeju experience,

– collaboration and citizen engagement,

– ways that Jeju’s mostly small businesses could achieve scale, and

– how to create a shared vision of preservation.

We were able to share great examples on tourism marketing (New Zealand, Hawaii, Kerala), foreign investment (Finland, Mauritius) and citizen engagement (New York, Vancouver).


The presentation was well received, and we had great compliments from department heads and Governor Woo. It was clear that the team we had worked with in the Provincial Government were amazed at what we were able to achieve in just three weeks.

This week we have also been writing the 40 or so page long-form report. We have completed all our sections and Ruth has been working to check the flow and any missing pieces. This will go to our corporate team and then to translation (and i suspect yet more work by our Korean team-mates to validate).

This has been an amazing experience. We all leave with a piece of Jeju in us. It is a fascinating place at an important time in its history.

It has been a privilege working in this extraordinary team and getting to know them so well – Hyun, KyoungJeon, Ravi, Ruth, Sampsa.



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Building Phase

This week we are working ‘flat out’, as we say in Australia, on building out or recommendations. Yesterday was Memorial Day holiday here in Korea so we worked all day at the hotel and late into the night. We were grateful for a feedback session from our key Provincial Government stakeholder who gave up part of his holiday to join us. We also had a review call with our team in the USA.

Our approach is to build each section of the the long-form written report before preparing each final presentation chart. This helps us make sure that 1) our recommendations are more detailed and fully fleshed out and 2) we do not leave the preparation of the detailed report until too late.

Two things have surprised me as we continue the work. First, it is very easy to underestimate the impact of language and culture. It takes a lot of time and effort to translate even a small amount of work (we are only translating small portions of presentation at the moment for feedback). We were really concerned about whether we should choose the word ‘happiness’ or ‘prosperity’ in one section of our deck, only to find eventually that it was probably going to be translated into the same word in Korean!

It has also surprised me how much time we are needing to draft sections of our report. It just illustrates how our constant use of presentation has left us without detail. Returning to long form is good discipline, and each of us is taking sections to draft, then swapping to review.

Today and tonight we will spend all day back in our hotel work room in the photo below. At the end of the day we will decide if we need to work all day Saturday and Sunday – or just Sunday as we have currently planned!


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OMG we are racing up to the end!

It is strange. We seem to have just finished our ‘listening’ stage of data collection & interviewing and tomorrow we need to review our recommendations!!

While we are just at the half-way mark of our three week project, we need to have our completed recommendations ready for a checkpoint meeting tomorrow. It is after 11pm and we have just finished our last review to prepare for our meeting tomorrow

Let me catch you up on yesterday and today.

On Sunday, we had a wonderful day. Sampsa and Henry had their return tennis match with one of our key stakeholders and KJ, Ravi, Ruth and I went walking in the Halla Mountain World Heritage area with another of our stakeholders. Sampsa and Hyun Chung followed their tennis match with a full Korean breakfast including Makoli, the milky rice wine we had tried last week!

Our walk took us 14kms into and back from the Halla Mountain park up to the Saraoreum peak, itself a volcanic crater with a lake.

The recent rains have submerges the boardwalk so we had to remove shoes and socks and wade through to get to the viewing platform of Halla Mountain where we broke out our lunch. This is a panorama of the crater lake:


Yesterday, Monday, included a final scoping and key observation review with Vice Governor Bang, then work on development of our recommendations. We also met with the Olle Foundation – an extraordinary community group that has built 26 walking trails covering 400+kms right around the island. Driven completely by volunteers and donations, they have not only built the trails, but helped local residents open guest houses, train them on basic tourism and business principles, and established a formative international network of similar trails.

Today we had further interviews and more work on our recommendations, building out the shell of our final deck. We also had a wonderful brainstorming session together with five Jeju National University students who brought some great ideas! After our mentoring session on Saturday we invited students to tell us how they thought they could help and we picked five of the many emails we received. The ideas were good enough for us to offer to pass them on to the Provincial Government, and we had our students join us for dinner.

The 30 min travel time to and from our hotel is a slight inconvenience, but we are finding we tend to de-breif on the day ahead or just completed. We do travel in style, thanks to our wonderful Smarter Cities team led by the amazing Ji-Hyun. Here is our van..


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A very full Saturday

Our day started early for some of our team with a pre-arranged tennis match at 6am for Sampsa with some of our key sponsors. It was a wonderful opportunity to get a chance for personal contact, and it seems it was a tough but enjoyable match, since a follow-on game was agreed for tomorrow! KJ and Hyun Chung accompanied Sampsa to help with language, and we had a chance to get a little more feedback on our project scope.

Next on our agenda was a 30 min ride to Jeju National University where almost 50 students were waiting for a discussion on leadership and working in a global company. Ruth did a wonderful job setting up a panel discussion and we were all really impressed with the enthusiasm, engagement and intelligent questions from the students. We think Jeju has a wonderful future in the hands of this next generation of leaders.

Here is a photo of our session


…and our very serious looking team…  grappling with a tough question..


Next stop was one of the areas most treasured in Jeju. These are damp, almost rain-forest areas consisting mainly of really (volcanic) rocky ground. Historically these areas were thought to be  worthless as they could not support agriculture. Now the unique ecology is treasured and there is a program to buy back and preserve these pristine areas.

This photo shows a stone stack, seen everywhere in Jeju


Next we headed to a restaurant – surprisingly a pizza restaurant! Our motive was to interview the owner of this successful business. We had a great (huge!) lunch but heard a first hand of the challenges, business opportunities and thoughts on the island’s future from a local business owner.

Our last stop was at a guest house on the South-West part of the island – again interviewing the owner, Dean, who was originally from Manchester. Dean and his Korean wife are not from Jeju so gave us a another perspective. They are located right near one of Jeju’s ‘Olle’ famous walking paths so we were able to learn lots about that segment of the tourist market.Finally we headed back across the island – about 60 minutes in heavy traffic – to our home base for dinner and drinks to celebrate Sampsa’s birthday.

Happy birthday Sampsa!


A long Saturday indeed!



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Our Jeju routine

As we pass the half-way mark, we have started to settle into a work-day routine here in Jeju. For a few of us, it starts with a little exercise. A few of us have started to climb the small volcano peak (extinct, of course! these ‘Oreum’ remnant volcanoes are all over Jeju) near the hotel – here is Ravi’s photo from early this morning:


Our van collects us at 8.10 each morning for the 30 minute drive to the Provincial Government offices where we have our work room. The days this week have been filled with interviews.

Lunch is a working lunch at our interview table. Yesterday was a lunch box from Outback Steakhouse!! Something I have never seen in Australia….


We get done with our interviews around 6pm. Each day we make a point of gathering and each of us coming up with

– one key observation from the day

– one idea.

This was Ruth’s great suggestion, it keeps us focused and always creates debate and discussion.

We have been eating evening meals together – at the hotel, Sushi is our local town, and last night Indian in Jeju city.We have lots of choices, but from now we want to experience more Korean options. Since we arrived I think my intake of fish has increased a lot!

We are trying to use every opportunity to talk to people we meet about life in Jeju. We had a great discussion with the owner of the Indian restaurant last night. Although the restuarant was Indian (a rarity on Jeju), the owner is a local and she described herself as a ‘strong Jeju woman’. She told us how hard life was for her parents’ generation, her mother was one of the famous women divers of Jeju (these women were often sole parents when husbands were fishing – in many cases lost at sea – and the divers played a key role in the resistance during the Japanese occupation). I am still learning of Jeju’s history – it is tragic in parts. Things are better now in Jeju and our restaurant owner has traveled a lot, perhaps more than most locals. She felt great pride for Jeju, not just for its natural beauty, but also its easy lifestyle and equality of income (neither very rich or poor and virtually no unemployment) but was worried about the pace of development.

Our daily routine usually continues back at the hotel in our workroom as we explore strategies and prepare for interviews the next day, often until about 11.


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Take-off for the Jeju project!

Monday and today were like a whirlwind. We formally kicked off our project on Monday with the help of Governor Woo and leadership from our IBM Korea General Manager, Shirley Yu-Tsui.

With teamwork from the Provincial Government’s  press room and MyungHee Son from our IBM communications team we saw more than 70 coverage items including TV, print and online media.

It was a formal kick-off ceremony…


Soon after, we launched straight into our first interviews. This first week is all about identifying a diverse range of views. We have had eleven interviews so far and it is amazing how the team is working together after just a few days. After agreeing our individual roles, we have also started to split based on several key subjects we will need to cover – this will help us use our time more efficiently as we interview more stakeholders.

I mentioned to several people we interviewed that our team had never met, and they were really surprised. In my first post I covered all our different home countries, but there is just as much diversity in our careers – ranging from technical (Ravi is a distinguished engineer, no less! and JK is a CTA) to marketing (HC and me), alliances (Ruth) and consulting (Sampsa). Yet, it seems like we have been working together for a long time, which just shows the strength of IBM values and culture.

We are set up in our new office – the Provincial Government has been wonderful is setting us up with all we need – including producing this special sign in front of the office:


As we gather a stack of information, we have started a routine for the end of every day. This was Ruth’s great idea – each of us nominates one key observation from the day, and one key action we want to consider. With Sampsa’s suggestions, we are also sketching out a preliminary structure to evaluate key items. Ravi is great at challenging us to think laterally, HC has helped pick up some themes we might have missed in translation and JK has given us a great perspective on the ‘big picture’.

I am sure the hardest-working person so far is Ji Hyun, our Korea lead for Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs – always keeping one step ahead of us to help the project.

One thing we are seeing come through our interviews is the ‘spirit’ of Jeju. In tandem with the natural beauty of the island, there does seem to be a unique culture of resilience and independence. Of course, we have much to learn – and much work to do in the coming weeks.


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Landed and gearing up…

Our preparations for our work on the Jeju Island Smarter Cities Challenge have continued over the weekend.

On Friday our team met up for the first time face to face in Seoul as we flew in from Australia, New Jersey, Helsinki, Raleigh and met up with our Seoul-based colleagues. It was great to meet and begin to get to know one another and we reviewed our project in more detail.

We flew down to Jeju late of Friday and since arriving we have set up our work room, established our team responsibilities and prepared our interview questions for our kick off with the governor and his team tomorrow. We were fortunate to get some time to look around at the key tourist spots on the island – quite different to anything I am familiar with. The origins of Jeju are volcanic and there are remnant volcanoes throughout the island. Dry-stacked basalt walls are everywhere, with some extraordinary coastal scenery, forest tracks and lots of tourists.

Here’s our team posing at one of our stops (I think we took 35 team photos – perhaps this is a Korea obsession 🙂 ??)

2013 05 25 team photo

So much for our preparation. Tomorrow we get moving as the real work starts.

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