Korea 1

Sub zero temperatures and flecks of snow came as a surprise, but that’s how a February day in South Korea greeted Phil Bew and myself as we emerged from the twelve-hour flight. The swimmers may have been a mistake, not to mention Phil’s socks, but more on that later!

For the last couple of years Aish have been involved in the MARS Tanker Program, working with our Korean partners Electrix and DSME to deliver our ICCP product on behalf of the MoD.  With the first of the four boats about to sail, this visit was to meet the project and engineering teams and also to understand and develop the business potential for our ICCP product in South Korea.

Busan, in the south of the country, is home to shipbuilding Korean style with vast areas given over to manufacturing with three shipyards launching around four super tankers a week!  The UK MoD and other countries around the world are looking to benefit from the scale of these operations, to manufacture ships basic infrastructure in Korea with complex systems fitted back at home.

Our first day took us to the city of Ulsan the birthplace of all things Hyundai, the cars but also ships, oil rigs, lifts, fork lifts and every other manner of things.  The shipyard with over 50,000 staff produces 100 ships per year and of most interest to us has a Special and Navy Ships Division.  Hyundai are bidding for more work from the MoD, the Korean and Australian Navy’s.  There are opportunities for us on all of these platforms.  The shipyard also has its own hospital, although we were not sure what that says for the Health and Safety record!

Another day and another shipyard this time DSME, our partners on the MARS program, located on the very scenic island of Geoje.  Smaller than Hyundai but still launching one new boat each week DSME comes across as very professional with some very impressive design facilities.

Neither Phil or myself studied Korean at school, and French wasn’t much help either.  However help was at hand from our Korean agents at Electrix. Good friendships were made with the charming and welcoming Mr Lim and Mr KT Lang.  In a formal way they were our introduction to the shipyards and informally they drove us around, acted as interpreters and helped guide us through some challenging restaurant food choices. In hindsight though, it would have been good to understand before we met them that sitting in the car with their hands on our knees is normal behaviour for Korean men.

And whilst we are talking about customs Phil very much wished he had known that formal meetings are conducted shoes off. Still his Angry Birds socks broke the ice and provided much laughter for our Korean partners.

Korea 2

I mentioned challenging restaurant choices, and determined not to offend we both agreed no matter what foods our hosts presented to us we would give it a go.  The staple food there seems to be Kimchi, a pickled cabbage that accompanies most meals.  Sometimes plain, sometimes spicy, but always a challenge with chop-sticks, it was mostly not horrible.  Further up the scale was ‘Chicken Bottom’, well that was the literal translation, a bit of help from Google showed it to be from the intestines somewhere. Grey, rubbery and with the occasional crunch, would probably not choose it again!

Our agents and the shipyards made us very welcome; they are a hard working and generous people that greatly value personal relationships. Your word is your honour with commitments made taken as a personal and honourable commitment to achieve.