by JAMES S. KIM
South Korean mobile messenger service provider Kakao is set to acquire Internet portal site Daum earlier this year in a 3.1 trillion won ($3.03 billion) deal after shareholders approved the merger, Reuters reports. For employees at Daum, though, it’s going to be more than just new ownership they’ll be taking on.
Last Wednesday, South Korea’s No. 2 Internet search company said that its workers will all adopt English names, following Kakao’s lead in taking on an anti-hierarchical work culture.
“Daum and Kakao have reviewed together how employees of the merged firm will address one another, and after much discussion, we’ve decided to follow the case at Kakao where workers call each other by English names,” Kang Yuk-yeong, a communications official at Daum, told Yonhap News.
“Some 1,600 employees currently at Daum will choose a new English name for this, and by doing so, we hope to further promote the two firms’ work ethics that prioritize openness and active participation as well as create a synergy effect between the two groups.”
Workplace hierarchy is present in some manner or form in any corporate culture, but respect for authority figures is usually a more prevalent issue in the Korean workplace. It can go from something small, like using both hands when presenting and receiving a business card, to addressing others by their family name and title.
However, workplace cultures in smaller and newer technology companies in Korea has apparently been shifting more from one influenced by rigid Confucianism to one more casual and worker-friendly. Workers in the latter environment would ideally be more open to communicating more, sharing thoughts and judgments without any worry.
“Each company has a different culture. I’m not saying which one is better or worse, it’s just different. But I would say using English names, without titles, makes me and my colleagues feel more comfortable when we share and suggest new ideas,” a Kakao official, named Dallas, told the Korea Times.
Daum had already been asking their workers to call each other by their Korean name with nim at the end in a much more casual, so the only other difficulty they may run into may be finding a name to adopt.
“Of course, it may feel weird or awkward for people to call each other by a foreign name, but we’ll see how this system settles in when business begins at the new Daum-Kakao in October,” Kang said.
Image via Korea Herald