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  • Archive for May, 2013

    How Asians Say “No” (without saying it): Top 5 Indirect “No’s”

    May 31st, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    East-West cultural differences exist that may make it confusing as to when a reply from those in Korea, China, and Japan is a “no” or “yes.”
     
    In the West (a low context environment, in which more focus is placed on the communication itself than the communication context), a premium is placed on clarity, which in turn, means brevity and direct communication. But in the East (a high context environment, in which more focus is placed on the context of the communication than the communication itself), communication can be more indirect, which may be understood by others from the same region, but may be complex and difficult to understand for those from the West.
     
    Below are the top 5 communication terms that mean “no” without the term itself actually being spoken or written (due to the high contextual environment for those in the East). And conversely, these same terms can be used to say “no” by Western individuals to their Eastern counterparts in a very localized manner, which may signal that the Western counterpart is localized, polite, and well-informed (all virtuous traits in Asia):
     
    1. “Maybe later” – from the West’s eyes, if interpreted literally (as one would do in a low context environment in the West), the term “Maybe later” could mean that a “yes” might be right around the corner, after some internal discussion. But do not be confused, in an Eastern context, generally “maybe later” means “no.” So why not just say “no?” The main reason is to be polite (in a society where appearing impolite is a sign of being uncultured and/or uneducated; two strongly negative labels in Asia relative to in the West)
     
    2. “I/We will think about it” – again, from a Western frame of mind taking this term literally, a statement such as this may give hope to the Western individual/entity that more consideration is needed by the Asian team member/team. But generally this is not the case.
     
    3. “I/We don’t know” – The Western framework based on Cartesian logic and logical deduction places a premium on getting a definitive “yes” or “no.” This is not so different in Asia. At the same time, a gray zone between yes and no tends to be more tolerated in Asia than in the West. But even more, a statement such as “We don’t know” in response to a direct query that would normally require a definitive yes or no is best interpreted as a “no.” Again, this is for face-saving measure.
     
    4. Silence – Those in the West generally feel extremely uncomfortable with silence, especially in a group or business setting. This is not so much the case in Asia. Silence, on the contrary, can actually be considered a virtue in Asia. Having said this, silence or a non-reply can also be interpreted to mean a “no.” The Western counterpart should also look at the facial expression when confronted by such silence in response to a query that would normally require a definitive response.
     
    5. “That would be impossible” (or a direct “no”) – of the list, the use of the term “impossible” is the most direct indication by those in Asia of a “no.” Why don’t those in Asia use the term “not possible” since “impossible” seems so ironically definitive? The short answer is that “impossible” is based on a literal translation of Chinese characters (a negative vowel to use a rough Western equivalent). Also, those in Asia do not always share the same notion that “nothing is impossible” given the right level of knowledge, aptitude, and creativity.
     
    The above top 5 list generally apply to a primarily domestic Asian audience (not those who have spent substantial time with Westerners or time overseas; if this is the case, then the above rules would be less applicable). The above list also, by virtue of its brevity, explains the concepts in broad brushstrokes and terms, which in many instances will have exceptions.

     

     

     

     

    Why North Korea is a risk-taker

    May 23rd, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    The analysis below is an excerpt based on the original piece, North Korea’s Risk-taking Explained (by Jasper Kim, Wall Street Journal, Korea Realtime, May 22, 2013), which can be read in full HERE.
     

    Most commentators who track the country say it would never aim to initiate a war with South Korea and its allies because that would inevitably lead to the end of the Kim Jong Un regime. Self-preservation is something the Pyongyang leadership has been very successful at over the last six decades.
     

    So what explains the North’s apparent affinity for risk in routinely confronting the South, mostly verbally but occasionally with deadly force?
     

    Mathematical modeling helps explain the counter-intuitive marriage of risk-taking and rationality at the heart of decision making in North Korea.
     

    Consider you have one of the two choices:
    A: Receive $80 guaranteed; or
    B: Receive a 90% chance to receive $100
     

    Which option should a rational decision maker chose? Studies show that most people would decide to take option A, the sure thing. The thinking is that it is generally better to receive a guaranteed return even if it means receiving less.
     

    But the rational choice is actually option B. Getting to the answer requires what’s called a standard expected value calculation. The expected value of option A is $80 (100% x $80 = $80). The expected value of option B is $90 (90% x $100 = $90). So, because $90 (option B) is greater than $80 (option A), option B would be the rational choice even though it involves taking a risk. 

     
    In the above example, the expected higher gains in option B — equivalent to regime survival — have incentivized risk-taking by North Korea, especially if it doesn’t believe an option A exists.

     
    * The U.S., South Korea and Japan are defensively postured and risk-averse because the aspiration point is primarily maintaining their current position (in terms of preserving military and economic interests);
     
    * North Korea is offensively postured and risk-seeking because its aspiration point is gaining more than its current position (in terms of actively pursuing economic and non-economic assistance and diplomatic recognition).

     

    Given the current incentive structure from North Korea’s view, the Stalinist state sees only incentives to take further risks. As a result, the DPRK’s provocation cycle will only continue, unless the current incentive scheme is changed.
     

    Pres. Park Geun-hye’s “Korea brand diplomacy”: takeaways from her US working trip

    May 16th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    This blog is based on a full op-ed in the Global Times (China), which can be viewed in its entirety HERE:

     
    The US and South Korea reaffirmed their 60-year alliance in Washington during South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s first visit to the US since being elected to the Blue House.
     
    The main objective of both presidents was to show unity over trade and security issues for the two nations. Park was also accompanied by one of the largest economic entourages in recent memory, with more than 50 high-profile and senior representatives from South Korea’s business sector accompanying her. Such figures included some of the heads of South Korea’s largest conglomerates, including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. They were there to pitch the mantra that South Korea is a safe place for foreign direct investment.
     
    Park’s economic entourage also served as a strong signal of how importantly South Korean firms value the US marketplace.
     
    The US is still one of South Korea’s largest export markets. Thus, Park attempted to strategically disentangle North Korea’s recent provocative actions and threats from South Korea’s economic interests during her trip. Her “Korea brand diplomacy” strategy was a purposeful and forceful counter-response to notions that a “Korean discount” is needed for Korean assets due to North Korea.
     
    In the current post-crisis slow growth era, both Park and Obama share a vested interest in furthering the alliance, especially since increased trade opportunities would be more than welcome to spur the economic growth of both countries. Perhaps it is for this reason that Park and her economic entourage received such a warm welcome by Obama and the US Congress.
     
    After all, South Korea represents a model state of a liberal democracy in a key region, Northeast Asia, that not only has produced a vibrant export-led economy, but also represents an economy that will hopefully be increasingly open to US imports of goods and services.