[KS] Unstoppable English - Korea and Japan make English Official (못말리는 영어)

kc Kim kc.kim2 at gmail.com
Sun Jul 11 02:56:37 EDT 2010

Unstoppable English--Korea and Japan make English Official:
Rakuten, Uniqlo, Nissan, KAIST(100%), POSTECH(100%),
LG(100%), Samsung(?%), SK(board meetings), Korea U(70-80%),
Yonsei U(some faculties 100%)


Who can tell what the feelings of Minister Mori might be at the
recent turn of events?  As I see it, the Japanese are definitely
behind the curve.

It would appear that the behemoth that is English is making
steady inroad into the East Asian language-sphere, with Japan
clearly trailing behind Korea in this race.

Recent news of Rakuten and Uniqlo, both Japanese companies,
deciding to adopt English as the official language for their firms
appear to have not shaken anybody in Japan, everybody taking
it in stride.  Just as Nissan and Sony conducting their board
meetings in English have fazed nobody anywhere.  After all,
it is business demands driving business decisions.

Uniqlo drops Japanese and makes English official language

Japanese lost in translation

Looking at the actual distribution of Uniqlo and Rakuten global
presence, those affected will be the speakers of French, Korean,
Chinese, and Japanese.

But looking at this in the context of the Korean experience, one has
the feeling that the Japanese are definitely BEHIND THE CURVE and
clearly LAGGING..

We have, for example, KAIST, the premier engineering school
in Korea which fully committed to English as official language over
4 years ago.  POSTECH is also supposed to be 100% English as
of this year..

Controversial KAIST  President Wins a Second Term

No Looking Back: Kaist's  President Fights for His Legacy of Change in
South Korea

LG Electronics also adopted English as the official company
language a few years back, and so have several divisions of
the behemoth Samsung, and apparently the board meetings of
several major corporations in Korea are conducted in English.
I don't think any of this is really shocking news to anybody..

LG전 자, 영어공용화 ‘대세론 In’ ‘회의론 Out’

‘삼성맨’들은 요즘 ○○ 공포에 떤다

삼성건설 `글로벌 조직문화 구축 나선다`

Question is, why is Japan so far behind the curve in including English in
their business and academia?  Are they doomed to lose the edge?

Are they pursuing an independent strategy for globalization from that
being pursued by the Korean elite?

Yours respectfully,

Joobai Lee



Thinking back to my own youth, I remember two Japanese high school
friends.  By definition, they were 조기유학생, having follower a reporter
and businessman father for a long term stay in the US.  Remarkably,
they were carrying full loads of study in both Japanese and English. They
confessed to the need for parallel load in Japanese because as they
put it "we would be literally illiterate back in Japan otherwise when we
return."  Apparently there were some famous historical instances of
illiterate returnees.  And they were determined not to be in the same
boat.  I saw their class notes, and they definitely gave me a deep sense
of what illiteracy in Japanese might mean.

This terrible fear of raising Japanese illiterates seems to be behind the
tendency of the Japanese students and businessmen abroad to leave
their family behind in Japan.  Korean students and businessmen abroad
on the other hand, appear not to be subject to such fear of illiteracy
(thanks to Hangul), and have the exact opposite tendency of having their
children in the States, so I have observed.

Over the last 10 years, the public's attitude also seems to have gone
decidedly pro-English.  Every public survey about using English as the
official language at work seems to show that about 70% of the respondents
favor it.

Now this is a brave new world in Korea.

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