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Office Workers Show Interest in Family Business

Posted August. 10, 2003 21:42,   


When one thinks of a family business, many people immediately might think of Japan, where there is a long history of sons and daughters taking over the family business. Even young Japanese people who have highly promising jobs carry on this tradition of taking over the family business in this day and age. Now in Korea, the number of office workers in their 30s and 40s who are giving up their jobs to take over the family business is also on the rise.

This change has been taking place since the last foreign exchange crisis. Before the crisis, Korean parents expected their children to become white-collar workers and to invest their hard-earned money into educating their children. However, as constant corporate restructuring has become a very common practice, and with it fewer secure jobs, the value of a secure living has become a very important issue, forcing people to become more pragmatic.

“Not all Japanese people take over the family business. In fact, the Japanese decide whether or not to take over the family business for completely practical reasons,” Kim Ji-reong, an expert on Japanese culture, said. One critical reason behind this tradition in Japan is that it is difficult to gain higher social status there. According to Kim, Koreans have become more practical in their desire to acquire a higher social status since the foreign exchange crisis.

Heo Young-seok (37), who used to work for a large advertising company but quit his job in late 1997, chose to take over his parents` restaurant. After careful preparation, he opened the family`s second restaurant in 2000 in Samsung-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. He is now a franchiser of 37 restaurants in the metropolitan area alone, including 4 restaurants that he personally owns and operates.

“I am focusing on standardization of the taste and rationalization of management. To do this, I hired a professional manager in March of this year,” Heo explained.

Choi Moon-gap (35), who worked as a photographer for a magazine for 9 years, is about to open an octopus restaurant. He will open the second restaurant, called Mokpo Octopus, a restaurant his father has been running for 30 years, in late August. “Scientific approaches will be applied in making recipes and later in franchising the business out. This way a number of chefs will be given an opportunity to have proper training,” Choi said.

Family businesses are now evolving as a corporation of considerable size with a solid management system, as the second generation management who have benefited from a good education and experience get involved in the family business.

“Taking over the family business can lessen the chance of bankruptcy compared to starting a business where there is no particular expertise. It all depends on the efforts and ability of the second generation management, however. Many believe that family businesses have a very good chance of succeeding,” said Lee In-ho, director of New Business E Dot Com, a consulting firm that specializes in opening new businesses.

Joong-Hyun Park sanjuck@donga.com