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Korean Car Designers at the Center of GM Innovation

Posted January. 22, 2008 22:22,   


“Since car design is a competitive field, the recruitment is strictly based on merit. Why many Koreans are employed? Because they are adroit and have a strong desire to work hard. They are the sought-after workers of in the automobile industry,” said Lee Sang-yeop, who works at GM Design Center in Detroit.

○ Koreans Designers are Integral Part of Major Concept Car Design

About 38 out of 200 designers working at the Center are Koreans, meaning the performances of highly potential Koreans are appreciated in the field.

The Dong-A Ilbo Tuesday interviewed six Korean designers who participated the meeting at GM Headquarters to learn about the reason why Korean designers are popular.

About half of the new hires are Koreans, a comparably high in number compared to two Korean designers in 2000 when Lee started working at the Center.

Ji Han-gyeong, who received her bachelor’s degree from a Korean university, graduated from Art Center College of Design (ACCD). She said, “About 10 to 15 percent of the students at ACCD are Koreans. After graduating, they seek their career path in global car companies including GM.”

ACCD is a renowned auto design school. It is said that Japanese graduates of ACCD in the 1960s and 1970s led Japan’s automobile renascence. Recently, the number of Chinese students is constantly showing an increase.

Not only are Koreans at GM Design Center large in number but also they are playing a key role in the GM-led design revolution.

Korean designers are part of new concept car creation. Hummer HX, recently unveiled at a Detroit Motor Show, was designed by a Korean lady, Kang Min-young. Lee Sang-yeop designed C6 Corvette.

Since Koreans take up about 20 percent of the workforce at the Center, interesting things happen.

Steve Kim (Kim Seong-soo) said, “There are so many Koreans that some American co-workers often say here comes the Korean Mafia.” I respond to them by saying, “If you color your hair dark brown, I can count you in.”

“Even though we work for an American company where individual privacy is respected, Korean workers often get together and eat together to fortify friendship,” said Joseph Choi (Choi Won-seok).

○ Korean Car Designers Join Ford and Porsche

After graduating a university, Song In-ho joined Hyundai Motor Company. Now, he is working for GM. “Language barrier is not a big problem when considering the design itself. There is something special about Koreans’ creativity,” said Song.

Not only GM but also Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche are major global car makers Korean designers work for. Other officials at the Center said that popularity of Korean designers has swept the industry.

Lee Sang-yeop said confidently, “Most Korean designers working for major car-makers are in the 20s and 30s age bracket. The day when world’s best cars are deigned by Koreans is not that far off.”