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Ukrainian helps Korean husband interpret for Hyundai Corp.

Ukrainian helps Korean husband interpret for Hyundai Corp.

Posted October. 30, 2012 04:10,   


“I appreciate Korea’s cooperation in the railway business.”

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said this in an official meeting with Chung Mong-hyuk, president of Hyundai Corp., in March while attending the G-20 summit. Though supposed to use Russian, Yanukovych suddenly greeted Chung in his mother tongue of Ukrainian.

Jeong Il-ryeong, 32, an assistant Hyundai manager in charge of interpretation, was at a loss because he was fluent in Russian, not Ukrainian. Jeong`s Ukrainian wife Karolina Michailova, 27, stepped up to help her husband interpret for Chung, saying, “I saw my husband’s eyes shaking for a moment and realized that he was in trouble.”

○ Multi-cultural couples in large projects

The Jeong couple is quite famous in Hyundai Corp. Many non-Koreans work for the company but Jeong, a Korean, and his Ukrainian wife comprise the first couple working in the same office and doing the same work. They got to work together as the company, which is focused on former Soviet republics known as the Commonwealth of Independent States, had a slew of projects related to such countries including Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Jeong asked his wife to translate documents and contact partners in such countries, and Hyundai highly appreciated her role.

The company said, “Trade volume with CIS countries is sharply increasing as members have plenty of money from oil revenue and loans and need to replace their infrastructure.”

Michailova joined the company at its request in April last year and supervises exports and manages railway vehicles worth 500 billion won (456.4 million U.S. dollars). She and Jeong met in spring 2003. To major in Korean, Michailova went to Kiev Linguistic University in Ukraine, where Jeong was also studying. He had studied Russian in the country since 2000. Jeong went back to Korea to fulfill his mandatory military service in 2006, and she studied Korean at Sogang University in Seoul. After seven years together, they got married in September 2009.

○ Surprised at Korean organizational culture

“You know better about the contract than I do. In addition, you are paid more…”

Michailova said this when her boss gave her a contract review in June last year just two months after she joined the company. Sitting next to her, her husband gave her a look hinting that she should take the document.

“She seemed to have rejected it because the task given to her was not part of the scope of her work,” Jeong said. “In Ukraine, employees express their opinions freely,” Michailova said, laughing, “I learned back then that you have to first say yes when your boss asks you to do something.”

The couple said they prefer saying “I love you” in Russian ("Ya lublu tebya") rather than in Korean. They added that they hope to work together at a branch in Ukraine if possible and take on bigger projects.