By Julia Andborn

The first week of the IAS-Asia Travel Study was enriching, informative, and interesting! We learned a lot about South Korea and especially about the culture of how to conduct business in the country. We discussed the differences between the US and South Korea and how the countries do business differently, but also the similarities between the two nations. A major difference is the way South Korea in general focuses a lot on business relationships. The people invest time and want to build trust. For example, they often go to multiple lunches prior to deciding if they want to conduct business together. Americans are often more focused on the actual business straight away. 

It was really fascinating to learn more about how South Korea does business and we even had the incredible opportunity to hear about it from a person that works with a South Korean company. The first executive session was with Thomas Sommer, CFO and co-founder of Sparkgate Entertainment. Sparkgate Entertainment is a production agency that works with artists. This company combines the South Korean and American way of shaping artists in the music industry. The South Korean music industry is more focused on forming artists, while the American one allows the artists to be more independent. Sparkgate Entertainment is using both frameworks to get the best of both worlds. For example, Thomas Sommer and Sparkgate Entertainment were part of creating the music video for “Ice Cream” by BlackPink which is really cool! 

It was very interesting and fun to learn more about K-pop since it is such a big phenomenon nowadays. The focus on how the culture in South Korea differs from the US shows how it is important to have different business models for the artists to break through. It was also educational to hear how Sommer and Sparkgate Entertainment have combined the two models to reach even more people around the globe. I had not really listened to K-pop before this travel study, but I have now started to listen more to bands like BTS and BlackPink. I hope you enjoyed some of the things we did throughout the first week! Talk to you soon! 

Julia Andborn participated in our virtual study abroad in Asia in Summer 2021.