We meet Oh Sun Mi, the CEO of ‘Share Korea’ last September 11th at J-Space in the Jeju Center for Creative Economy and Innovation. I have also met her in the ‘Jeju Daum’ program last July. I heard that she was in Jeju with an opportunity to be here again. I wanted to hear in details about how it is on her second month at Jeju and how she is doing with her work. Today and also on last July, ‘Share Korea’, films the different places of Jeju to promote it to the Chinese. We decided to listen to the story on how the company started.
# Sharing Korea
‘Share Korea’ filming a video content – Chuncheon / 2016
Sun-Mi Oh After graduating college, I spent my 4 years in China. Then I came back to Korea and worked for an online shopping related work and unknowingly, I became a 10 year experienced professional at this field. I’ve seen a lot of people who have been struggling with the domestic market downturn in the past 10 years by meeting with small and medium-sized merchants. But the struggle was not due to lack of their talents. I’ve naturally faced the reality of the downturn which was caused by either they lost the market to the big corporations or lack of funds. As I’ve been thinking on how to help them, I came across with the ‘Chinese tourists’. Then I decided to create my own company to provide an ‘opportunity to show the real side of Korea’ to them and find a link between a Korean small merchants and the growing individual travelers and improve the quality of Korean tourist products.
With the meaning of “Sharing Korea”, the ‘Share Korea’ was created to inform the real side of Korea to the Chinese tourists. I’m promoting various places (business) and products of Korea on Korean/Chinese online sites and posting videos related to travelling on 3 Chinese online sites and blogs.
1. Chinese video content production and online marketing.
A. Produce video in Chinese with the concept ‘Korean’s tour guide in Korea’
B. Secure/utilize Chinese online video sites (v.qq, youku, tudou, leTV, etc.)
C. Post at the Chinese online travel blogs (Ctrip, Baidu, etc.), China marketing
2. Travel package development for Chinese individual travelers.
A. Plan and proceed ‘Piano Master class’ for Chinese students
3. Jeju product sales platform plans – in preparation
A. Planning on the online platform to introduce and sell products that could only be found in Jeju
(souvenir, specialties, craftwork, etc.)
Present projects of ‘Share Korea’; briefly summarized by the CEO, Oh Sun Mi
Before she came to Jeju where there are many Chinese tourists, she has been working for the Chinese. Also, when I personally asked questions about the language, she was so proficient in explaining without any hindrance.
# Long relationship with China
Sun-Mi Oh Where should I start? Ever since I was young, I had a business mindset so I went to a commercial high school without even thinking about going to college. After I graduated high school, I entered into a company that was not so bad after all but I faced the reality of the society at that time which was about the difference between those who graduated college and those who did not. So I worked for about a year in that company and went back to study and entered the college.
With the personality I have, a lot of experience and challenge was the goal for my twenties. After graduating college, I was working hard for about a year and a half in a mid-sized company but as I have been working for the same tasks repetitively with no new works, I got a little bored with the job. I wasn’t good in English so I want to take this opportunity to learn English and wanted to go to the Philippines. But my friend said ‘Do you think you can learn English which you couldn’t do it for the past 10 years by going to the Philippines?’ and suggested me to go to China to learn Chinese. So I went straight to China and studied for a year and planned to return to Seoul right away. But once again, with my friend’s suggestion, I got a job in China.
The style of CEO Oh Sun Mi was clearly showed in the way she makes a decision or on her way making a direction with just one offer by her friend. She was practicing her goals, which is to experience and challenge, without any hesitation.
Sun-Mi Oh Shortly thereafter, I received an offer from my friend once again. She was working for Dell computer and asked me to have an interview saying that the neighborhood of the office is clean and the environment was good for working. So I did a phone interview with the manager of the team that I’ll be working for. He suddenly asked me to sell something through the phone. At first I confidently said “I don’t have anything to sell.” But he told me to sell anything so I explained the DVD player which was in front of me. I got the job with the recommendation of my friend and the manager, who seemed to have liked my answer.
When I first started work, the manager asked me “It is a 100m speed marathon here, can you do that?” and I remember answering so confidently, “It would be fun! I like it.” Luckily, I was able to settle in quickly and worked for a year and a half. I met Myung Ok at this work too. However, after 3 years and 7 months in China, I returned to Korea to recover as my bronchial was not feeling good so good.
CEO Oh Sun Mi interviewing at J-SPACE –Jeju Center for Creative Economy and Innovation / 2017
Now I decided to do something that I want to do. So I jumped into an online startup business where I could start without any capital. Things worked out well than I have expected. I went to give a lecture as a successful startup entrepreneur and received a feedback that I was good at lecturing. So for a while, I’ve been doing lectures on online startup business. As I was only having lectures, I got to stop at one point due to my health issues. I couldn’t live without any work so I entered into a graduate school (online shopping MBA program). I think that’s how I constantly worked on an online related work for years. When I was ready at some point, my sister who was working in a Chinese related industry said ‘there is no proper expert on Chinese marketing’ and gave me the opinion that I would do well. So that’s how I started doing the work I am doing today. The story’s quite long, right?
Certainly she has a deep relationship with China. Thanks to the background experience at China, she knew better than anyone else on what the Chinese tourists who come to Jeju needs and on what direction should we interact with them. That’s why ‘Share Korea’, as it is named, was possible. What was the reason for her to participate in the Jeju Daum program when she was already working with her staffs in Seoul?
# A proper trip, real Korea
Sun-Mi Oh I had many worries as Chinese marketing was something that I was not taught by somebody else. I was thinking ‘won’t it work by applying the online marketing I have been doing in Korea to China?’ and thought of on how to approach this. Then I decided to post on blogs with videos the contents about Korean trips. And when I did this for a year, I had a meeting with the staffs and said let’s do a real business this time as the past works were about understanding the Chinese market. We were thinking based on our experience throughout the years on what the Chinese people need and thought of an efficient item that would help the travel pattern of the Chinese tourist, which was shopping.
This was a business item that could help the tourists who spend all their time in buying gifts to have their trip more like a tour. I researched if there was any business that has the same system and Xiamen, an island in China (island that has similar features with Jeju) started this kind of system already with good results. China definitely has this need. So it would be great to have this in Jeju! That was the first time I thought of Jeju Island. We would like to research more and refine the ideas while staying in Jeju as well as making contents while filming around the place. So that’s how I get to apply for Jeju Daum.
With the Jeju Daum participants on July – Gimnyeong beach / 2017
Her stay in Jeju for a month in July has not only helped her business but must have developed it as well. She returned to this place with Bae Myung Ok again.
Sun-Mi Oh I saw the potential while staying at Jeju Daum in July. I was convinced that my business suits this place. In August, I was in Seoul organizing the documents and wanted to build an infrastructure in Jeju. So I applied again. I also participated in the ‘Pitching Day’ in August at this place (Jeju Center for Creative Economy and Innovation). I pitched my business item and thankfully I was selected as the excellent idea and became an ’incubator company’ of the Creative Economy and Innovation Center starting from September 1st. I think I have confirmed the possibility on this business enough.
CEO Oh Sun Mi pitching about her business item at the August ‘Pitching Day’
- Jeju Center for Creative Economy and Innovation / 2017
# Lying at the café in Jeju
Share Korea has three employees and one of them visited Jeju at the mid of July. And I also saw that you occasionally contact each other and work continuously. Some of them were working apart from the rest, basically remote working. I wonder if there were any difficulties while you were in Jeju.
Sun-Mi Oh In my case, we need materials and contents about Jeju. To stay in Seoul and travel to Jeju for work causes issue on expenses as there is no accommodation or an office. But thanks to Jeju Daum, where they provide office and an accommodation, it is more efficient as I only have to pay for the plane ticket. That was the greatest advantage for me to participate in Jeju Daum.
In the case of remote working, we may be able to do this because it is a small organization. But our roles have become clearer while working over the past years. Even without my involvement, we get to do our own work within a fixed period of time. We can work without being in the same space because the work is done in a regular order. For example, if Myung Ok shoots in Jeju and shares the file, Young Seong (head of video contents) in Seoul receives and edits it. In the meantime, Myung Ok plans the next story and works on additional subtitles as well as posting. It proceeded efficiently without any problems or restrictions while I was in Jeju. In fact, when I first founded the Share Korea, Myung Ok and I worked in cafes at Gangnam. We had this regular café we went to and we were the first customer every day. After that, I got an office, but I used to work while travelling a lot, so it seems that my work in Jeju is working well.
She was already working in her own way at Seoul. I asked if there was any merit that only Jeju has or something that it is possible because it was Jeju
Sun-Mi Oh First of all, I rented a car on weekends and went to Aewol to eat, drink tea and worked at cafes. I was able to concentrate very well.
With the employees of Share Korea ;
from left CEO Oh Sun Mi, manager Bae Myung Ok, employee Jung Young Seong– Jeju Eco Land / 2017
She meant that she worked and travelled at the same time. Obviously, it is something that is difficult to find in Seoul and also it was a figure of a digital nomad that we often talk about. Bae Myung Ok, who was sitting right next to me from the middle of the interview, also said a word.
Myung-Ok Bae The prerequisite is to sleep there. We lay down and slept at the café. It was really good.
Sun-Mi Oh The work was better after resting. The efficiency went up. Myung Ok also said that it was possible because it was Jeju and that it was really good. I stayed alone at the pension in Aewol during August and I got to talk to the owner of that pension about my job while having a conversation. Then he said that he is also working with China and wanted to talk with me. So we talked while having a tea and naturally I got a cooperative company. I think Jeju has many cases such as this. When you tell them I do this kind of work and then the counterpart would say ‘Oh, I do this kind of work too. We could this part together!’ This process and connection works really well. I go to play and travel and then also make a business partner. It was really good to be introduced by another introduction.
It may be difficult to start a meeting in Jeju but when that connection is made, I felt that it was very much different from the ‘temporary meetings’ in Seoul. The more I listen to her story, the business mind or the item she brought and the working method of Share Korea get along well with Jeju.
Sun-Mi Oh Since the company is small and is used to taking care of its own work, we only have one meeting in a month. When we have the main schedule on what we will do for this month, we take care of our own tasks. You manage on what you need to do and organize your own schedule without anyone interfering.
I had a strong affirmation to this story because I think this is the figure of a digital nomad. Building your own working pattern by yourself.
Sun-Mi Oh I think remote working and digital nomad is possible once you are able to do that.
With the Jeju Daum participants of September – Ganderak Guesthouse / 2017
# Special time in Jeju Island
As of the interview date, there is only two weeks left on her stay. It could be a long period of time if you say so and short if short. For the last question I asked if she has anything to achieve personally or from the standpoint of the company.
Sun-Mi Oh Uhm, nothing personal for the moment. Company’s goal is my personal goal. The goal is to build many networks related to the business we are working on. Of course, the thing I want to do the most is to eat Jjamppong at Mirado! The jjampong I ate in Mirado with Myung Ok was so good that I decided to go back in September. Also I realized in my visit on last July, there were so many places in Jeju that I did not know when I came here as a tourist. I want to share and introduce those places to people. If you come to Jeju, I would recommend you to try out Jjamppong and sweet and sour pork at Mirado first. It would only take two hours to go there! Oh, and you must go to the Songak(san) mountain Dulle-gil Trail.
She was mentioning about going back to Mirado with such a happy face. So I told her to join me next time. I was going to ask for more questions but ended the interview here. Isn’t the ending just like Jeju? What always need to be presented in the process of work, mindset or product is recharging. Having enough time to rest and charging oneself to accomplish the goal is the charm and gift of remote working in Jeju Island.