|Hyundai Motor will on Oct. 12 and 19 offer special services, including souvenirs with writing by Korean calligraphy experts, to celebrate Hangeul Day, which falls on Wednesday. (Hyundai Motor)|
It turns out that Chung Mong-koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, is a devoted aficionado of the Korean language.
At his company, the nation’s top carmaker and the fifth-largest in the world, there is an 80-page handbook that has been passed down to the current generation, meant to be read and committed to memory by all Hyundai employees.
While some of the pages have been digitized for online distribution, the handbook remains largely in hardcopy.
The main content of the volume is the precise Korean pronunciation of foreign terms, mostly English ones. The names of parts and components, rival cars and even marketing terms were meticulously analyzed and catalogued to make up this book.
It was essentially compiled by Hyundai Motor employees, but for credibility, numerous Korean language and linguistics experts were asked to serve as consultants.
“This was the Hangeul bible for Hyundai, and it was referred to countless times by the staff, especially those working closely with the chairman,” said one source close to the company.
For instance, in Korean, words like “concept” ― which is used on numerous occasions at carmakers that regularly roll out “concept cars” ― can be spelled in several different ways. Hyundai, however, decided to allow only a single method after consulting experts.
The Korean pronunciation of the names of rival cars and brands, such as RAV4 and Mazda, also was carefully thought out and included in the reference book.
However, the trend may change under Hyundai’s Vice Chairman Eui-son, 44, who will soon be inheriting the auto empire from his father Chung Mong-koo.
The younger Chung, who was educated both in Korea and abroad, is likely to be more favorable toward foreign trends and customs, including language.
“Things may change drastically over the next three to five years, especially since the younger Chung has already made it clear he would be using English more and more when he takes the helm,” said another source who declined to be identified.
Further, the number of foreign employees is also likely to rise. Currently, less than 1 percent of Hyundai’s 60,000 workers are foreign. One very conspicuous example is Peter Schreyer, who heads Hyundai and Kia’s design department.
All this would not mean a reduction in Hyundai’s love for the Korean language. It would simply mean there would be an inevitable generation change at one of the most traditional companies in the nation, a change that may start at the language the employees speak at the office.
By Kim Ji-hyun (email@example.com)