Agatha working on her work computer and another photo with her co-workers

Traveling from Screens to Teams: How Korean Variety Shows Improved My Communication with Korean Lexcodians

Agatha A. | 

June 26, 2024

“Hana, dul, set!” Just like a toddler learning to navigate the world, I learned how to count from one to three, which was one of my first Korean phrases. However, building stable relationships within the company proved to be far more complex than simple counting. This journey required not only language skills but also a deep understanding of cultural nuances and effective communication strategies. As my fascination with “Running Man” grew, little did I know that it would eventually play a pivotal role in my professional journey.

When I hit rock bottom during my college days in 2019, I found solace and joy in a Korean variety show called “Running Man.” Initially, I watched it casually for fun, enjoying the sight of seven to eight individuals undertaking extraordinary missions in each episode. As time went on, this casual pastime turned into a meaningful escape, providing comfort and mirth during tough times as I, too, became attached to the members’ relationship, which had been ongoing for almost a decade. When the pandemic hit, I had the opportunity to binge-watch over 480 episodes of the show. Through this experience, I unintentionally absorbed a wealth of knowledge about South Korean culture, traditions, and social norms, even though my primary motivation was simply entertainment. 

Fast forward to 2022, watching the newly released episodes every Monday has become my routine. In my quest to escape unemployment, the stars aligned to allow me to stumble upon Lexcode, a South Korean translation and localization company, on LinkedIn. Things got better—they welcomed me, a fresh graduate, and offered me the opportunity to grow with them, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter in my professional journey. The company warmly embraced me, extending opportunities for professional growth and development.

At first, working as a project assistant for Lexcode was not a smooth ride. No one had been specifically trained for the tasks required, nor did we have degrees tailored to the job. It was a roller coaster of trial and error as I learned the skills needed for the role. Much like the missions on the variety show I loved, it took multiple attempts to achieve success. One of the most challenging aspects was gaining the trust of my Korean counterparts and building healthy, open relationships with our project leaders. Undoubtedly, language barriers significantly hinder effective communication, which is why it may seem a bit difficult to interact with someone who does not speak your native language. However, barriers will remain unless people try to break and understand them.

As days went by during my training, what initially seemed difficult began to feel more natural. Watching and observing how Koreans interact in variety shows more or less helped me understand my Korean counterparts’ communication styles, needs, concerns, and preferences better. Working closely with them and my teammates, I navigated my probationary period with flying colors. I realized that what I thought was just my entertainment consumption had inadvertently equipped me with the skills and cultural understanding needed to power through my career. Just like the research by Fang et al. (2023), it has been demonstrated that variety shows such as “Running Man” can subconsciously promote familiarity with and comprehension of Korean culture and social norms. This cultural immersion became a foundation that significantly enhanced my communication skills with my Korean colleagues, allowing me to connect with them on a deeper level and build stronger relationships. I’ve come to believe that just because it’s not serious and labeled as “educational,” it doesn’t mean you won’t gain anything. 

From learning basic Korean phrases to navigating complex relationships, I realized that every experience, no matter how small, can shape our professional journey. With this, we had the opportunity to meet one of our project leaders, Lee Chaehyun, in person when she visited the Philippines in 2023. Even though our interactions with her had primarily been online, our team quickly formed a strong bond with her as we got to know her on a personal level during her brief visit. Likewise, our relationships with other project leaders, whom we have yet to meet in person, are also undeniably positive. This is largely due to the open communication we have cultivated within the team, ensuring transparency and seamless assistance with our tasks as project assistants. In the same year, I had the opportunity to attend the fan meeting of “Running Man” in our country as well, which had been postponed for three years because of the pandemic.  

Agatha showing off her personal achievements and a group photo with the team and the CEO.

As I reflected on my journey, it’s clear that the unexpected twists and turns have led me to invaluable experiences and profound growth. From immersing myself in the world of variety shows to navigating the challenges of building relationships with Korean counterparts at Lexcode, each step has shaped my professional journey in ways I never anticipated. What began as a simple pastime transformed into a source of cultural understanding and inspiration, ultimately fueling my success in the workplace. 

As I continue to forge connections and overcome obstacles, I am reminded of the buoyancy and determination that have propelled me forward; meeting our project leader in person, attending the long-awaited fan meeting, and embracing the opportunities for growth within Lexcode have solidified my passion for bridging cultural divides and fostering meaningful connections. As I look toward the future, I am grateful for the lessons learned and excited for the adventures that lie ahead as I now transition to becoming an international project manager. 

References:

(1) Fang, Y., et al. (2023). The influence of Korean Variety Shows on Korean learners, International Journal
of Education and Humanities, ISSN: 2770-6702 | Vol. 8, No. 2, 2023.
Retrieved from Darcy & Roy Press: https://drpress.org/ojs/index.php/ijeh/article/view/7813/7600 

Traveling from Screens to Teams: How Korean Variety Shows Improved My Communication with Korean Lexcodians

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