I had the pleasure of participating in the 2017 LG Press Tour which took place in South Korea. The purpose of the trip was to immerse regional media in company culture and introduce the latest innovations from the LG Home Appliances division. By providing exclusive access to key personnel, facilities and premium tourism, LG has set the bar for press trips unbelievably high.
“Your chauffeur is here to collect you”; the message that appeared on my phone at 11:41 pm on July 23rd. I walked out of my building to find a chauffeur driven, black BMW 520i with a shimmering, gold Emirates logo on the front door. The car was waiting to take me to Dubai International Airport – a courtesy extended to Business Class passengers by the airline. I arrived safely and checked in with about an hour to spare so I made my way up to the Business Class Lounge. There was a full buffet flanked by transparent bottles of sparkling and still VOSS water, fresh juices and an assortment of desserts. A dimly lit dining area filled one half of the floor while clusters of plush seating areas consumed the remaining space. I grabbed a bottle of water and found a quiet set of high-back leather chairs to relax. I didn’t do much else. I just sat there wondering what else was to come given that that trip was off to such a great start and I hadn’t even left the UAE yet.
I boarded a notoriously famous A380 and for the first time in my life, walked upstairs on an airplane to find my seat. Once comfortably situated, I accepted a glass of champagne to commemorate the moment. For the remainder of the flight, I enjoyed the abundance of space, flatbed seats, unlimited Wi-Fi and binge watched Season 1 of Queen Sugar.
A Warm Welcome
Although I had no idea with whom I was traveling nor any way to make a local phone call, I de-boarded the plane with all of the confidence in the world. I cleared the winding maze of lines at Customs and made my way through baggage claim. As I emerged from the departures tunnel into a brightly lit gallery, a woman dressed in a beautiful, floor length dress made of silky pastel colors caught my eye. She was wearing traditional South Korean attire called hanbok and she was also holding a sign that read, “LG Press Tour Welcome“. As I approached her, another woman greeted me warmly, by name. It was Aruem Choi, our translator and most valuable resource during the trip.
Aruem handed me a badge with my name printed on it, Tamara Clark, sans the ‘e’, and showed me to the area where other media were already gathered. Then, she directed me to a photographer to have my picture taken. A photo? I was taken aback. After a nearly nine hour flight, I wasn’t ready to have my photo taken while still wearing yesterday’s clothes but I went with it. I freshened my lipstick without a mirror, hand brushed wrinkles out of my shirt, smoothed the strands of hair cascading over my shoulders and smiled for the camera. After we were all assembled at the meeting point, we exited the airport and boarded a luxurious coach. I slid into an oversized, window seat covered in tan leather and placed my backpack in the seat next to me. I watched the city of Seoul sparkle against the night sky as we drove to dinner and then on to the Conrad Hotel where we stayed for two nights.
The first official day of the tour started with a three hour press conference at LG Twin Tower. which included product presentations and an introduction to LG Group and LG Electronics. Ken Hong, Senior Director of Global Communications, kicked things off with a short history lesson. I learned lots of interesting tidbits like the fact that LG’s roots are in chemical. In 1958, Lak-Hui Chemical (pronounced “Lucky”) established GoldStar, which went on to produce its first Korean radio in 1959, its first refrigerator in 1965 and its first TV in 1966. Then, in 1995, the company re-branded as Lak-Hui GoldStar which eventually became LG Electronics. Most people would erroneously attribute the acronym, LG, to the company’s marketing slogan, Life’s Good. However, it runs much deeper than that and is actually a derivative of the company’s legal name.
After the press conference we toured one of their highest performing retail stores in Seoul. The LG Best Shop had everything you can imagine from mobile, to air conditioners to the new LG Signature Collection of appliances under one roof. We were able to see product demonstrations and take photos/video.
The remainder of the day was spent on tourist attractions and shopping in the Insadong district. We visited N. Seoul Tower which has several LG OLED display installations including an OLED Tunnel comprised of 55-inch curved displays that show welcome messages as you walk through it. I enjoyed breathtaking views of Seoul from the four levels of observation decks inside the tower and marveled at how tickled I felt walking pass Hello Kitty Island.
My most memorable experience at N Seoul Tower was our photo shoot in national attire. I walked into a dressing area that was overflowing with colorful silk and chiffon pieces; the clothing racks packed with full bodied skirts and coordinating bolero-styled tops barely left enough space to walk inside. A girl working the attraction helped me to get dress by tying the straps on the garment in intricate patterns. I emerged fully transformed and took at seat at the hair and makeup booth. I didn’t expect much to be done to my hair. In fact, my sitting there was akin to a social experiment. The girls were puzzled but I quickly let them off the hook by requesting that they forego styling and only pin a flower crown on my head. Once we were all adorned we sat for photos against Korean themed backdrops.
The second day commenced with an executive interview at LG Twin Tower. Mr. Scott Jung, Head of MEA/Asia Sales and Marketing Function Division, LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company, took questions from the group. He explained LG’s revolutionary inverter technology in their new DUALCOOL air conditioners and stressed the importance of the products for this region. He went on, noting that the top three buying factors for Middle East consumers are durability, fast cooling and energy savings – the basis upon which DUALCOOL is developed.
After the interview, we drove about an hour to the Gimpo Airport where we were issued tickets by Korean Air for a flight to Gimhae. I stood in line patiently waiting to check in and then it hit me – my name might be spelled incorrectly on the ticket. Flashes of my name badge, place card and the envelope holding my hotel room keys with my last name spelled, C-L-A-R-K with no E, ran through my head. Just as I had simmered my internal panic enough to speak, the attendant called me over to check in. I presented my passport and just as I’d thought, it did not match the spelling of my name on the ticket. I waved for one of the LG associates traveling with us and explained the situation. He spoke to the airline attendant briefly in Korean, and she handed me the ticket and checked my bag. They told me that I would likely be questioned about the mismatch at every check point but assured me that all was well. A small crisis had been averted. I’m positive that things would not have gone so smoothly flying domestically in my home country so I was pleasantly surprised by everyone’s ability to swiftly resolve the situation with a positive outcome.
In about an hours time we were on the ground in Gimhae and headed to Changwon for a factory tour. As an American, my idea of a factory – and factory workers – is mired by the politics associated with the industry. First, there’s not much manufacturing done in America today. Some time ago, there was a paradigm shift towards offshore manufacturing. Consequently, I had never been inside a live factory or known anyone as an adult who did factory work. Furthermore, in America you tend to only hear news about factories when they’re related to scandal so the perceptions that we have are often dated and out of touch.
So when I thought about the factory tour, I envisioned an extremely hot, expansive space with poor air quality and the smell of metal permeating everything. I anticipated jumpsuits, protective gear and more machinery than people but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Witnessing the washing machine line at the Changwon Factory corrected every notion I had about factories and gave me great insight into how LG works.
There were more people working the lines than I had imagined and there was a good mix of men and women. There seemed to be a casual dress code with no uniforms and minimal protective gear as needed. It wasn’t unbearably hot and the stations (people) were close together. I could see how essential teamwork was in that environment. The people were the heart of the operation. Automation was pretty much exclusively used for lifting and transporting pieces from station to station. And, there were auto bots moving along tracks on the floor proving that LG uses as much technology to make its products as it puts in them. As a technology professional and consumer it was comforting to see all of the efforts around ensuring quality. Every 200th washing machine is removed from the line, unpackaged and thoroughly checked for quality assurance. Following the factory tour we went back to Gimhae airport and flew to Jeju Island, Korea’s most coveted domestic holiday destination.
With its volcanic landscape, variety of excursions and expansive beach resorts, Jeju Island was the perfect place to unwind and experience South Korea. From this point forward LG treated us to a host of wonderful experiences. We started the day sailing on the Shangri-La yacht with the option to fish. Then, we visited the exquisite Yakchunsa Temple followed by an ATV ride through the island’s lush countryside. There were so many notable moments as we moved about exploring the country. I mentioned before how invaluable Aruem was. I remember entering the temple and making eye contact with two Korean ladies. We bowed to each other and I continued inside to take in the beauty surrounding me. Aruem doubled her steps, stopped alongside me and whispered, “How do you wash your hair?” Since we’d been together all day during bus rides, flights and meals, I thought the timing of the question was odd, but I answered. As soon as I was done explaining, she darted off quickly and I watched her go over to the ladies I had greeted on the way in to translate my answer. In that moment, I understood what had happened. Because of the language barrier, they approached her with a question about me and because LG had the forethought to provide the group with a translator, that small, but significant piece of cultural exchange was possible.We wrapped up the day with a private farewell dinner.
LG also commissioned a professional photographer who moved with us throughout the tour capturing moments that may have been lost otherwise. It was such an invaluable service as I now have a comprehensive photo diary of the trip. We didn’t have to wait a long time to receive the photos either. Many of them had been compiled into a slide show that was played during the farewell dinner. Before departing for home, we were each given an 8 GB LG Smart USB containing all of the photos.
We casually walked into the private dining room at Peninsula restaurant located within a 5 star resort hotel on Jeju Island. We expected great food, impeccable ambiance and excellent service like we’d had the entire trip but we were surprised to have assigned seats. Each place setting included a custom made clock with each of our faces on them. Those little pops of colorful, personalized art pieces were indeed a pleasant surprise. I found my place and when I looked at the clock more closely I realized that the picture on it was a replica of that first, “awful” photo that I had taken at the airport upon arrival. How’s that for forethought and planning? LG truly did plan and execute a wonderful trip with attention paid to the smallest of details.
On our last day, we slept in a little later than usual then made our way to the O’ Sulloc Tea Museum where we had a private tea brewing session. We learned about brewing and serving tea, Korean customs and blends unique to Jeju. After the session we were free to roam the property, visit the tea fields and shop. Jeju is know for its indigenous tea blends and natural cosmetics. I came away with a sampler pack of tea and a pack of face masks.
For last minute souvenir shopping we stopped by Lotte Mall where I perused a Toys R Us for Korean toys and deliberated over prices of soju. I bought Tobots, the Korean version of Transformers, for my kids and delayed my soju purchase until the airport.
The LG 2017 Press Tour was AMAZING. I learned a lot more about how the company works, from the inside out. It was packed with experiences of a lifetime, culinary adventures, luxurious escapes and best of all, it was very well organized. LG coordinated the itinerary from Dubai to Korea and then to two destinations within South Korea, flawlessly. I was drawn to a banner hanging across the factory building that read, “Be first, Do it right, Work smart!”, and LG Electronics certainly lives up to the spirit of that statement.