Friday, July 17, 2015

On Asia’s Flights, Potentially Dangerous Mistakes Go Unreported 

Many incidents aren’t logged, increasing risk as the Asian aviation market booms

Locals in Mumbai, India, watch as a Jet Airways plane prepares to land at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Jet Airways is India’s second-largest airline, and part of an accelerating growth trend for carriers across Asia.ENLARGE
Locals in Mumbai, India, watch as a Jet Airways plane prepares to land at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Jet Airways is India’s second-largest airline, and part of an accelerating growth trend for carriers across Asia. PHOTO: DHIRAJ SINGH/BLOOMBERG
Last year, an Indian Jet Airways Boeing 777 accidentally dropped 2,500 feet while its captain was asleep and its co-pilot was absorbed in her tablet device. It was a serious mishap known as an “altitude bust” that put the plane in the wrong part of the sky where it could have collided with another jet.
The pilots and airline never reported the incident to authorities. Word only reached India’s Director General of Civil Aviation a few days later when an anonymous tipster alerted officials.
Jet Airways suspended the captain and co-pilot after regulators opened an investigation. An airline spokesman said “appropriate corrective training” was provided. The pilots’ names weren’t released.
A Wall Street Journal analysis of flight data and interviews with pilots, air-traffic controllers and aviation experts reveals patterns that indicate many other similar incidents are going unreported across the fast-accelerating Asian aviation market. In terms of annual passenger numbers, India and Indonesia both grew more than 200% during the last decade and China over 300%.
According to the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization, Asia had 39.2 million departures in 2013, compared with 35.66 million in Europe and 51.49 million in North America. Though North America still has more departures, Asia is now the world’s largest market by annual passenger counts, according to the International Air Transport Association.
Such volume raises fears across the aviation industry that Asia’s booming markets may be blind to certain risks—both in the air and on the ground.
Safety is becoming a bigger concern in the region after several disasters. They include Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March 2014 with all 239 passengers and crew presumed dead. AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed in December after leaving Surabaya, Indonesia, killing all 162 on board. TransAsia Airways Flight 235 went down soon after takeoff in Taipei in February, killing 43
Without proper accounting, experts say, airlines can’t learn from mistakes and regulators can’t properly assess safety risks. Even smaller incidents—like component failures and near misses on the runway—are key bellwethers for major crashes. Left undocumented, botched procedures are left to grow endemic.
Lack of transparency
The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets global standards for national regulators, compiles the industry’s most-trusted database of accidents and other major incidents. But it says it doubts its results for Asia fully reflect reality—except when it comes to fatal accidents which are hard to hide.
That is all the more important considering the special nature of the aviation industry, which relies on information-sharing and transparency to ensure public safety. Careful attention to even minor details has helped boost safety considerably in recent years, though concerns remain in areas where rapid growth is putting strains on infrastructure.
Consider Indonesia. About three million commercial-jet flights took off in the country over the last five years, roughly the same as Australia, according to ICAO data. During that period Indonesia had 28 major accidents—a category that includes deadly crashes or severely-damaged planes—compared with five in Australia. The tallies suggest higher risks in Indonesian airspace.
Yet when it comes to incidents that don’t involve fatalities, the statistics tell a different story.
Indonesia reported only 13 serious incidents over the half-decade for big passenger aircraft, versus Australia’s 58, ICAO data showed. Serious incidents include events that come close to causing death or injury, which are mandatory to report under ICAO rules. For less serious incidents, which the ICAO recommends countries report, but aren’t mandatory, Indonesia logged five compared with Australia’s 74. Such incidents include flying too low or too fast, drifting into the wrong airspace, engine failure or smoke in the cockpit.
A report prepared by carrier Garuda Indonesia for a safety conference in 2012 found several near misses across the country that weren’t reported to the ICAO. They include an incident on the ground in which a Lion Air plane missed a Garuda Indonesia jet by three meters. In another case, stairs were blown off a Garuda plane by blasts from a passing jet engine as passengers were about to disembark.
A Garuda spokesman said these events were investigated internally, and reported to the country’s airworthiness directorate. A Garuda internal report found neither “violation nor negligence” and no staff were suspended or punished, or safety procedures changed, the spokesman said. Lion Air didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The head of safety for Indonesia’s air traffic control authority, Wisnu Darjono, told The Wall Street Journal the country doesn’t report ground incidents to the ICAO unless planes crash into each other. It only reports near misses in air when they trigger collision avoidance warnings in aircraft, which happens when planes are 40 seconds away from colliding.
In more advanced ICAO member states like Europe, the protocols are different. Any incident between two planes that requires an avoidance maneuver, or where the plane’s separation is less than half of what it should be, is treated as a serious incident and reported to the ICAO.
The ICAO has “recognized (underreporting) as an issue” and is seeking ways to improve data collection, including tracking media reports of incidents that may not have been officially reported, said Anthony Philbin, a spokesman for the U.N. agency. The agency uses its incident reports to help set safety guidelines for the industry.
A large, crumpled piece of AsiaAir flight 8501 rests on the deck of an Indonesian rescue ship. The tail section of the doomed plane was fished out of the Java sea weeks after it crashed on December 28, 2014.ENLARGE
A large, crumpled piece of AsiaAir flight 8501 rests on the deck of an Indonesian rescue ship. The tail section of the doomed plane was fished out of the Java sea weeks after it crashed on December 28, 2014. PHOTO: ACHMAD IBRAHIM/AP
Using ICAO data, The Wall Street Journal found that China, compared with the U.S., reported only 6% as many nonfatal accidents and incidents to the ICAO for the last five years of complete data, ending in 2013. But during that time, China operated 26% as many flights as the U.S.—indicating a much lower reporting rate in some categories. However, results during the period were different for Chinese airlines flying abroad, where they are under the jurisdiction of foreign regulators. Those flights were 9.3 times more likely to be reported to the ICAO for accidents and incidents than when flying at home.
As a whole, Asia had 84 minor incidents for scheduled commercial flights over the last five full years of ICAO data, compared with 356 in Europe and 145 in North America. Yet there were 31 fatal crashes involving large passenger jets in Asia during that period, compared with 12 in Europe and 6 in North America. Again, such figures suggest underreporting.
Africa and Latin America also have a major problem with underreporting, experts say. Africa tends to have a higher accident rate per capita than Asia, as well. Fatality rates per 1 million departures for large commercial passenger aircraft from 2009 through 2013 were 123.7 for Africa, 29.9 for Asia, 5.1 for Europe 18.5 for Latin America and the Caribbean, and 1.2 for North America, according to the ICAO.
But Asia’s aviation industry is far bigger and is expected to grow more quickly. In the next 20 years, Asia is expected to spend more on new planes than the U.S. and Europe combined, according to Boeing and Airbus, while potentially introducing millions of people to air travel for the first time.
Part of the problem is that reporting methods vary widely around the world. Most countries are signatories to a 1944 Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation that requires national regulators to conduct investigations into accidents reported by airlines and others and provide their findings to the ICAO’s head office in Montreal.
But there are variations from country to country. The ICAO has limited enforcement powers if some carriers or regulators decide not to report everything. Sometimes national regulators may be aware of problematic incidents but don’t bother alerting the ICAO, experts say.
Harsh penalties
Another concern is that Asian nations have a history of stiff punishments for people involved in safety incidents—a disincentive for employees to speak up when mistakes occur.
After a Henan Airlines crash in 2010 that killed 44, the captain, who survived, was jailed.
Harsh penalties are less common in the U.S., which uses a confidential national reporting system that guarantees aviation employees won’t be punished by the Federal Aviation Administration if they report air-safety incidents within 10 days—unless the violators were deliberately negligent or inebriated. U.S. carriers have similar systems in-house that keep reporters’ names confidential from airline managers.
Since 1979, the U.S.’s national confidential reporting program has processed over a million anonymous tips. It published 4,565 incident reports last year.
By contrast, Mike O’Neill, president of the Hong Kong Air Traffic Controllers Association, said that he has never heard of a controller voluntarily reporting an error or accident. With the threat of punishment, Asia air-traffic controllers “have no idea what their future holds if they have an accident,” he said.
With guidance from U.S. regulators, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, China and Singapore set up confidential reporting systems between 1999 and 2004. But safety officials say those attempts largely failed because aviation workers weren’t guaranteed immunity from fines or jail time. The systems, they say, also weren’t properly promoted.
Since it was established in 2004, the Sino Confidential Aviation Safety reporting System in China has averaged only around 22 published reports a year.
Hung-Sying Jing, an aviation expert at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, said he believes Western-style safety systems haven’t been adapted to the realities of a Chinese workplace, where a culture of saving face makes it hard to report mistakes.
A spokeswoman for China’s Research Institute of Civil Aviation, which is affiliated with the aviation regulator, said the aviation administration doesn’t offer immunity from punishment for those who report problems. But it does collate the reports, protects the personal information of those who report problems and encourages aviation workers to share information.
An official at the Korea Transportation Safety Authority said they promote their confidential reporting system through newsletters which are distributed to airlines, aviation organizations and individuals. The system published 49 reports in 2014, its website shows.
The Taiwan Confidential Aviation Safety Reporting system received only 17 voluntary reports last year, according to a spokesperson. Taiwanese officials said a new law strengthening immunity for those reporting safety breaches was finally passed in November last year.
In Japan, officials said their system has fared better, receiving around 100 reports from pilots last year. However, until recently the system only accepted reports from pilots. After an ICAO request, the system was upgraded to allow reports from air-traffic controllers and other aviation workers in July 2014, they said.
The importance of careful reporting has been evident for years. In 1974, TWA Flight 514 collided with a mountaintop en route to Washington, D.C., after the pilots became confused about landing instructions, killing all 92 on board. Six weeks earlier a United Airlines flight had made a similar mistake, narrowly avoiding a crash. But the pilots had only reported the incident internally to their airline, which had warned only its own staff—but not alerted the FAA. That spurred development of the U.S.’s confidential reporting system, which also offered reporting persons immunity from fines and suspensions.
Shawn Pruchniki, a former commercial pilot with now-defunct Delta Air Lines subsidiary Comair, said reports from pilots jumped around 65% once confidentiality protections were put in place at his carrier.
He recalled a case in which two pilots from Comair reported accidental descents due to new lighting around a mural of horses and farmland under the approach path to Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport. The new lights, the pilots said, looked similar to navigation aids.
A warning was immediately issued and emergency radio contact was made with flights en route to the airport. A spokesman for the airport said the lights weren’t the problem and that the mural had been included in the FAA’s airports directory, at the airport’s request. The lights were replaced a few days after the incident.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

top 200 commentsshow all 270
[–]PM_N_TELL_ME_ABOUT_U 72 points  
This is exactly why I don't work in Korea. LPT: find a foreign company (preferably American) office there and it will be much better.
[–]throwaway_koffice[S] 49 points  
Yeah, if I can get into an American company here then I will try. Sounds so much better in that way. I have friends that work for such a company and when I described mine they couldn't relate at all 'cause they all take off at 5 on the dot.
[–]dolfjewolfje 46 points  
Belgian tv did a short show about Korean life, work ethics among others. It's basically what you just described. You're expected to do ridicilous amounts of overtime. After work it's time to get wasted and we're talking WASTED here. Hope you can recover well though, cause tomorrow's another day of 10+ hours of work.
My advice: Don't push yourself to the limit. Korean suicide numbers are insanely large, partially due the inhuman standards described in your posts. Employers even organize workshops for suicide prevention. Think of 'lay here in a coffin for 30 minutes to think about your life and why it's good/bad'.
Work life is gonna 'suck' in one way or another, almost by definition. It can always be better/worse. Question is, can you sustain this?
[–]the_real_chronos 2 points  
Got a link? Was the short in english?
[–]dolfjewolfje 2 points  
The show was mainly spoken in Dutch, with the occasional english spoken with the locals. A quick google search didn't show me anything, thouhg I'll try again later.
[–]WC_EEND 1 point  
Reizen Waes?
[–]dolfjewolfje 1 point  
[–]randylaheyjr 263 points  
Koreans are taught at a very young age to basically worship their elders, no matter what said leader might be like.
The drinking part is sickening and should be illegal, it's no wonder the rate of alcoholism is so high there. Your boss edging you to drink with him is just gross, and completely unprofessional.
However, I guess when everyone is tired and depressed from working almost all day 7 days a week, they turn to booze to feel better.
What does your husband say about this?
[–]throwaway_koffice[S] 145 points  
It feels alien to me. It feels like everyone is part of some crazy cult and is afraid to question it openly even if you can tell they think it's bullshit. The funny thing is that no one has out and said "you should work more overtime", it's only been hinted at indirectly.
I believe it's because they refuse to acknowledge it's unpaid overtime just like they refuse to acknowledge that they're not that busy. They know that if they address it directly then the whole charade will fall apart so they just "noonchi" each other (and me) to death. Logic isn't really part of this whole equation.
What does your husband say about this?
He agrees with all of it and he's been mostly exempt from it his entire adult life. He's a professional and works solo most of the time and he worked in a relaxed office atmosphere during his military service.
We're talking about going moving to the US and we keep on agreeing that I need to tough it out at least a year longer so we'll have enough of a nest egg saved up (and to beef up my resume). A year doesn't sound too bad on paper but I get so much stress from this in my day to day life that I'm half considering going back to teaching.
[–]tealparadise 95 points  
.I believe it's because they refuse to acknowledge it's unpaid overtime just like they refuse to acknowledge that they're not that busy.
This part at least is just like Japan. To a certain extent they truly believe they ARE busy. They've soaked in this incredibly inefficient way of doing everything that takes ten times longer, just to fill the hours. But they literally don't know how to work quickly because they learned this method. Like, I bet they show every piece of work to at least three other people so it can get group approval before they submit it. Whenever someone visits the office everyone does a welcoming ceremony, no matter who it is. Meetings meetings meetings.... All stuff you don't really participate in, and as a result you actually get your work done and they don't. But they consider all the useless crap part of "work" while you don't, so to them you really do have less work.
I only worked two years in Japan because I was sick of the (admittedly not as bad) work culture. Like, sorry it took you two full days to write this report. I did my part in two hours and I'm going home. Keep your comments to yourself.
[–]woxihuan 23 points  
And Taiwan. Same here.
[–]rndmnck 21 points  
Pretty much all of East Asia. As a westerner, they're a blast when you're young and just teach English, or if you are serious about it and stay in that field in a position that isn't entry level, but for working age adults in pretty much any salary field, it's a nightmare.
[–]woxihuan 6 points  
Yeah, I came over here to work on my teaching skills because the market at home is dead. I'm 28, and not just here to party, and stayed in the same place for two years. After my first year, I made the same salary and had the the vacation time as the lifers. Not fair for teachers, either. You dead end really fast, and I saw many employees of five years or more get fired so the schools could give younger people positions! Eeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrgh
[–]rndmnck 1 point  
Yup. I think that's why many give up. If you want to be a lifer, you either go the route of the OP, which I think would be really tough for most of us to deal with or invest extra time and money to develop better skills to stand out from the others. This may mean getting a master's in TEFL or something similar. If you're open to location and really want to be a teacher in something other than TEFL, you can study education back home, teach for a few years, then apply for international schools. Those are supposedly often really good jobs, but of course, there are few international schools and you'll have to wait for an opening in the subject you specialized in at one of them. There are always a few foreigner friendly jobs outside of teaching English, but I think most of them too are often dead-end, may pay lower than teaching for the amount of work, etc.
[–]DangTheDuck 6 points  
Wow this really opened my eyes about the Asian work culture, but is there anything positive about it?
[–]Glittery_Pickle 13 points  
I can't speak for all Asian countries. Usually the end of year bonus exceeds your your salary, but you have to be with the company the whole year to get it.
[–]woxihuan 7 points  
Taiwanese people are the friendliest and most laid back in general. Just working is weird because they follow the lead of other countries, same with schools. But outside of work, I don't know how many times a random Taiwanese family has helped me. My friends over here were mostly Taiwanese, too, because they were less fickle and more thoughtful than the average 22 year old foreigner.
So, while the job kinda sucks, the people are awesome, and the kids, man. The kids rock. I had to say goodbye to mine last week and it was the worst sad I've ever felt. I taught those little guys to read and write and make jokes and argue with me and write stories... Oh, I cry.
[–]brendan0077 2 points  
To a certain extent they truly believe they ARE busy
This is exactly it right here. I am working in rural Japan right now, and I can't tell you how many times I've walked into the city hall and seen people working weekends "overtime", playing solitaire on their computers (work ethic might be different between the big cities and rural countryside, but here they are a little more obvious that they actually don't have much REAL work to do).
Our value systems are very different. Meaningless menial tasks are considered a part of work, things that should take 10 minutes given full concentration take an hour to do. When I need to go into the office to get assistance with something I don't understand, there is a visible look of relief on my advisers face as if to say "Finally, thank god I have something to do". In the beginning I would apologize that I was taking up their time, because they always say they are "busy", and they would insist on helping me. Now I just walk into the office and say "You. You're coming with me to help me now." I think the countryside is a little more relaxed than a big city office, but you can find the same work ethic here too.
I think the narrative of "looking busy" in Asian culture has been talked about to death, but I just wanted to add one more thing. Last week I sat in on a budget meeting. They literally read all the sources of income, and the yen amounts, for every expenditure and income for the past year. Every. Single. Amount. Was there any talking about how this relates to last year? No. Were there any proposals to change budgets? Of course not. Was there any discussion about the amounts themselves? Don't be silly. It's things like this which make me really frustrated with working here sometimes. Things that can be completed in a simple email (or even fax, Mary have mercy), have to have a meeting.
The difference in what constitutes as "work" is different for each culture. That I understand, but sometimes it gets real hard to respect. I value my free time like a motherfucker, and I'll be damned if someone wants me to sit around looking busy when work is finished.
And finally, the worst part is people DO understand this, and yet they roll with it. They don't like it, but they deal with it. And that for me is just incredulous. No one wants to stick out like a sore thumb, and I honestly believe that part of my role here is to show people that things can be done differently. Of course with respect to culture and yada yada yada.
[–]tealparadise 2 points  
sometimes it gets real hard to respect.
Exactly why I'm not there anymore. Your feelings are all very similar to mine. I came in one Saturday (to grab ACTUAL WORK!) to find a co-worker working "overtime" by sleeping all day at his desk. Come on now.
[–]randylaheyjr 41 points  
What does the noonchi consist of? Just bragging about staying late and that kind of stuff?
Honestly if I were you I'd just keep leaving at 6 and if you get fired, then go back to teaching. Don't go for drinks, if they treat you differently for that then so what? It's not like you enjoy these people's company anyway from what it sounds like. Hopefully your boss will grow up and stop holding a grudge against you for not drinking with him. Ugh just thinking about that makes me feel sick, what is wrong with that guy?
[–]throwaway_koffice[S] 90 points  
What does the noonchi consist of? Just bragging about staying late and that kind of stuff?
Death stares, people being curt, the feeling of being the only person to leave the office building on time and so on. Sometimes passive aggressive stuff like people asking if you're sick or if you had a family emergency or something the next day because you weren't at your desk when they walked by at 9pm. Also expect never to ever be promoted, ever.
Basically millions of cues and microaggressions. Koreans have got this down to a science, it really is deeply ingrained in the culture.
Ugh just thinking about that makes me feel sick, what is wrong with that guy?
My husband says this kind of guy is really, really normal. It's basically every 40 to 50-something year old middle manager in the entire country, an entire generation is more or less like this. Some are worse than others and mine is particularly awful but he's not abnormal. They never had any hobbies or passions so all they really do is work and drink and possibly play golf or go to church.
I knew some when I taught English but they never had direct power over me so I never really had to deal with them.
[–]RedErin 13 points  
Their country needs a Jon Stewart type person to lambaste this whole thought process until it becomes a meme country wide.
[–]randylaheyjr 33 points  
How do you keep yourself from snapping at these people and responding to their passive aggressiveness by saying things like "well I actually have a life", or "I like to be paid for my hard work"?
[–]ilenka 65 points  
"Did you have a family emergency? "
"No, I just finished all my work efficiently and on time."
[–]addywoot[🍰] 29 points  
This doesn't work in a business environment.
[–]haujob 11 points  
I just finished all my work efficiently and on time.
This doesn't work in a business environment.
Capitalism? Come in. Come sit down. Ya, I think it's time we had a little chat.
[–]addywoot[🍰] 66 points  
The act of being efficient is entirely feasible.
The passive aggressive and snide responses are not.
[Edit] A great tool for dealing with passive aggressive questions like..
"Is your family sick?"
'No, why do you ask?'
"Oh just because you're leaving so early."
'I am ahead on my projects and have completed all assignments today. How are your assignments?'

TL;DR: When someone is trying to communicate something in a veiled manner, just respond with asking for what they're trying to say. It will force the person to acknowledge the hidden agenda. The last question is redirecting them back to themselves.
[–]slinkysuki 3 points  
That sounds just as passive aggressive to me.
[–]masasin 1 point  
Why not? In the lab, if they ask me if I was sick, I tell them that no, I was working at home and did not need to go to the lab.
[–]randylaheyjr 4 points  
[–]aliceblack 31 points  
Right? Maybe I just am mouthy but I would just be like "I'm getting paid to work till 5, not 9. I'll stay till 9 when you pay me. Enjoy working for free, night!"
But then again I've always been the kind of worker that puts in 110% effort on the clock, but the moment my shift is up or I'm not getting paid, I'm out.
[–]randylaheyjr 20 points  
Separating your work life from your personal life is such a very important aspect of being happy.
[–]aliceblack 11 points  
Agreed. When you're off the clock you're under no obligation to anyone at work. I hate the amount of pressure there is even in America to sacrifice your life for work, I can't imagine dealing with the Korean culture!
[–]cmVkZGl0 1 point  
You could also say exactly what you said to them!
[–]baeb66 7 points  
I couldn't deal with being forced to socialize with coworkers after work. Listening to people complain about work is the worst. Tell me about your really insightful cats, your stamp collecting hobby, the weather - anything but work.
[–]P1r4nha 1 point  
I love socializing once in a while with my co-workers here in Switzerland. We go out for beers, dinners and sometimes even some activities. However nobody forces me to participate and if I already have plans so be it, they go by themselves or they reschedule.
When I considered working in Japan I was worried most about absolutely having to join every night for drinks or being ostracised.
[–]Qikdraw 8 points  
I had a new chef come into the restaurant I worked at. I was the longest standing kitchen employee there and knew how to do everything. He comes into the place and wanting to treat it like hotels, where his experience is. Different coloured scarves to show where you are in the hierarchy, etc. Just a bunch of stuff that a 50 seat restaurant needs. Anyway he decided to have these 'cooking classes' late at night after we had closed. No pay, but we're 'expected' to be there. I never went and when I was asked about it by my co-workers I just simply said that if its paid for I'll go. "But don't you want to learn how to cook better?". I replied that I already knew how to do everything on the menu and a all of the stuff we made for the grocery store. Any more of my time they want they can pay me for.
About a month and a half after this chef comes in my hours are reduced a hell of a lot. I told him I was looking for other work, to be honest with the guy, and he said "Good, I was going to fire you anyway. You don't need to give two weeks notice." A week later I had a new job and two months later he was fired for sexual harassment and when he found a job across the country he tried bringing a 17 year old girl with him to "babysit" for his wife & kids and he would also teach her how to cook. She seriously thought about it too, but thankfully she didn't go. I think he was there for four months in total.
But during the time he was there, I was under a lot of pressure from the kitchen staff to show up. Hell even the front of house managers asked me why I didn't go. Pay me and I'll go.
[–]aliceblack 2 points  
I feel like you worked with my old head chef...
[–]Qikdraw 1 point  
This was like 25-ish years ago, in Manitoba Canada.
[–]magpietakesflight 1 point  
Manitoba!!!! :)
[–]glasercorey 7 points  
I suspect wanting to keep her job is a pretty strong motivator.
[–]jellyfishsharks 12 points  
Work, get drunk, work, get drunk, go to church, play golf, repeat. Sounds pretty boring.
[–]throwaway_koffice[S] 11 points  
One of my hobbies is drawing web comics (crudely). I actually have a small web comic/blog online (that only a few hundred know of) and I'm a fan of other web comics as well. I told my boss and coworkers about this on a few occasions and they more or less told me that this was "childish" and had a good chuckle about it.
Korea: where getting hammered on a Wednesday is respected and having a hobby that's therapeutic and good for your well being is considered childish.
[–]hotfudgemonday 8 points  
Life is too short to waste a year living with a job you hate. Try anything to get out of there. New company, independent/freelance work, whatever it takes.
[–]00TylerDurden00 10 points  
It feels alien to me. It feels like everyone is part of some crazy cult
Yeah the word cult comes from culture. Typically use cult when it is abnormal, but in this case I think its really the culture thats bothering you.
[–]rndmnck 5 points  
A year goes by fast. Moving is scary and when you're short on money, it's terrifying. For your sanity, you may want to go back to teaching though. If an employer seems curious about it, you can diplomatically explain the work culture shock was too much for you to handle and that's one of the major reasons you and your husband decided to move to the US. You prefer working hard and efficient and not being forced to binge drink all of the time after work.
[–]room2048 1 point  
As someone who's stuck out awful job situations before for similar reasons: don't do it. If you hate it and it makes you physically ill, leave. Life's too short for that shit.
[–]masasin 1 point  
it's only been hinted at indirectly
Could you give a specific example of this? I tend not to understand indirect anything, so the more detailed the better.
[–]Spodyody 1 point  
Mandatory drinking is illegal. When I was there 10 years ago, a woman successfully sued for wrongful termination after refusing to drink (it was such a shock it was in the national news). Of course, culturally, the pressure is still there.
[–]Cdvmia 142 points  
Unfortunately you will never change things. Could you not set yourself up as an independent translator from home? Try approaching embassies and foreign companies to build up your own clients.
[–]Jkid 27 points  
I doubt they will allow you to. Since they already have established translators.
[–]himit 3 points  
? Freelance translation is a huge industry
[–]kj00000 54 points  
On the drinking thing. Get some sprite and some limes. Pour a sprite over ice and squeeze a lime over it. Smells and looks like a vodka soda. Have a bottle of vodka and a bottle of tonic at your desk and do the old switch-a-roo. I have to take clients out all the time as the Jr guy at the firm, since i am the guy who does most of the drink runs, I just order a sprite with lime in a low ball, and get everyone else what ever booze they want. My peers think i have some god like tolerance to booze.
[–]theleanmc 50 points  
It's a little different in Korea, because people offer you soju at a restaurant or club so you can't provide your own. Also, it is considered impolite to refuse when an older person offers you a drink, so they can basically pressure you into drinking as much as they do.
[–]cmVkZGl0 7 points  
Well it's impolite when old people think they can just push anybody into doing anything! I'd be tempted to be like "Ooops, I spilled my drink!"
[–]RevantRed 4 points  
Clearly you're not a 40 something Asian middle manager or really familiar with traditional Asian culture at all. It ismuch ruder to decline a drink like this much less spill it than it is to offer it (which is actually considered polite).
I'm not saying its right.
[–]daedgoco 4 points  
Or drink water instead of soju, it's clear like vodka so it people shouldn't notice.
[–]damngurl 14 points  
That doesn't work in Korean drinking culture.
[–]davs34 8 points  
With Korean drinking culture, they (meaning, in this case, her boss) pour your drink for you, so there is really no way to get around it.
[–]ryou1 2 points  
That's not how it works. There's a bottle that gets passed around the table, and other people at the table pour your drinks for you.
[–]Baconomics 51 points  
Different country, but it reminded me a lot of what working in Japan as a 'salaryman' is like. Long but fascinating read...
[–]P1r4nha 38 points  
I had the opportunity to work in Japan, but this is what made me change my mind. It's basically the weird idea that totally exhausting yourself is good work ethic. I don't know man, but sleeping regularly and having a good work/life balance seems to me the better way to getting a job done.
I don't mind the drinking so much, but I hate the peer pressure. I always did and I had the understanding that peer pressure basically stops after high school. I'm definitely not going to work in a culture where peer pressure is trying to make sacrifice my free time for inefficient overtime and getting drunk.
[–]The_Seeker_of_Power 6 points  
This is what I imagine a normal day in Japan is like.
[–]bookwyrm13 7 points  
Yep. I work for a Japanese office in the US so I completely sympathize with the OP, it's very similar. It's been a good experience in a lot of ways (and they don't make the Americans work crazy overtime like they do, fortunately) but I'm looking to leave as well.
[–]Afin12 3 points  
Started reading this and suddenly.. "poof" there goes an hour.
[–]the_real_chronos 2 points  
This was an amazing article. Almost teared up at the "Personal Touch" part and Taro the banker.
[–]bloodguard 28 points  
All of my coworkers, every last fucking one of them, works 20+ hours of UNPAID overtime per week AND they come in on weekends too for NO REASON and they EXPECT ME TO DO THE fucking SAME.
I've had the same inflicted on me working for a couple of Sil[ly]iCon[trived] Valley companies. Obligatory "death march" coding sessions are almost like some kind of nerdy eXtreme sport to clueless CEOs and middle managers.
At a new company when my boss walked past my office at 7pm and told me to GTFO of the building and go do something fun I almost wept with joy.
[–]missfishersmurder 33 points  
So this is why they tell me all white people are lazy... /s
No, but seriously, I completely agree with you. I interned for a summer in Korea at a law firm and got a shred of slack for being an American, but since there's a big old Korean- in front of that, I was expected to fall into line pretty quickly. I got so depressed I ended up not showing up to work for several days without warning. All my other fellow Korean-Americans found better things to do than intern after about a month. The expectations for interns are pretty low since they're purely nepotism spots, but jfc the whole thing is toxic.
What actually drove me crazy was the high school cafeteria atmosphere of it all, but I haven't worked in enough offices to know if that's actually unique to Korea or not.
[–]throwaway_koffice[S] 36 points  
I didn't talk about the "cafeteria aspect" in my post because I think that was a smaller item however one thing I'm reminded of every day is that your actual results don't matter at all.
The most important thing is your appearance, the second most important thing is how much dedication you give off and the LEAST important thing is your actual output, ie: the quality of your work. I've noticed that too, I've gotten next to no feedback on any of my work at all except for when I make a grave mistake that someone outside my department catches and then all hell reigns loose.
Korea is all about form over function, appearance over reality. People get promoted for showing dedication and being heavy drinkers, not for doing good work. My office is full of people who are really bad at their job but really good at covering their asses, brown nosing, hiding behind others and so on. I think this is the same everyone to some extent but here it's worse because no one really cares about your quality unless you get caught making a huge mistake and causing someone else to lose face/feel ashamed.
[–]Afin12 17 points  
I find this interesting - Korea as a country has been wildly successful over the last 60 years. They came out of the Korean war as a nation that was pretty torn down from all the fighting, and have build themselves up to be one of the largest world economies in the span on only a few generations.
From what I read, I would think that this sort of form-over-function culture would cause a real drag on their country.
[–]missfishersmurder 27 points  
People get shit done, but if you aren't ridiculously thin and extremely fashionable (for women; men are held to a similarly extreme but different standard), expect people to make a lot of comments about how you're lazy, repulsive, unintelligent, and unattractive. Don't expect to get promoted unless you're really impressive, and don't expect any of your achievements to ever outweigh the fact that you're fat. I went to Korea ~140 pounds at 5'3", chubby but certainly not grotesque, and people literally wouldn't even talk to me.
(who spent two years after that summer making herself throw up??? oh yeah, that was me. fuck you, korea. a lot of my friends have had great experiences in korea, but they were also all thin and wealthy and conventionally attractive.)
When I was talking about the high school cafeteria aspect, while I definitely noticed the form-over-function attitude, I was actually referring to the extreme gender segregation in my office. I hung out a lot with a Korean-Canadian guy who was pretty fed up with the office and people constantly asked us if we were dating or if we'd known each other in America, even though literally all we did was eat lunch and speak in English. The men and women did not eat together and the office was divided in half, with men and women on their respective sides. One time the president of the company came into the women's lunch area and we were all expected to giggle and fawn over him while he beamed patronizingly at us and asked if we were on diets.
This is all pretty ridiculous no matter what, but I was attending a women's college at the time and actually kind of lost my shit about it. Reason #12930 I will never work in Korea.
[–]Afin12 6 points  
Oh jeez, that sounds awful.
[–]TheAntiPedantic 5 points  
The men and women did not eat together and the office was divided in half, with men and women on their respective sides. One time the president of the company came into the women's lunch area and we were all expected to giggle and fawn over him while he beamed patronizingly at us and asked if we were on diets.
I just want to call this out. It shocked me a bit, even after reading all of this thread.
[–]missfishersmurder 6 points  
Well, rereading my paragraph, I realized it sounded like there was an explicit thing preventing men and women from intermingling. Not what I meant to imply--when I and the other interns arrived, we were pointed at our respective cubicles, and it was clear that they had organized men to be on one side and women to be on the other. It wasn't really clear if this was our supervisor's personal preference or if this was part of the corporate culture there, but I assumed the latter. It was clearly more comfortable for a few of the female workers who felt better about congregating to gossip or whisper quietly among themselves with a reduced chance of male ears overhearing. My regular lunches out with a male intern were a huge source of gossip.
The female interns were invited to eat with the female workers, and the male interns received the same invitation from the male workers, and we largely sat in different rooms (the women took over one conference room, the men took over another). We did go out to eat together at lunch as one big group several times, but everyone did again loosely group into gender-divided tables. The president stopped by during our lunch room a few times to say hello to the new interns and the female employees flocked around him and behaved noticeably differently (higher voices, laughing at all his not very good jokes, some mild physical contact in the form of arm touches), which honestly isn't uncommon in America either but felt especially stark here in light of everything else. The topics of discussion during lunch were largely diets; I forget which year this was, but I think around then some celebrity's "honey thighs" were receiving a lot of notice, and so there were a lot of discussions about how this could be achieved through weird diets, and the president weighed in on it when he was around. I got asked if I was dieting or if I was planning on dieting a lot because, like I mentioned in a comment up there, I was pretty overweight by Korean standards, and the president asked if I'd heard of the banana diet because it got results fast. I've heard a lot from relatives that this sort of inquiry about weight is considered friendly or well-meaning in Asian cultures, but it was deeply upsetting to me nevertheless.
I had a male coworker from Seattle though who's one of those whippet thin Asian guys who loves to eat. He stayed in Korea (for that firm, actually) after finishing his internship and he regularly gushes about how much fun he's having, so make of that what you will. I think gender and weight can really change your experience in a country as image conscious as Korea, and it's sometimes shocking the extent that that matters. One woman who was incredibly, incredibly pregnant (the word "gravid" comes to mind) was actually dieting pretty fiercely while I was there, which was...not something I've encountered in America. Presumably her doctor okayed it so it wasn't unhealthy, but it points to a mentality about dieting, weight and appearance that I found incredibly toxic to live in.
[–]HP_civ 2 points