Seoul Man HC Frank Ahrens Memoir Washington Post to Hyundai Harper 2016 1st Edition


SKU: 18059 Category:


Seoul Man: A Memoir of Cars, Culture, Crisis, and Unexpected Hilarity Inside a Korean Corporate Titan Hardcover
by Frank Ahrens (Author)

Recounting his three years in Korea, the highest-ranking non-Korean executive at Hyundai sheds light on a business culture very few Western journalists ever experience, in this revealing, moving, and hilarious memoir.

When Frank Ahrens, a middle-aged bachelor and eighteen-year veteran at the Washington Post, fell in love with a diplomat, his life changed dramatically. Following his new bride to her first appointment in Seoul, South Korea, Frank traded the newsroom for a corporate suite, becoming director of global communications at Hyundai Motors. In a land whose population is 97 percent Korean, he was one of fewer than ten non-Koreans at a company headquarters of thousands of employees.

For the next three years, Frank traveled to auto shows and press conferences around the world, pitching Hyundai to former colleagues while trying to navigate cultural differences at home and at work. While his appreciation for absurdity enabled him to laugh his way through many awkward encounters, his job began to take a toll on his marriage and family. Eventually he became a vice president—the highest-ranking non-Korean at Hundai HQ.

Filled with unique insights and told in his engaging, humorous voice, Seoul Man sheds light on a culture few Westerners know, and is a delightfully funny and heartwarming adventure for anyone who has ever felt like a fish out of water—all of us.

“Engagingly written and full of funny, intriguing probes into the quirks [Ahrens] discovers in his surroundings and himself. This is a nuanced look at a nation where an image of Western modernity is reflected and illuminated by an off-kilter mirror.” — Publishers Weekly

Publisher- Harper Business
Language- English
Hardcover- 352 pages
ISBN-10- 0062405241
ISBN-13- 978-0062405241

I read several books written by American (Caucasian) authors, who lived in Korea. It’s entertaining, since I understand both sides – I was born in Seoul, studied my ass off to get into Seoul National University, and worked at a startup for 7 years before I moved to California. After getting my MBA degree, I now run a tech startup in Silicon Valley.

I laughed and cried as I read through this book. I deeply emphasized with what Frank had to go through, as someone who just ‘plunged’ into this quirky Korean culture, but who also had a deep affection for it. I also feel sorry that he eventually had to ‘pull off’, due to family & personal happiness reasons. I do understand that part as well.

In this book, he lays out all the Western / Eastern culture differences with critical mind, but doesn’t fail to address what are some downsides of the Korean culture when it comes to business world. It’s one person’s experience in the end, so it cannot represent everything about Korea, but I recommend that everyone who is interested in Korean business world to read this book. You will get your own perspective.

As an ending note, I want to point out that Korea is changing very fast – especially in the startup world. Those startups run more like American companies. They have very flat organization, and employees are compensated with stock options. Better work-life balance, and better vision sharing. So, don’t be scared by what Frank went through. You will enjoy it when you land in Korea.


Near mint, 1st edition. More pictures in description.