The 7th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, organized by the Jeju Peace Institute and hosted and sponsored by several organizations and corporations, began at 4 p.m on May 31. with the Special Session “Conversation with Steve Wozniak: The End of the PC Era and Future of the IT Industry.” A total of 58 sessions in the categories of prosperity, environment, peace, gender, education, and one titled etc. will be conducted from May 31 to June 2 at the Haevichi Hotel & Resort Jeju, Seogwipo City.
Under the theme of "New Trends and the Future of Asia," the 7th Jeju Forum will examine political and social issues affecting the area within a historical context to encourage cooperation and community building in the region. The forum will also afford the opportunity to simultaneously gauge the political and financial climate throughout the world to better understand Asia’s position within it. As this year marks the 20th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China, there will be several sessions dedicated to the future of this union like “Korean Unification and China,” and “20 Years of Diplomatic Relations between Korea and China - Push Forward Strategic Cooperative Partnership.”
Hundreds of incumbent and former heads of state, experts, leading businessmen, academics, and activists including former Prime Minister of Australia Paul John Keating, former Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva, Chinese People’s Political Party Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee Member Xie Bo Yang, and Apple Inc. Co-founder Steve Wozniak will be on hand for the three-day event to discuss the future of Asia.
Some of the other topics to be addressed during this three-day conference include the future of the IT Industry, new growth engines for the region, the environment, financial cooperation, welfare expansion, and others.
▲ BLACKYAK President Kang Tae Sun (center) and panelists. Photo by The Jeju Weekly
On the first day of the 7th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, the session “Climb to the top with the brand, BLACKYAK” was conducted at 5:20 p.m. on May 31 where BLACKYAK President Kang Tae Sun gave a run through of his company’s history, how it is competing in a crowded Korean market, and his vision for his its future.
This session was devoted to the understanding of BLACKYAK, a Jeju outdoor goods company that is known for its mountain climbing equipment.
Kang, a native of Jeju Island, said that before there was BLACKYAK, his family had started DONGJINSANAK in 1973, which “was the first Korean named brand for outdoor products.”
Before that time there were other outdoor companies in Korean that originally manufactured military equipment and then transformed into an outdoor supply company after the Korean War.
“The concept of the outdoor [goods company] was non-existent at that time,” he said, for only those who climbed mountains in Korea were experts and university students.
This attitude towards the great outdoors began to change in Korea with its advancing economy, and in the late 1970s there was a boom for outdoor equipment.
“But a boom only lasts for a certain while,” he said.
With the assassination of then South Korean President Park Chung Hee a curfew was imposed and “it was very difficult to climb mountains because you couldn’t be outside after midnight,” he said.
Kang estimated that the curfew caused roughly 80 percent of all outdoor supply companies to close.
Once the curfew was removed Kang said he began to plan overnight trips. Those who traveled with him became inspired, led with only a flashlight during the night, to the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise.
“They didn’t really feel the pain of climbing and these people started talking about their [experiences],” he said.
This was the beginning of his company’s growth, he said.
In 1992, with the increase in Korea’s standard of living, the environment became an issue of concern and it became illegal to cook or stay overnight on any of Korea’s mountains. This was bad for Korean outdoor companies that manufactured camping supplies. But people were becoming more interested in the environment and climbing mountains, he said, which was good for BLACKYAK.
“I started to think I need to put everything on the line if I want to continue,” he said, adding as an avid climber himself, “I wanted to help climbers on the Himalayan mountains.”
That same year he visited and climbed 14 of the Himalaya mountains.
When climbing down one of the mountains alone at night Kang spotted an animal and due to exhaustion he followed it all the way down to the mountain’s base where he saw that it was a black yak.
“So I thought, when I get home I will do something with a yak,” Kang said. This was what caused the company to rechristened as BLACKYAK.
Last year the outdoor sporting goods market in Korea was worth more than formal wear, Kang said.
About 11 years ago, Kang said the outdoor goods market was “5 percent of what it is now” with BLACKYAK growing about 30 percent on average in each of those years.
The way they have done this has been by focusing on “highly functional clothes that use functional textiles,” creating products that are innovative and differentiate the company from its competition.
An example of the company’s innovation, Kang believes, can be seen in the three-sole shoe that BLACKYAK is in the process of having patented.
As the name states, the sole is broken into three sections each performing a different, yet distinct function to lessen the strain on a climber’s body, while offering the needed support, balance, and comfort.
The company also believes its brand identity will help to ensure sustainable growth. Through the decades the outdoor industry has changed, but BLACKYAK has always pursued to produce products for mountain climbing.
“Our competitors changed their core functions but we brought our core functions into everyday life,” said Kang referring that other companies started addressing the trend of people wearing outdoor apparel as casual wear. BLACKYAK, instead, “brought the Himalayan colors into our clothing.”
The way in which BLACKYAK is creating its brand identity is through sponsoring climbing expeditions, contributing to social programs like its creation of a hospital in the Himalayan mountains for climbers, and ensuring that all of its products are designed by mountaineers, which the company guarantees because all employees once hired must become climbers.
“They may have broken bones,” said Kang, “but that is really basic for our company.”
The next step for BLACKYAK is to expand into the global market with the “goal to become one of the top five global outdoor companies,” he said, by 2015
And Kang plans to do this through spreading “pleasure and happiness.”
“Nothing is meaningful unless there is pleasure and happiness,” he said, adding that the reason there isn’t already a Korean outdoor company in the global is because they are too centered on generating profit. The key, Kang said, is to create a product with the pleasure and happiness of your customer in mind.
Following Kang’s speech was a five-minute comment by discussant Shin Ho Sang who is a professor and director of the Admission Office of the Seoul School of Integrated Sciences & Technologies who said Kang’s goal of becoming one of the top five global outdoor companies by 2015 is possible because Kang is a “first mover” and acts before other company presidents do.
Closing speak Cho Dong Sung, a Seoul National University professor of Strategy and Design, commended Kang on his ability of finding a creativity through science with the Himalayan mountains acting as a “bridge.”
(The session was in Korean with English interpretation)
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