Our next BOD feature is of Reina Chan, our Director of Strategic Business Development. Find out what brought her to Korea back in 2009, what's kept her here, and her future aspirations.
My name is Reina, though everyone usually calls me Rei. I’ve just left my corporate job, started my own import business with a friend selling Ooh Mala snacks from Singapore in Korea, and I’ve recently taken up a position at Pi-xcels, a Singaporean startup.
As for my Korean story, I’ve always been interested in Korea, courtesy of my Korean friends whom I’d befriended during my Canadian boarding school days, so I made the unusual decision to do my undergraduate studies in Korea instead of the usual foreign countries Singaporean students go to for university. Back in 2000s, I would say Korea remained a bit of an enigma to Singaporeans; due to our unique melting pot of different races and our position in the middle of Southeast Asia, we were familiar with most APAC nations, including Japan as many corporations were involved in our nation-building process. As one of the four Asian tigers ourselves, I’m fairly certain that I have a good understanding of Hong Kong and Taiwan, but Korea was a mystery besides kimchi and the early Korean dramas like Daejanggeum. And so, I found myself in Korea in 2009!
Back then, there weren’t as many foreigners as there are now. I remember feeling just as surprised as other Koreans in the subway train whenever I spot a foreigner! In fact, I was very conscious of speaking English in public too because people stared back then; there were even horror stories among the Asian-looking foreigners where random strangers berated them in public for speaking in English and not Korean. Korea is famous for building things fast due to their “palli-palli” culture; buildings will spring up almost overnight on a vacant plot of land! I think because of this culture, Korean society has evolved tremendously, and quickly too, to one that is more accepting of foreigners and their cultures now.
A bit scary, but immensely exciting at the same time! The corporate world taught me a lot about working life, but I’ve always been more of a go-getter kind of person. When I saw an opportunity to bring in my favourite snack, Ooh Mala, from Singapore to Korea, I immediately roped in a friend, jumped into it, and worked to make it happen. Same goes for my new role at a Singaporean startup, Pi-xcels. I can be quite passionate about my job and responsibilities so a non-corporate environment has actually allowed me to really go out there and push the boundaries on what I can do and achieve.
SingCham is an amazing opportunity for me as I feel that I’m able to give back to both my home country and “adopted” country through facilitating and helping businesses between Singapore and Korea. As a Singaporean, I’m immensely proud of my country being the regional hub of APAC, and I foresee SingCham Korea rising in importance as the years go by. We’re extremely blessed that both the Korean and Singapore governments are working closely together on so many aspects across the board, and through strong support from our own government, I believe SingCham is poised to be the link between many businesses from Singapore and Korea.
I’m definitely looking forward to SingCham’s official establishment in Korea so that we can get the ball rolling! We have various exciting activities planned ahead; can’t wait to push them out and get our members to join and be a part of us! Even on a personal level, I feel that SingCham is giving me a huge nudge in the back to spread my wings and fly, together with my role in Pi-xcels and my own business. I believe 10, 20 years in the future, I will look back and say 2022 was an exceptionally important year to my personal development and career, so I plan to make the most out of this year!
I think the most important thing is to come here with an open mind. We all have our conceptions and ideas about a different country and culture; trust me, I had a picture of how Korea would be in my head so when things didn’t happen the way I thought it would, it was disappointing, to say the least, but I’ve learnt to get over the differences and now I sometimes have reverse culture shock when I go back home! There will be quirks here, situations that are entirely unique to Korea, so I would say when things don’t go smoothly, don’t beat yourself over it, but smile and accept it.
I’ve represented Singapore in international competitions for kendo!
SingCham Korea is currently in the midst of registration.
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