I met Young Sohn for the first time in 1994 during the “infamous” Hyundai Electronics press tour.
It’s hard to explain in words, but I felt an instant connection with this man. How can this be? Even today, I’m not quite sure.
Here’s what I do know.
What started off as a business relationship — we learned a great deal from Young and InComm, not just about PR in Korea, but business in general — has evolved into a special friendship.
The Connection Between Hoffman Asia Pacific and the 1997 Economic Crisis in Korea
When I heard that Hoffman Asia Pacific would celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, I was truly surprised that it’s been 20 years since HA expanded business into AP. Time flies so fast! I can vividly remember the early days of Lou traveling around Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Seoul.
It also reminds me of the 10th anniversary celebration of The Hoffman Agency in December 1997. Lou and Heather hosted the party in San Jose, where partners from AP — including my company, InComm Ltd. — attended. It was my first experience at an American party. Comparing this celebration to similar to occasions in Korea, a lot of caring people attended, and it was very casual, fun and an informal ceremony. I have gradually learned global business customs through this kind of event as well as various interactions with Lou over the years. Here’s a picture taken at Lou’s home the evening of the celebration.
The year 1997 gives special meaning to most Koreans. We had suffered serious difficulties in the economy due to the foreign exchange crisis that hit most Asian countries that year. When I started my trip to the U.S. for the ceremony, the U.S.-Korean currency exchange rate was around 1 dollar to 1,200 Korean Won. At the end of the trip, I ended up with 1 dollar to 2,000 Korean Won. It seemed that my country would default soon. But in spite of the uncomfortable business environment in Korea, I saw a huge potential for my business through the trip, especially related to global business opportunities that I glimpsed through meetings with Lou. He foresaw that there would be a sizeable growth in the AP market, and there would be huge opportunities for the PR industry. If a PR firm could provide a really globalized service, it could gain a strong influence in the market.
I developed my agency to attain global competency, so that I could host many global clients who want to enter into the Korean market. Lou helped me achieve my objectives by sharing insight and knowledge, inviting me to participate in HA meetings and even referring clients to me. Beyond the business aspects of the relationship, I had the opportunity to make an American friend for the first time in my life. I presumed Lou also had the chance to learn about Koreans and Korean business style through me. He may have learned how it would work by engaging in meetings with Asian executives like me in his early days of exploring Asian opportunities. He could quickly gain the insight that there’s no Asia as a whole — rather, there are China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. They do not comprise one homogeneous market.
Lou was right. InComm Ltd. could get out of the economy turmoil fast by making itself a globally competent agency, which in turn could increase the number of clients and sales revenue. Our global image also enabled us to hire the best talented people in town. Even though InComm didn’t participate in HA’s AP network, I have enjoyed two decades of friendship with Lou. I owe a lot of my business success to having such a special relationship with an American friend. I have always been pleased to see how Lou has developed his AP operation to be a really globally competent and real organization.
About Young S. Sohn
President and CEO, InComm Brodeur, Fleishman-Hillard Korea, DOMO
Young S. Sohn founded InComm Ltd. in 1993. His management philosophy as well as his ability to hire the best talent in Korea has made InComm the most reputable PR consultancy in Korea, specializing in marketing PR, corporate communications, and Public Affairs.
As a creative strategist and leader of his company, Mr. Sohn has developed integrated marketing communication programs and provided strategic counsel for numerous multinational and national corporations and government organizations such as Intel, Sun Microsystems, Adobe Systems, Nortel, Symantec, SAP, Xilinx, Yahoo, Nissan, Korea Life Insurance, Hyundai Oilbank, Amore Pacific, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Finance and Economy.
IT Korea was re-branded in 2001 as Fleishman-Hillard Korea, and InComm Ltd. as InComm Brodeur, when joint ventures were set up with Fleishman-Hillard Inc. and Brodeur Worldwide respectively. In 2000, InComm Interactive was established and was renamed DOMO in 2005.
After Fleishman-Hillard Korea and InComm Brodeur were acquired by Omnicom, they were evaluated as the most successful acquisition cases among the Omnicom business in Asia. The three companies (InComm Brodeur, Fleishman-Hillard Korea, DOMO) managed by Mr. Sohn are recognized with the best reputation for collaboration and back office efficiency, and continue to strengthen competency with further interaction. Based on the strong reputation built in Korea, they became one of the most trusted companies by clients and employees.