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Employee Interview: SK hynix Cherishing Global Differences Through Adaptive Work Culture

By February 23, 2023 December 5th, 2023 No Comments

“You know in Korea these days, ‘latte’ isn’t just a coffee like it is in the U.S. ‘Latte’ sounds like ‘back in my day’ in Korean so many older people here use that phrase.”

“Even a simple ‘yes’ can have different meanings depending on how you say it in Korea. I’ll tell you all about it.”


When two SK hynix employees from the company’s South Korean and U.S. offices compared their countries’ work culture, they discovered a host of differences. As a global company, SK hynix cherishes these differences and adapts its corporate culture across its worldwide network of offices to create a positive work environment for all of its workers.

To provide an insight into the range of cultures that exist within SK hynix’s global offices, the videocall between a DRAM developer from SK hynix’s South Korea HQ and a financial analyst from SK hynix America covered a range of topics. The pair discussed cultural differences and similarities that can be seen in a range of aspects at work, including communication styles, approaches to work, and diversity.


Eun-hwan  Almost everyone is Korean in our office so there are no major cultural differences, but there is a generational gap in Korea. The differences are so stark that there is a phrase ‘latte’ often used by older people, but they’re not talking about coffee! In Korean, the phrase for ‘back in my day’ sounds like ‘latte’, so people often use it when talking about their work methods and values, but it is used outside the office too. So, you might hear senior staff say: ‘In my day (latte), a new worker couldn’t even talk directly to their team leader’. However, SK hynix has now established a much more horizontal culture. What about in the United States?

Loc Wow that’s so interesting. So I guess the ‘latte’ phrase can also be used sarcastically by younger workers in Korea too? Here, ‘the back in my day’ culture is less prevalent now. Unlike in Korea, there are more cultural differences in the U.S. than generational differences as people of various races and nationalities work together. This can sometimes provide challenges as we can be unsure how to be culturally sensitive to certain colleagues. In order to improve our understanding of other cultures, SK hynix America has developed a cultural transfer program to bring workers closer together and celebrate our cultural differences.

Loc  In addition to making efforts to improve our understanding of different cultures, I’ve noticed that SK hynix has also been looking to improve the efficiency of work processes here. How about in Korea?

Eun-hwan  The Korean headquarters is focused on improving the efficiency of tasks to save time. I’ve heard from my seniors that they used to write many reports but now there aren’t as many, and the speed of work is more important. What about in the U.S.?

Loc  The U.S. definitely seems to have less of an emphasis on speed than Korea, so I feel like timelines for tasks are probably longer and we therefore work less overtime. Also, I think in the U.S., employees draw a more distinct line between their work and personal life which also lessens the amount of overtime.

Eun-hwan  As there is an emphasis on speed and work efficiency in Korea, we do sometimes have to work overtime to meet short deadlines. However, the company’s Happy Friday1 program here has meant that we can get rewarded with a day off if we do work regular overtime. Of course, the employees here are grateful for programs like this.

1Happy Friday: SK hynix employees at certain offices are able to take one Friday off a month to refresh themselves when they work over the mandatory working hours.

Loc  Yes, who wouldn’t like Happy Fridays? Recently, we started Happy Friday in our office as well and employees here have responded enthusiastically. How satisfied are employees at the Korean HQ with these employee benefits?

Eun-hwan  We are extremely satisfied with our benefits. We can choose our working hours, and we’ve introduced two satellite offices (one in Seoul and one just south of the capital in Bundang) so employees can choose to work at the one closest to their homes. Since Vice Chairman Jung-ho Park became our co-CEO, there have been many experiments to improve the corporate culture. I have even higher expectations for the future.

Loc  It sounds like the Korean office is doing a lot for their employees. It’s interesting to see the different programs and general differences in our offices.


Loc  Actually, I was also interested in how staff communicate in Korea to see how it differs from here.

Eun-hwan  In Korea, a lot of our communication is via online messaging and text because we’ve cut down on reports, emails, and so on. The interesting thing is that even a casual ‘yes’ has different nuances in Korea depending on the expression. Simply writing ‘yep’ means agreeing readily, ‘yes’ means agreeing lukewarmly, and ‘yes…’ means agreeing reluctantly. What about in the United States?

Loc I can see that people in Korea put in a lot of effort to find the meaning behind the words, but in the U.S. we tend to be more straightforward. So yep, yes, yeah… they all mean the same thing: I agree.

Eun-hwan  It sounds more straightforward communicating in the U.S. office then. Of course, we use online messaging all the time now, especially since the pandemic had reduced our face-to-face interactions with colleagues and clients. However, fortunately now restrictions are easing so we can meet in-person more. How do you bond with your colleagues now that it’s possible to go out more? Do you go out for company dinners together?

Loc  While I’ve heard that companies in Korea are starting to go out for team dinners again since the COVID-19 restrictions have been eased, in the U.S. company dinners are not really common. I feel personal time is more sacred. Are there still a lot of company dinners in Korea?

Eun-hwan  Unlike the U.S., Korea still tends to emphasize the need for team-building over personal time. In the past, late-night company dinners were encouraged to build camaraderie, but nowadays people have more freedom to decide what team-building activities they want to do, such as cultural activities and sports.

Loc I heard that South Korea only recently lifted the indoor mask mandate. In the U.S., people have not been required to wear masks for a while now. How are Korean staff dealing with the situation?

Eun-hwan  As you said, now the indoor mask mandate has been lifted for most places except for medical facilities and public transport. However, many people are still wearing masks so it’s still a transitional period. Another positive effect of COVID-19 restrictions being eased is that we are able to travel once again. For people at our company, this means they can take work abroad through the Global eXperience Program (GXP).

Loc  Yes, that’s right. In fact, not long ago a member of the Korean headquarters came to our office (SK hynix America) to work for five weeks as part of the GXP. He helped out our U.S. team while still keeping up with his work from back home.

Eun-hwan  Yes, the GXP program2 is very popular these days. In the future, the company plans to create a global hub office overseas so staff can freely work abroad. This is expected to create even more interest in positions at our company.

2GXP(Global eXperience Program): A work abroad program which provides staff with the chance to work at one of SK hynix’s overseas offices or a foreign partner company for five weeks while continuing to do their duties from their home office.

Loc  As well as offering work abroad programs such as the GXP, I feel that SK hynix is also strengthening its diversity and inclusivity policies. How about in Korea? Have you noticed more female and foreign staff around the office?

Eun-hwan  Yes, I think the company is changing in terms of cultural diversity. There are already a lot of female engineers like me, and you can see some foreign staff around too. The number of female executives is also steadily increasing. What about the U.S.?

Loc  As you know, the U.S. is home to a wide range of nationalities and a number of initiatives are in place to improve female representation in the workplace. Of course, we should never stand still and more measures could be taken to improve diversity and inclusion here.


At a ceremony to celebrate SK hynix’s tenth anniversary in 2022, Vice Chairman and co-CEO Jung-ho Park announced SK hynix’s plans for the future. These included establishing a family-friendly corporate culture, becoming a growth-oriented company for top global talents, and offering a flexible and innovative work environment.

This discussion offered an insight into how SK hynix is working to meet these goals through its strong benefit programs, inclusive policies, and its positive work-life balance. While there are various differences in work culture in the U.S. and South Korea, SK hynix is making tremendous strides to create a welcoming environment and inclusive culture for all of its employees across its global offices.