Last year was brutal as an economic and financial crisis engulfed the world. Banks collapsed while stock prices slumped. In short, there was an unprecedented decline in economic activity. Korea was not the exception to this rule. Our government responded with massive emergency measures, but the crisis - as was true in other countries - continued to spread. As a consequence, large numbers of workers were laid off. In such a desperate situation, it may come as quite a shock to you to know that one company, Hyundai Motors, was actually able to swim against the current. Many people still consider it odd that Hyundai was perhaps the only company selling more cars in 2008.
Having said this, Hyundai was far from successful in the American market. Interestingly its quality control was seen as not very good. Prior to the crisis, Hyundai cars had a reputation for easy corrosion and other problems. To quote from an interview in the JoongAngDaily with Prof. MacDuffie, an automotive industry specialist in the automotive industry: "Hyundai was haunted by its reputation. Quality has always been Hyundai's achilles heel in the U.S." Hyundai, however, took steps to improve this area by taking fairly bold action on all fronts. As a result of these steps, the company was able to improve its profit margins at a time when other automakers fell into decline. They also, unlike their competitors, managed to avoid budget cuts and staff redundancies. A novel example of how to think innovatively during a crisis is the Hyundai assurance program: this allows customers to return a car if they had lost their job. The assurance program was well received in the American market and was the catalyst for a major jump forward in the company’s reputation. As a reward for all this hard work, Hyundai''s Genesis was named Car of the Year in 2009.
This same idea - turning a crisis into an opportunity for change - can apply also to the media industry crisis, particularly as it is felt in universities. Whether the form is newspapers, magazines or broadcasting, all media have found it difficult to survive in the present crisis. Moreover, any changes will be unlikely to work unless they are tailored to suit customers’ individual needs. As a response to this crisis, The Dongguk Post, the monthly magazine of Dongguk University, made up its mind to begin using the Berliner format for its monthly newspaper edition on 28th September 2009.
The decision to publish in Berliner format is an important innovation. This may well be the first English newspaper to have a Berliner format in Korea. The format is used by many European newspapers, such as Le Monde in France and The Guardian in the United Kingdom; more recently, JoongAng Ilbo, a major newspaper in Korea, adopted it. The advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages; it is, for example, more convenient to read and to carry around. The Guardian, for instance, saw an increase of about 15% in its readership. Conceivably, Berliner may well be the catalyst for an increase in the readership of the Post.
One cannot say with any certainty that the Post’s new format is the best kind of crisis management. Still, "more haste, less speed," as the saying goes. All that matters is that the Post should make every effort to improve itself and to serve its readers with top-quality content. Maybe the best object lesson to learn out of a crisis is … don't sit around doing nothing!
Editor-in-chief Yun Sang-young
Yun Sang-young firstname.lastname@example.org
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