Golf is deeply engraved in the working culture of average employees of Korea. The majority of workers aged above 35 start playing golf either unwillingly or willingly as they settle in companies or businesses and become a part of their companies’ community. The workers are obligated to attend golf games in the weekend to meet important clients or business partners of the company. Golfing is chosen as a form of business meeting due to the slow paced nature of the game. In between holes, players have casual conversations and negotiate business deals in a light-hearted manner. The power dynamics of dualistic hierarchy— “Gab” (the superior one) and “Eul” (the subjugated)— pervade throughout the golf game. At the beginning of the game, the businessman would prepare a pack of new golf balls for the client as a small gift. The “Eul” constantly flatters the client’s golf skills and purposely lose the game for diplomatic reasons.
Such fabricated golf games may sound absurd yet long have been one of the diplomatic practices since the colonial era of Korea. In 1929, golf courses were constructed under the royal order of King Young Chin for the purpose of greeting and building favorable relations with foreign governors. In the golf course of 60s and 70s, these royal figures were replaced by politicians, wealthy business owners, and elites whom gathered to build exclusive networks and pass secret deals. Now the golf clubs are more opened to the public. Yet, not much has changed: The green is still populated with people pushing different goals for specific purposes as the games proceed.
The sixth business day, the day when a considerable ratio of the working population head to the golf courses, will not be abolished from the working culture. The subtle and well-calculated acts of flattery during the game bring about client’s favorable attitude towards an upcoming business deals. Thus, playing golf is an unofficial but powerful business practice affecting the success of a business. Golf ball is a form of currency within the social hierarchy; the clients of the golf games own more golf balls in the end of the day. However, they are too not exempt from the social hierarchy. At times, those clients become servers who have to gift golf balls to the higher-ranked, “Gab.”
The golf balls that workers spawn after the weekend golf games signify the final signatures on the bottom of the contract form and successful business meetings. However, on dark side of the shiny white surface of the golf ball, there exists the endless social caste and viscous cycle of the served and the serving on the green under the social hierarchy.