What started as an overseas adventure has become an award-winning venture for a Red Deer woman and her husband, now working in Seoul, South Korea.
Noreen Jaden, a graduate of Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, went on to study psychology, earning a bachelor of science degree at the University of Alberta and then a masters from Loma Linda University in Southern California.
She first met fellow psychology student Zane Webber while still studying in Edmonton, and then again while they were at the same university in California working on their masters degrees.
They married in 2001, just before choosing South Korea as the starting point for what was supposed to be a working vacation.
“I wanted to travel, travel, travel,” Jaden said this week while at home with Webber, visiting her parents David and Mary Muddle.
The plan had been to teach English in Seoul for a while and then start building a practice.
Eight years later, Jaden has been named an Honourary Citizen of Seoul for her work in helping foreign visitors build business and political relationships with Korean companies and institutions.
Jaden and Webber expanded on their experience as language coaches to form Adaptable Human Solutions, which provides consulting and counselling services for expatriates working in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
People come to South Korea expecting to experience cultural clashes, said Jaden. She and Webber learned through experience that the differences are subtle, but significant.
Koreans never say “No” directly, she said, and “Yes” might not really mean “I agree.” In some instances, Koreans say “Yes” when they mean “I understand,” she said.
Helping people to learn and work with those subtleties, along with their expertise in social sciences, enabled the pair to establish a reputation as expatriates working on behalf of fellow expatriates.
Jaden explained that there are two reasons the Citizen of Seoul award was given to her and not to her husband. First of all, she is the CEO of the company. More significantly, while women’s rights are evolving in Korea, it is still very unusual to encounter women who play lead roles in business.
She is almost always the only woman in attendance at business meetings and she usually arrives to find a name plate reserving her seat for Mr. Jaden.
Being thrust into such a unique position has made Jaden a powerful force in helping the continued evolution in women’s rights, including co-chairing the professional women’s committee for the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.
She and the committee have been instrumental in bringing such high-profile speakers as Kathleen Stephens, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, to chamber functions.
Jaden and Webber said they had never planned to stay in Korea for as long as they have, but are now thinking about expanding the business.