Doing business in Korea
Here are a couple of good tipps for doing business in Korea:
Working practices in Korea
Before doing business in Korea prior appointments are required and should generally be made a few weeks in advance. The most suitable times to arrange a business meeting are normally between 10am and 12pm or 2pm and 4pm.
For both social occasions and business meetings, punctuality is essential. Your Korean counterparts will expect you to arrive on time as a sign of respect; therefore it is advised to call beforehand if you will be delayed. You may find however, that top Korean business executives may arrive a few minutes late to appointments. This is a reflection of their extremely busy and pressured schedule and should not be taken with offence.
It is recommended that you send any proposals, company brochures, and marketing material, written in both Korean and English, as a preview for your Korean contacts before you visit the country.
Structure and hierarchy in Korean companies
Korea is known for its vertical social structure based on age and social status. The organisational arrangement of Korean companies is highly centralised with authority concentrated in senior levels.
Influenced by Confucianism, Koreans respect for authority is paramount in their business culture and practices. High-ranking individuals tend to have more power over their subordinates than in the West. Consequently, decision making in Korea will follow a formal procedure in which senior approval is necessary.
Working relationships in Korea
Generally speaking, responsibility is delegated to trusted, dependable subordinates by their superiors. Therefore, it is imperative not to offend or ignore the lower ranks and to show the various managers the same respect as other senior levels.
Age is the most essential component within a relationship in Korea. A person older than you automatically holds a certain level of superiority. This is particularly evident in Korean business settings.
Personal ties in Korea, such as kinship, schools, birthplaces etc, often take precedence over job seniority, rank or other factors, and have significant influence over the structure and management of Korean companies.
Korea business Part 2 - Doing business in Korea
Business practices in Korea
The exchange of business cards in Korea is vital for initiating introductions. Korean’s prefer to know the person they are dealing with. Therefore, it is important to emphasise your title so that the correct authority, status, and rank is established. It is advised to have the reverse side of your card translated into Korean. Cards should be presented and accepted with both hands and must be read and studied with respect and consideration before placing them on the table.
Gift-giving is a common practice within Korean business settings. Generally given at the first business meeting, gifts are often used to acquire favours and build relationships. You should allow the host to present his gift first and be sure to accept the gift with both hands. To avoid loss of face, gifts of similar value should be exchanged and gifts of greater value should be given to the most senior person respectively.
Like most Asian countries, Koreans believe that contracts are a starting point, rather than the final stage of a business agreement and prefer them to be left flexible enough so that adjustments can be made. Although many Koreans now appreciate the legal implications regarding the signing of contracts, they may still be interpreted as less important than the interpersonal relationship established between the two companies. It is vital that you are aware of how your Korean counterparts view these documents in order to avoid any possible misunderstandings.
When meeting your Korean counterpart for the first time, always wait to be introduced as third party introductions are generally preferred. Today, it is quite common for Koreans to shake hands with foreign colleagues after a bow, encompassing both cultural styles. To show respect during handshaking, you should ensure that you support your right forearm with the left hand. When departing, a bow is usually sufficient.
Korean business etiquette (Do's and Don'ts)
DO maintain an element of modesty and humility as these aspects are extremely important in Korean culture. With this in mind, you must try to avoid over-selling previous business achievements.
DO make direct eye-contact when addressing Korean business professionals, as it is important to indicate your honesty and interest. However, some Koreans do not make eye-contact for any length of time when in the presence of an authority figure as a sign of respect.
DO refrain from being overly impatient. The decision making process in Korea is often done collectively and will therefore require more time.
DON’T address a Korea by his or her given name as it is considered extremely impolite Korean names begin with the family name and are followed by a two-part given name. The correct way to address a Korean is with Mr, Mrs, or Miss together with their family name. You should address your Korean counterparts using appropriate titles until specifically invited to do otherwise.
DON’T display criticism in public. It should be conducted in private where loss of face will be diminished. In a similar vein, opposing someone directly can also cause a Korean to lose face and should be avoided.
DON’T use large hand gestures or facial expressions. Talking or laughing loudly is also considered impolite in Korean culture.
19 May 2007, 04:42 Ben
And here are a couple more )
Every year Korea becomes more and more modern, but it is important to recognize that modern does not equal Western. Koreans will not expect you to be an expert on the nuances of their culture, but they will appreciate a show of interest in matters that are important to them. Koreans generally appreciate a foreigner's effort in expressing a thank you (gam-sa-ham-ni-da) or a hello (an-yang-ha-say-yo) in the Korean language.
For Koreans, relationships are all important; "cold calls" don't work--introductions are crucial! Koreans want to do business with people with whom they have formed a personal connection or whereby a mutual intermediary has made an introduction. As alumni contacts are a major source of networking in Korea, a particularly well-connected Korean will have attended a prestigious Korean university like Yonsei University, Seoul National University, Korea University or Ehwa Women's University.
Business Card Do's and Don'ts
The exchange of business cards is very important and a means by which Koreans learn about the name, position and status of the other person. Koreans observe a very strict hierarchical code, where Koreans will generally meet to discuss business with persons of the same, parallel rank. Businesspersons should always have their (preferably bilingual) business cards at the ready and should treat the exchange of Korean counterpart's card with respect. (It is a sign of respect to receive and present items with both hands, followed in business etiquette by passing and receiving a card with the right hand. One should never give a card, or anything else for that matter, with the left hand as it shows disrespect.) For historical reasons, Chinese characters, which Koreans can generally understand, are regarded as more sophisticated. As such, a business card written in Chinese characters can serve for a business trip to Korea, China and Japan.
Do exchange cards one-by-one, individual-to-individual; use both hands if practical.
Do read and acknowledge the full name and title of the other person. In Korea, the surname is given first followed by a one or two syllable given name. First names are rarely used except among very close friends. Even when meeting a large group of people, it is considered polite to take a moment to read each individual's name card upon exchange.
Never distribute (or toss) your business card in a manner similar to dealing playing cards.
Never place a stack of your cards on the table and offer others to "take a card" from the stack.
Never carry business cards in your wallet; nor otherwise keep them in your pant's pocket. A simple card case is quite useful.
Don't write comments on the other person's business card, in their presence. You may write on your own name card however to add information (e.g., email, home phone number, etc.).
Avoid the use of slang and idiom; remember, you want the other side to understand you. Speak at a moderate rate of speed and use correct grammatical English; do not try to speak "broken English" in the hopes of communicating more easily, it simply does NOT work. Where possible, provide written materials and/or copies of your presentations. During a verbal presentation, it may be advisable to repeat key points for emphasis. If necessary, use the services of a professional or experienced interpreter. Remember, interpretation will at least double the amount of time required to deliver your presentation.
Punctuality is appreciated and business meetings should start and finish on time. The senior-most individuals are always introduced first, followed by younger and lower ranked participants. Questions of a personal nature may be asked, particularly concerning age, marital status, education, etc. These questions are not thought to be impolite, but rather to help the Koreans to recognize the appropriate social level and speech forms (degree of formality) that they should use when speaking. Since a consensus is important, there will usually be rather lengthy discussions before decisions are made. As a result, business negotiations will usually take much longer when compared to Western business cultures, so patience will be necessary.
For Koreans, it is considered to be polite to wait for the eldest person at the table to begin eating before everyone else starts. Likewise, one does not excuse him or her self from the table before the eldest person finishes. It is a bad breach of etiquette to pour your own drink.
Michael 20 May 2007, 09:22 - Report
what would be a good introduction for an International Business Etiquette ProjectZach 17 Feb 2009, 02:45 - Report