Korean Business Etiquette

by Claire Valenty on January 23, 2010

in International Business Etiquette

international korea etiquette

Korea is a country which proudly maintains its own identity despite its history of turbulence and external invasions. So, the first thing to keep in mind is not to confuse Koreans with other Asian ethnics such as Chinese and Japanese.

The business mannerism may not be as conservative as in some other Asian countries, but it is still a lot more formal than in the west. A minor lapse can cause you or your business prospects to lose face or dignity.

Confucianism being the major belief system of the country; social values, respect, honor, loyalty and relationship are the base of Korean morals and ethics. So, it is important that you are introduced via a third party which is already trusted by your Korean business prospects. A formal introduction by mutual friend prior to the actual meeting would build credibility and trust which would otherwise take a lot of time.

Even if not the case, you can build up a successful business relation with the Koreans yourself. Just a few Korean business etiquettes to make a note of,

* First and foremost, some of the best business practices are universal. Korean business etiquette demands that you always take appointment a week or two prior to the meeting and always be punctual. This shows your serious business attitude.
* The Koreans have no issues with handshakes even with the person of opposite sex and the introductions are generally starts with a handshake and a bow. It is advisable for you to return the same respect. But wait for the senior most to initiate the handshake.
* In the society based on hierarchal structure, it is important to show the right kind of respect for the right person. Make sure that you line up and enter the conference room in correct hierarchy and the highest ranking or senior most person be introduced to the corresponding counter part first.
* The exchange of business card is essential and the card should be given the same kind of respect. Present and accept with both hands and spend a little time reading it before putting it in the card case or pocket.
* Never disrespect your Korean counterparts addressing them by their given names. Use Mr., Mrs. or Miss followed by their family name. Don’t forget to use appropriate titles unless invited to do otherwise.
* Dressing style is quite conservative in Korea, as dark colors such as black and navy are considered preferable for gentlemen.
* One important factor is the direct eye contact, unlike most Asians, Koreans prefer a direct eye contact but not with seniors or authorities. Respect!
* Don’t let your criticism or arguments cause your counterpart to lose face or feel insulted. If you have some contrary point or question, better save it for a private meeting later. A Korean will never compromise on respect and dignity.
* Gift-giving is nice and friendly Korean business etiquette. Initial denials are considered courteous so don’t just retreat at first attempt. Do the same is offered to you but not in an impolite or rude manner.

In the Korean society built upon pillars of respect and relationships, the proper display of respect and Korean business etiquette will guarantee trustworthy and successful business terms with your Korean Business Prospects.

Photo: wikimedia commons/Richardfabi

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