Business Customs in Korea

Published 17th September 2010
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Gyungbokung Palace in South KoreaThe correct way of speaking to a client or business partner is not the same in every country. Misunderstandings can lead to an unsuccessful business meeting or even the cancellation of a contract.

A simple way to prevent such misunderstandings is to learn about the culture in a particular country. In today´s article Jean Sim, a Korean translator, explains the practices used in business in Korea.

Business begins with the exchanging of business cards.
Bowing to each other is a way of greeting, not hugging.
Touching – for example petting the back and wrapping an arm around a shoulder – is extremely limited during conversation.
We assign meaning to shaking hands. It usually means a potential deal that has been made after a negotiation but it’s not a way of greeting as in Great Britain.
A person’s first name is never used in business.
An ambiguous response can be expected. Whether Koreans like or don’t like something, they express themselves in the same way. Being straightforward is considered to be obnoxious.
Be careful not to unintentionally gesture by putting your thumb between your index finger and your middle finger; this means the same as showing your middle finger in Great Britain.
Expect a late response and a late arrival for an appointment. Do not make an appointment at a 15 or 30 minute unit, instead go by the hour – for example, not 12:15 or 1:30, but 12:00 or 1:00.
Wear formal suits with a tie, a belt and office shoes. Casual wear (even just a shirt and no belt) are not allowed. Appearance should be perfectly neat. No worn-out clothes and shoes; belts with stains aren’t acceptable.
Always cut your nails.
Expect meetings and entertainment with lots of drinking and golfing involved.
Do not blow your nose, fart (including the silent one, limit it as much as possible if you can) or burp in public. When yawning, always cover your mouth.
Showing food inside your mouth whilst talking or eating during a meal is ok. Always suggest sharing anything you eat. If you do not, it’s considered to be selfish.
If anything can be done for the other party, offer your service. Only doing things for yourself is considered to be selfish.
Do not mention specific times. For example, as part of a complaint, something that should take 15 minutes took 45 minutes. Nobody times a task.
Do not put your foot on the desk or sit on the desk; this is considered to be rude. Do not cross your legs. This is appears obnoxious.

Jean Sim

http://www.jeansimandassociates.com/

Thank you for the helpful insider´s tips.

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