Business Practices in South Korea

Overview by
The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
High-ranking individuals tend to have more power over their subordinates. Decision making in Korea will follow a formal procedure in which senior approval is necessary.
Punctuality. Arrive on time is a sign of respect. However top Korean business executives may arrive a few minutes late to appointments. It is a reflection of their extremely busy and pressured schedule and should not be taken with offence.
First Contact
Prior appointments are required and should generally be made a few weeks in advance. The most suitable time to arrange a business meeting is normaly between 10 am and 12pm or 2pm and 4 pm. It is recommended that you send any proposals, company brochures, and marketing materials, written in both Korean and English.
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 Korean to shake hands with foreign colleagues.
How to Present Yourself
Start with « Nice to meet you », and then present your name. Use the last name followed by title and "Nim" (like KIM Manager Nim) in Korean.
Business Relations
Business relations are above all personal relations that are maintained with the help of greetings cards, gifts and shared meals.
The giving of small gifts is an accepted practice and is recommended.
If the gift is given in public, you must respect ranks and hierarchies. Give the gift with both hands. It is the Korean custom to refuse a gift several times before accepting it and to state that it is of less importance than the relation itself. The gift could be opened in private, in order to avoid comparison with other people.
Business Communication
Like most Asian coutries, Korean believe that contracts are a starting point, rather than the final state of a business agreement and prefer them to be left flexible enough so that adjustments can be made. It is vital that you aware of how your Korean counterparts view the documents in order to avoid any possible misunderstandings.

Don't be overly impatient. The decision making process in Korea is often done collectively and will therefore require more time.

Dress Code
Traditionally, Korean dress code is formal: dark suit, white shirt and dark tie. But foreign businessmen may dress as they usually do in their home country.
It is often the custom to take off one's shoes (at home, at a restaurant, etc). Therefore it is necessary to have clean, conservative style socks.
Visiting Cards
The exchange of business card in Korea is vital for initiating introductions. It is important to emphasize your title so that the correct authority, status and rank is established. 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.
For Further Information
Blog of Korean Business Culture
Dong Business in Korea
Soft Landing Korea

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