Business Etiquette in Korea

Understanding the environment in which you do business is a key part of success in that environment. Other cultures often have different contexts in which their business people operate, and it’s a good idea to know the local way of doing business if you intend to deal in another country, particularly if that country is not a Western one. Korea is a country with a very specific business culture unique to the nation and culture from which it is derived. Korean culture itself is centuries old and the manner of doing business in Korea has evolved from these ancient customs. Visit the website for more information on easing into your business travel experiences.
Many Koreans consider their first name to be a private matter; being invited to address someone by their first name is an honour and should be acknowledged as such. The family name comes first in Korea, and it is considered poor form to use a person’s given name unless you know the other party very well, or they give you permission to address them in this way. The current mode of address is a Mr., Mrs. or Miss., followed by the other person’s last name. This is also the way to reference a person when speaking of them as well as to them. On formal occasions it is also properly correct to address all parties by using their company title and surname; for example, Chairman Hyung.
Business Meeting Protocols
Business etiquette in Korea requires that you arrive a few minutes early for all business related appointments. A late arrival is most definitely considered insulting to your host so it is important to bear this in mind. If the unthinkable does happen and you are held up, call to let your host know as soon as possible. Business meetings begin with small talk, usually about the visitor (i.e. you). Be prepared to answer questions about your hobbies and travel experience in Korea politely and in detail. Sports often come up in conversation and Koreans often have a fondness for golf. Social activities following your business meeting will be expected and encouraged. These events will often involve heavy drinking and feasting. While business matters may be touched on at these gatherings, it is considered poor form to spend too much time talking about them. The point of the social gatherings is to cement relationships on which good business deals will be founded, so enjoy yourself by all means but bear in mind that any breach of protocol can damage future business dealings with your hosts.
It’s important to know as much about the business culture in which you intend to operate as possible. In Korea, where the culture is so different to that of a Western nation, business etiquette is quite different and it may be helpful to study up on the correct way of doing things before you take that Korean business trip. Knowing the right protocols can make all the difference to that big business deal.

Do you have any business etiquette tips for foreign countries? Have you ever made an overseas business deal faux pas? Share your insights in the comments box below.

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