Business Practices/Etiquette in Korea

by K4E Team, 31/10/2007


Working and Business>Business/Work Culture

First Meetings

  1. When meeting a Korean business person for the first time, it is best to be introduced by a third party, rather than introducing yourself.
  2. Shaking hands is now common even among Koreans. A bow may or may not precede the handshake.
  3. The exchange of business cards is a vital part of a first meeting. It is also important to emphasize one’s title so that, right away, the correct authority, status and rank are established and understood. The recent Western trend toward eliminating titles has created some problems for some companies when dealing with Korean businesses as Koreans generally prefer to deal only with someone of equal rank as opposed to someone of lower rank.
  4. Use both hands if possible when presenting and receiving a business card. If that is not possible, use your right hand and support your right elbow with your left hand.
  5. Business cards should be treated as an extension of the person. Therefore you should read it carefully and then place it on the table in front of you. To put someone’s card in your pocket or to write on it, etc. is to show disrespect to the person.
     

Business Meetings

  1. It is important to make an appointment a few weeks in advance of a business meeting. Most business meetings are scheduled mid-morning (10 AM to 12 PM) or mid-afternoon (between 2 and 4 PM).
  2. Punctuality is important as it is a sign of respect. If you realize that you may be a little late, it is best to call ahead to say so. That said, don’t be surprised if top Korean executives arrive a few minutes late for appointments due to their extremely busy and pressured schedule.
  3. It is also not unusual for Korean executives to cancel appointments with little or no notice. The cancellation may be due to an unexpected and unavoidable situation. However, if it’s happened before, it may be a signal that they don’t really want to do business or need to delay the process for some reason, and you were expected to have realized that.
  4. Gift-giving is a common practice when doing business in Korea. The gifts given at the first meeting are intended to acquire favours and to build relationships. Wait until your host has presented his gift and use both hands to accept it. The gifts exchanged should be of similar value, with that of greatest value going to the most senior person.
  5. To enhance communication and reduce the possibility of misunderstanding due to language, you may find it helpful to send written materials - brochures, marketing materials, proposals, etc. - in writing to your Korean counterpart some time prior to the meeting.

For more information (contracts, name/titles, etc)  from this excerpt from the Working & Business Menu on K4E, please go to:  http://www.korea4expats.com/article-business-practices-etiquette.html

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