Business Etiquette In Korea: 5 Useful Rules To Succeed


Are you thinking about working or doing business in Korea? Maybe you’ve been dreaming for years of working in the land of K-pop and K-dramas. If that’s the case, it’s essential that you know a few rules of Business Etiquette In Korea. When it comes to performing in the Korean work environment, learning many words and phrases is not enough. It is crucial to understand a little bit of Korean business culture to be able to address your colleagues or business partners appropriately in your future business meetings. And as always, Ling has you covered! Here are five essential rules for succeeding in the Korean workplace.

Are you ready? Let’s go for it!

5 Basic Rules To Succeed In Korea

Rule #1: Address People Appropriately

Korean names are arranged differently from those in most western countries. As in other Asian countries, the family name comes before the given name in Korea. When people meet for the first time, they usually call each other by their last name plus the honorific 씨 (ssi, Mr./Ms.) or their respective job titles. Unless you have a close relationship with a Korean person, calling them by their first name is not advisable, as it is considered disrespectful. 

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Rule #2: Age And Status Should Be Respected

In Korean culture, the hierarchical system is still very strong in different areas of society, especially in the workplace. In this sense, whenever you are addressing someone in Korean society, it is imperative to respect their status and age. If you have watched a Korean drama, you may have noticed that honorifics vary based on the relationship between characters and their ages. A Korean must consider a person as an equal in every sense of the word to be able to have an informal conversation with someone.

Rule #3: Pay Attention To Business Cards Exchange Etiquette

Business cards are fundamental to Korean business meetings, as in Japanese business culture. As discussed in the previous paragraph, Koreans are very concerned about understanding the status of their potential business partners. A business card lets them see their potential partners’ titles, roles, and positions. The correct way to exchange business cards is to hand in your business card with both hands and receive your colleague’s business card in the same manner.

You should never place your business card in your pocket right away. Instead, please put it on the table to see titles, positions, and names when you sit down.

Business Etiquette In Korea -drinking culture-soju

Rule #4: Be Aware Of The Drinking Culture In Korean Business

In Korean business culture, it is common to invite co-workers and business partners to dinner since they view this gathering as an extension of a business meeting. This is a time for Koreans to bond and get to know each other better. In case you didn’t know, alcohol is an indispensable part of Korean interactions. Unless you have a valid reason to refuse alcohol, such as a health issue, declining an invitation to drink is impolite.

There are some rules of Korean drinking culture that you should follow, so we recommend you check out our previous post to learn all the details.

Rule #5: Dress Professionally

Korean society is conservative, so appearance is pretty significant. Compared to the United States and Europe, where casual attire is allowed for business meetings, Koreans tend to dress more formally and conservatively for work. In addition, it is common for employees to wear a minimal amount of color and accessories. So if you are going to a meeting with Korean partners, wear formal clothing with neutral colors and minimal accessories.

Wrapping Up

Whenever we find ourselves in a different environment, we will likely experience cultural clashes. It’s totally normal. To be successful in a foreign culture, we must learn the rules of behavior of that culture. It will enable us to act as respectfully as possible and prevent unpleasant situations. 

At first, Korean business culture can be intimidating, especially for Westerners. However, this should not discourage you from working with or doing business with Koreans. We now have countless resources to help us gain a deeper understanding of Korean culture, even without setting foot on Korean soil.

Don’t let discouragement get you down! We are sure that you will be fine. If you plan to work in a Korean environment, ensure you internalize and apply the rules and tips we shared with you today. Of course, we recommend you continue learning about Korean culture and business etiquette to ensure you are well-prepared to succeed once you arrive in Korea.

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