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South Korean Work Culture: 6+ Epic Facts

March 11, 2022
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Are you working or thinking about taking a job in one of the world's biggest economies, i.e., South Korea? This blog post is for you! Today, we will walk you through what to expect about the Korean work culture so that you can easily adapt to their office environment. At the end of the day, not all cultures are the same, and it is integral that you arm yourself with info on how not to appear rude to your co-workers. If you are ready, let's get started!

South Korean Work Culture

Each country has its food and art, a particular culture, and represents the roots of the country. Similarly, their work environments are also unique. South Korea's work culture may be one of the world's most unique ones as it holds many qualities which make it stands out and is proof of how staying true to one's unique history and values can guarantee success. 

Let's look into the most important components of the Korean work culture:

Hierarchal Systems

Korean work culture has well-defined hierarchical systems. Power distance and hierarchy are the most crucial aspects of Korean work culture. The hierarchy is determined by age and status. The individual with the lower status bows first to the higher standing or older. This pattern is followed in every area of life, where the senior member of the community initiates everything they are intended to perform.

Everyone has a certain role in society, determined by their age and social rank. Their position within the organization mostly defines the status of any individual. The highest priority is given to the person with the highest position, the boss, followed by the one who is the most senior in age.

Nature Of Work

The Korean work culture is often compared with the military culture. The reason is the nature of the work ethic. The strict ranks, respect, status, etc., can be tiring on many levels. There is an unofficial policy that you will be required to work extra regularly.

Leaving the office before your supervisor or boss has left is likewise frowned upon. As a result, Koreans frequently work longer hours significantly than stipulated in their employment contracts. This may include working after regular office hours or on the weekends. 

Working overtime and on weekends is expected in Korean corporate culture. For instance, if the working hours are between 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. but still, at some places, you are expected to work extra yet the salary remains the same, i.e., that overtime is unpaid!  

Part Time Jobs

A part-time job isn't considered a real job in Korea. So, if you want to build a career, be respected, and behave a good reputation, you must get a full-time permanent job.

Being A Newbie

When you are a newbie, you are treated very differently from the other employees. Even when you are just another worker, you are strictly expected to regard the hierarchy, report back to the seniors, and adjust the conditions. Your opinion doesn't hold much value. 

Changes In The Work Culture

The corporate culture is advancing rapidly. Due to strict monitoring procedures to supervisors to maintain hierarchies, many tasks include intricate practices that take time to complete. In addition, to maintain a positive image, the appearance of presentations and businesses is frequently rated higher than their content.

As a result, excessive time and effort are often spent making something look appealing rather than ensuring that it functions properly. Koreans are also known to exaggerate their workload to give an impression of commitment and involvement. Howsoever, This might have many negative impacts on the Korean work culture. 

Workplace

Most Korean Companies have 40 hours per workweek, which is standard, but it usually gets very exhausting as most organizations require their workers to work overtime. 

While What the workplace tends to have a much healthier relationship amongst the Co-workers. The hierarchy system ensures that the employees working in the South Korean companies and regions maintain a strictly professional attitude. The Korean culture also ensures that the environment in the office and the relationships between the employees and co-workers remain pleasant. 

Annual Ceremonies

The company has a very well-connected system in which each employee is associated with the other employees and even the boss. This is also valued by Korean companies, much like a family. The yearly Membership Training event also takes place for the team or the entire company.

In this event, the entire group goes to different partying sites to have fun throughout the night, which often the person cannot afford on their own. This helps the team to work efficiently and more productively.

Mostly, you have to work more than what you get paid, but on the other side, there are some perks. People around you are very considerate. Will often bring a meal for everyone in the office. Korean culture is more communal, indicating a family-like bond with fellow group members. Hence, improving the working environment. 

Communication

The majority of offices speak Korean as their official/standard language. However, this is dependent on the type of business. Some multinational corporations in Korean corporate culture may use a combination of Korean, English, and other languages.

If you're a foreigner, there is No doubt that it's essential to learn the Korean national language, but if you speak English, then your speaking skills can be used in many ways by the company. You can do my marketing manager dealing with foreign clients or garden walls involving the foreign language. The juniors and seniors often have a casual and funny conversation in the Korean language.

Other than speaking, the major setback faced by, for example, the newbies is the lack of communication our the lack of understanding read it. As per Korean culture, they are usually not so straightforward. You typically have to interpret many things yourself whenever you are in a family gathering with family members or a workplace, meeting, et cetera.

Kibun

This term does not have an English translation, but generally, it means a balance of mood, feelings, behavior, etc. In South Korea, people usually protect the aura or, in other words, an unwavering Kibun. Like many other countries, societies, or cultures globally, Korean society tends to maintain peace in harmony, especially when strictly professional work.

The Korean or South Koreans society always respects you and your opinion regardless of your age, status, race, or ethnicity. Similarly, Most Korean people expect you to treat them the way they did, which is highly regarded and appreciated. 

Importance Of Kibun

The nature Koreans understand the concept of Kibun, but if you are a foreigner, you may develop some misunderstandings or hurt the feelings of Koreans unintentionally. Hence you must understand the Korean culture, especially work culture, while dealing with Korean companies.

The Kibun is an integral part of South Korea's corporate culture and is helpful if we consider this aspect while dealing with traditional companies. It helps us maintain the decorum of society and our surroundings having a beneficial impact on all our dealings. 

Discrimination In The workplace

In the Korean work culture, gender is usually considered while recruiting people. Many surveys work conductor in which many almost 81% of the organizations answered that they do consider gender while conducting recruitments. Korean women often face a lot of gender discrimination in almost every walk of life.

Korean culture is very much progressive compared to two other countries in different aspects made to be business culture odd our just traditional culture. Still, they prefer men over women whenever they look for employees. As per some reports, it has come to light that in many modern organizations and traditional organizations, male employees are paid more by the ratio of 50%. 

Many traditional Korean companies often prefer hiring men because of the likelihood of them leaving the company for good or the chances of taking paternity leaves. Hence, just because of minor yet inevitable reasons, the women encounter gender discrimination, affecting the Korean work culture.

Job Opportunities

It is very hard in Korea to get admitted to a prestigious university because of the college entrance test. It is the base test, and if you pass this, it is comparatively easy to graduate and get a job. Only the first and foremost admission test is hard; the university you are admitted to further determines what post you are eligible for. 

Two times annually in Korea, there is a major time for applying for jobs. This is arranged by mostly the leading Korean companies and the government. It has many opportunities for the younger generation who just recently graduated from Korean universities and the other people who require a job.

Decision-Making

Confucianism is an old Chinese method of thinking that has extended over most East Asia, and it is sometimes portrayed as a religion, which is incorrect. It is, in essence, a fact of thinking. Confucianism has a significant impact on South Korean culture in various areas, including status, social connections, and interpersonal interactions.

South Koreans are generally friendly, and their culture places a significant emphasis on communal ties. A person is supposed to think about the advantages and interests of the entire cohort to which they belong. This culture's influence on South Korean business is most seen in decision-making and negotiations.

Kibun In Decision-making

South Koreans typically take longer to reach a final choice since all members must consider the opinions and values of others. The employee's say is taken while deciding on any company which effectively keeps the entire KIBUN system intact in the workplace.

If you are dealing with a South Korean businessman or company, we suggest you keep your calm and sit through the entire process. Respecting their culture might yield even better results for you. It may require many sessions to finalize the transactions. To effectively negotiate business, they must also respect collectivism, and there, the win-win policy should be generated for all the employees in which each one is benefitted.

South Korean Business Etiquettes

South Korea does have its business etiquette, which is seemingly influenced by the country's many cultures. An introduction from a friend or a worker in the firm with whom you work is extremely crucial. Meeting the proper individuals in a company nearly always requires the correct introduction. A third-party introduction signals to Koreans that the person/company with whom they will work is trustworthy, so the commercial connections between them may be more solid and continue longer.

One-to-one Connection

As a token of respect, the businessman bows and shakes hands with each other while maintaining eye contact. This is followed by an exchange of business cards presented and received with usually both hands. Since business depends on private connections and is based upon faith and trust, in South Korea, typically, it takes more time to finish a bargain.

Authority Figure

It is often seen as the business contract that may be taking place between two people of the highest authorities. Still, it is considered highly disrespectful if the other party sends their junior worker to deal with the boss.

Giving Gifts

Giving gifts is also a necessary element of doing business in South Korea. It is done to get favors and establish relationships. In South Korea, providing gifts is not considered bribery or corruption. In most cases, corporate presents should be of high quality yet low cost, wrapped with the royal colors given as a token of sincerity towards the opposite company.

Changes In The Korean Work Culture

  • The contemporary business culture is recruiting more women, and hence more women are encouraged to join the workforce over the course of time. 
  • The government has made it necessary for the work hours to be limited to 40 hours per week. However, recently some Korean start-up organizations have just initiated 35 hour work week allowing the person to maintain a work-life balance
  • The minimum pay for the workers has been increased. 
  • Companies offer a flexible work system, which creates ease for the workers regarding the working hours in the office or work from home as per need. 
  • Giving the employees or workers a break in between the working leads to much better working environments and efficient work results for the business. 

Wrapping Up

That's it for this blog post! If you liked it, we would be happy to inform you that there are tons of such articles on Ling App by Simya Solutions. Ling App is a language learning site you might have been looking for. It is best for teaching Korean along with countless other languages. We have other articles, including but not confined to the South Korean government, Basic Words And Phrases In Korean, and Korean grammar list.

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