Business Meeting

When entering a group meeting, the senior member of your party should enter the conference room first, then the next highest ranking person, and so on

The Koreans will be seated according to their rank

Punctuality is expected at social events

Managers expect that their instructions will be obeyed

First meetings can often be completely dominated by the need to start the relationship-building process

Very little might be discussed in first meeting

Try to do some research on the people you will be meeting

Senior people would not be expected to have to deal with younger

Be able to answer fully any technical questions thrown at you

You may be asked personal questions regarding your age, salary, religion, and family life

These questions may also be asked to determine your status–which means everything in South Korean business culture

Modesty is very important in South Korea

When you are paid a compliment during a conversation, you may say that you are not worthy of such praise

Koreans have an intense pride in their country and a rich sense of its history

It is important that you make every effort not to confuse the history and culture of Korea, with other Asian countries, especially Japan

Older Koreans who grew up under the Japanese colony many not appreciate gifts from Japan or comparison of Korea with Japan

Answer questions affirmatively and in the most positive way, even when you have to deliver negative information

Be concise and direct in your response.

When you are asked a question, remember that ‘less is more’, so get right to the point without being rude

Tone down hand motions and facial expressions when talking

Conversation topics: South Korea’s cultural heritage, South Korea’s economic success, South Korean companies, international accomplishments, Fashion and design, Personal hobbies

Topics to Avoid: Korean politics

South Korea Communication Styles

Koreans want to preserve harmony and promote good relations, but at the same time they have a tendency to become emotional, if they feel that things are not going their way

If a Korean expresses obvious disquiet in a meeting it is fairly good sign that the meeting is floundering

Koreans regard saying ‘no’ as poor etiquette and something to be avoided at all costs. It can, therefore, be difficult to get at the truth of their intentions

The way in which you deliver the message could, in fact, be more important than the message itself

It is important to maintain good body posture during meetings

Companies tend to be strictly hierarchical with major decisions being taken at the top and delegated down for implementation.

Many of the large conglomerates are family run companies where much of the power and ownership resides with the founder’s family

Confucian ethics dominate Korean thought patterns

Many Korean companies have a strong informal hierarchy, which is based upon personal relationships and loyalties

The quality of relationship is of primary significance when working with Koreans

Always show respect to senior people

Gestures such as touching someone on the back or on the person’s arm, are discouraged unless the individuals are friends and peers

Physical contact is inappropriate with older people, people of the opposite sex, or people who are not good friends or family

When talking or laughing, keep your voice as quiet as possible

Criticism of any kind should be done in private

Be sure to have all technical details and answers to hand

If Koreans are to work effectively in a team, it is important to create an atmosphere of harmony and comfort

Try to avoid any form of disagreement or situations, which can result in loss of face on the other side, such as pushing for quick decisions or asking for favors that cannot be delivered

Be smartly and conservatively dressed and maintain good, upright body posture at all times in formal situations

It is unusual to meet women in senior roles in Korea, except when working for foreign firms

Senior western women will be accepted but may not be given the respect they feel their position merits

South Korean men greet each other with a slight bow, and sometimes an accompanying handshake

Western women will have to initiate a handshake with Korean men, unless a Korean man is higher than their status. In that case, he will initiate a handshake

Elderly people are highly respected, so it is polite to greet and speak to them first

Complimenting an elder’s good health is always appreciated

You may show respect to older people or seniors by passing objects such as food or documents with both hands

Bow at the beginning and end of a meeting

Eye contact is important to indicate your sincerity and attentiveness to the speaker

some Koreans have difficulty in maintaining steady eye contact with an authority figure

Some men may also avoid eye contact with women

Don’t assume, smile is always an indication of amusement or approval. It can be used to mask embarrassment and other feelings of distress

Feet are perceived as dirty and should not touch other people or objects

Men should take care that the soles of their shoes are pointing down

Don’t cross legs in front of an authority figure in an open sitting environment

Blowing your nose in public is considered vulgar

It is also not unusual for Korean executives to cancel appointments with little or no notice

Send written materials – brochures, marketing materials, proposals, etc

Modesty and humility are important in Korean culture

If you are not based in Korea, do make a point of visiting the client/partner on every business trip here

Koreans worry that foreign businesses are only here to make a quick profit and run

If heavily spiced Korean food makes your nose run, turn aside and blow it quietly

Cover your mouth when yawning or using a toothpick

If the Korean national anthem is played in a public place, stand at attention out of respect

You will probably see people on the street wearing surgical masks. They are wearing these masks when they have a cold. They are trying not to spread germs

When meeting a Korean business person for the first time, it is best to be introduced by a third party, rather than introducing yourself

Shaking hands is now common even among Koreans. A bow may or may not precede the handshake

The exchange of business cards is a vital part of a first meeting

Use both hands if possible when presenting and receiving a business card

To put someone’s card in your pocket or to write on it, etc. is to show disrespect to the person

Koreans business people devote a great deal of time, energy and money in getting to know the people with whom they are dealing

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