Doing Business In Korea

  1. According to the latest World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Report (2010), Korea ranks below the 10th percentile for the Voice & Accountability, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law, and Control of Corruption Indicators. For the Political Stability indicator, North Korea rates between the 30th and 40th percentile.
  2. Based on limited available information, North Korea’s economic freedom score is 1, making its economy the least free in the 2012 Index. North Korea is ranked last out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

With a confirmed onward ticket, visitors from nearly all West European countries, New Zealand, Australia and around 30 other countries receive 90-day permits on arrival. Citizens of Italy and Portugal receive 60-day permits, and Canadians receive a six-month permit. Visitors from the USA receive 90-day permits.
Around 20 countries, including the Russian Federation, China, India, the Philippines and Nigeria, do not qualify for visa exemptions. Citizens from these countries must apply for a tourist visa, which allows a stay of 90 days. You cannot extend your stay beyond 90 days except in rare cases such as a medical emergency; if you overstay the fine starts at W100, 000. Log on to or to find out more.
Applications for a work visa can be made inside Korea, but you must leave the country to pick up the visa. Most applicants fly (or take the Busan ferry) to Fukuoka in Japan, where it usually takes two days to process the visa. You can also apply for a one-year work visa before entering Korea but it can take a few weeks to process. Note that the visa authorities will want to see originals (not photocopies) of your educational qualifications. This a safeguard against fake degree certificates.
You don’t need to leave Korea to renew a work visa as long as you carry on working for the same employer. But if you change employers you must normally apply for a new visa and pick it up outside Korea.
If you don’t want to forfeit your work or study visa, you must apply at your local immi­gration office for a re-entry permit before making any trips outside South Korea. The fee is W30, 000 for a single re-entry or W50, 000 for multiple re-entry, but permits are free for some nationalities.
If you are working or studying in Korea on a long-term visa, it is necessary to apply for an alien registration card within 90 days of arrival, which costs W10, 000. This is done at your local immigration office.

Business Etiquette

Relationships & Communication 
South Koreans prefer to do business with people with whom they have a personal connection. 
It is therefore crucial to be introduced by a third-party. 
Relationships are developed through informal social gatherings that often involve a considerable amount of drinking and eating. 
Individuals who have established mutual trust and respect will work hard to make each other successful.
South Koreans treat legal documents as memorandums of understanding. 
They view contracts as loosely structured consensus statements that broadly define agreement and leave room for flexibility and adjustment as needed. 
Under no circumstances insult or to criticize in front of others. 
Sensitive matters may often be raised indirectly through the intermediary that first made the introductions.
South Koreans are extremely direct communicators. They are not averse to asking questions if they do not understand what has been said or need additional clarification. 
This is a culture where "less is more" when communicating. Respond to questions directly and concisely. 
Since there is a tendency to say "yes" to questions so that you do not lose face, the way you phrase a question is crucial. It is better to ask, "When can we expect shipment?" than "Can we expect shipment in 3 weeks?", since this question requires a direct response.
Business Meeting Etiquette
Appointments are required and should be made 3 to 4 weeks in advance.
You should arrive on time for meetings as this demonstrates respect for the person you are meeting. 
The most senior South Korean generally enters the room first. 
It is a good idea to send both an agenda and back-up material including information about your company and client testimonials prior to the meeting. 
The main purpose of the first meeting is to get to know each other.
Meetings are used to understand a client's needs and challenges. They lay the foundation for building the relationship. 
Do not remove your jacket unless the most senior South Korean does so. 
Have all written materials available in both English and Korean.
Dress Etiquette
Business attire is conservative. 
Men should wear dark- coloured, conservative business suits with white shirts. 
Women should dress conservatively and wear subdued colours. 
Men should avoid wearing jewellery other than a watch or a wedding ring.
Business Cards
Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions in a highly ritualized manner. 
The way you treat someone's business card is indicative of the way you will treat the person. 
Have one side of your business card translated into Korean. 
Using both hands, present your business card with the Korean side facing up so that it is readable by the recipient.  
Examine any business card you receive carefully. 
Put the business cards in a business card case or a portfolio. 
Never write on someone's business card in their presence.

General Business Hours

For most government and private offices, business hours are from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday. From November to February government offices may close an hour earlier. Tourist information centres are usually open from 9am to 6pm daily while national parks are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Keep in mind that many (but not all) government-run museums and tourist sites close on Mondays.


Banking hours are from 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. The hours that ATMs are available vary and are written on the machine, but they are not generally open 24 hours. Post offices are generally open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, but some are open longer hours.


Department stores traditionally open from 10.30am to 7.30pm six days a week. Nowadays some open every day and a few open until late evening. New youth-oriented shopping malls tend to stay open until 10pm. Small general stores often stay open until midnight even in suburban areas, and many convenience stores are open 24 hours. Shops are generally open from 10am to around 9pm every day, but the trend towards more days off means that some do now close on Sunday. Travel agents may take Saturday afternoon off as well as Sunday.


Restaurants usually open from 11am to 10pm every day. Cinemas traditionally open at 11am, with the last show ending just before midnight, but a few run later. In big cities, midnight showings and even all-night movies are becoming a more popular option.


Pubs and bars open daily from 6pm to midnight but they close later on Friday and Saturday. Some open at noon for the thirsty early birds.


There is plenty for night owls to do in Korean cities as some saunas, restaurants, PC bang (internet rooms), DVD bang (room for watching DVDs), noraebang (karaoke rooms), convenience stores, bars and nightclubs stay open all night.