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.
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 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.