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

Therefore, very little might be discussed which relates to the actual business in hand with most time being spent exchanging pleasantries, discussing travel and other such-seeming trivia. It is important not to show impatience or irritation at this stage. Rather view the meeting for what it is – the essential first steps in creating a, hopefully, rewarding and long-term business relationship.

It is important in these early stages to be viewed as a man of honour and this can be achieved by avoiding impatience and confrontation as well as by showing the right amount of respect to those people to whom respect is due – older more senior contacts. Try, therefore, to do some research on the people you will be meeting – who are the most important contacts?

The relevance of your delegation could also be judged by who you take with you. Their senior people would not be expected to have to deal with younger, more junior contacts from another organisation. Ensure a compatibility of levels within meetings. It is also important to be able to answer fully any technical questions thrown at you, so ensure that your delegation has the requisite level of expertise at its disposal in order to avoid seeming ill-prepared or amateurish.

Punctuality is important, as is dress and body language.

Gift Giving
Gift giving is an endemic part of Korean business life and should not be confused with notions of bribery and corruption. Gifts should not be too lavish but should always be of good quality. It is important to take a number of small gifts to Korea to distribute to new and existing contacts.
Gifts should always be wrapped. Alcohol, especially good single malt whiskey and brandy is always an appreciated gift. Do not open the gift in front of the giver. It is polite to seem to refuse the gift a couple times before accepting.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in South Korea

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in South Korea. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.

With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in South Korea and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.

Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips