Koreans have a strong family and clan attachment and see themselves as individually subordinate to these greater bodies.
This sublimation of the individual to the group makes them good team players – so long as they have respect for and a good relationship with the team-leader.
Thus, when working with a Korean team it is imperative to gain their respect through appearing honourable and respectful of others. Respect is also gained through educational achievement, age and experience.
If the right environment can be created, Koreans will prove wonderfully loyal team players. If, however, the environment is uncomfortable (and worst of all a place where peoples face is not protected) then groups will flounder and the team’s co-operation can be subtly withdrawn.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
In little over half a century (since the end of Korean War), South Korea has managed to transform itself from a deeply impoverished nation to one of the world’s leading economies. It achieved this whilst at the same time restricting Direct Foreign Investment (FDI) and with a strongly interventionist government which dictated policy and goal-setting to local industry. Over the same period, it moved from being a follower of product development to a global leader of innovation. And this has massively improved the overall affluence of its citizens.
How did South Korea succeed where so many other countries have tried and failed? What does South Korea have which other countries lack? In a word, the answer is culture. South Korea is steeped in key Confucian attitudes which have enabled this economic miracle to occur. Confucianism extols the virtues of education; South Korea’s approach to education is universally lauded and endlessly studied. Confucianism places emphasis on frugality and loyalty; hard work and acceptance of temporary hardship, bringing their own rewards over time.
If you are thinking of doing business in South Korea (and you really should be), then one of the key elements of successful engagement with South Korean counterparts and potential partners must be linked to gaining a better understanding of South Korean business culture. If you don’t understand how companies are structured locally, how do you know who you should be speaking to? If you are not aware that South Korea is group-oriented in its approach, how can you understand the local decision-making process?
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of South Korean business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: