South Korea

Background to Business in South Korea

Background to Business in South Korea

Korea is probably more heavily influenced by Confucian values than any other business culture (including China).

Confucian ethics permeate all aspects of working life from management systems to interpersonal relations and although both Western and Japanese influences are becoming stronger there is a deep well of conservatism within Korean society which makes change difficult, slow and somewhat painful.

Confucian ethics emphasise the value of collective group harmony, respect for authority (and therefore management), as well as the all embracing importance of family, clan and friendship. Thus, as in countries like Japan and China, the quality of relationships is the real key to business success at both a personal and a corporate level. A Korean saying highlights the all-important nature of networking and relationships – ‘make a friend first and a client second’. The key to creating good relationships lies in one’s ability to play the Confucian game. It is important to appear to be an honourable, trustworthy and respectable person.

The economic downturn experienced in South Korea during the Asian currency crisis (as well as many other Asian countries) precipitated a period of great introspection which has led to many traditional beliefs and approaches being challenged both internally and externally.

Thus, South Korea is a business culture at a significant crossroads with a great need to find an accommodation between traditional values and modern management practice.


This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture

Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working.  We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.

This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in South Korea only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.

Country Breakdown





South Korean Won


$ 1.411