South Korea is a very interesting country with lots of business potential. It is the 12th largest economy in the world and is at the front of the technological development. The following post will hopefully provide few tips if you’re trying to do business in South Korea.
First of all, the official language is Korean. It is an Ural-Altaic language and about 1,300 Chinese characters are used in modern Korean. Most of the population are taught English at school, so you can get away with using English during your meetings and marketing collateral can be in English too.
However, you should translate your business cards into Korean, and when you exchange them with your clients the translated Korean version should be facing up. Business cards are very important as they indicate your rank and seniority in the business. Please remember not to write anything on the cards you receive and don’t put them in the back pockets, this is seen as rude.
Your age and rank in the business is very important, and it is crucial to match up the seniority of both parties in the meeting. It can be quite embarrassing from both teams if there is a mismatch. When you enter the meeting room, the most senior person from your team should enter first, followed by the next in rank, etc. The Korean team will be lined up in the same fashion with the most senior person at the front.
Also, don’t be surprised if you’re asked many personal questions or questions about your salary. In Korea these sort of questions are not considered in bad taste and serve as means of assessing your rank in the business.
It is important to note, that even though there has been a lot of changes in recent years, women are still not represented in the business world. Therefore, if your team includes women, it is best to let your Korean counterparts know about this so they are aware of this.
It is also interesting to note that it’s very important not to ‘lose face’. The dignity of another person is very important and it’s a delicate matter. Therefore, during the meeting look for signs whether your clients understood what you’re saying, but don’t ask them directly if they have. Instead, rephrase what you’ve said or ask if they would like more information on the subject. For that reason, it might be beneficial to have a Korean interpreter; this would help with avoiding any misunderstanding.
Personal relationships are very important in doing business in South Korea, and you should expect several trips and many social evenings before you sign a deal. When you do get to signing a contract, don’t use red ink to do that as it’s associate with deceased register.
Do get in touch if you need any Korean translation done, or if you’d like to book a Korean interpreter for your next meeting.