Corporate Culture in South Korea

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The Corporate Culture in South Korea

Business in the XXI century is becoming more and more global, international; we find new partners in various, sometimes very exotic parts of the world. It is all possible thanks to the common language (assuming that "everybody" knows English), good and fast transportation and new ways of communication, like for example Internet. We are learning from each other and trying to adjust to new situations, although the differences are often much greater than just a language or a skin color. It gets harder when not only two different countries, but two different civilizations clashes. Then it is easy and highly likely that a lot of misunderstandings will occur, what can be a threat to our potential cooperation. That's why it is important to get to know the basic information about the culture and habits of the country we plan to do business with. There might be just some small differences, but those small differences might make a huge change in the overall impression and image of us, and significantly contribute to our future collaboration. Further in this essay I'm presenting some information that might be useful before we do business with South Koreans.

Before we move to specific aspects of the Korean culture it is crucial to know about very strong Confucian traditions in that country. At this time Koreans are the most conservative Confucian society in Asia. Its main characteristics are loyalty, centralization of the power, hierarchy, collective responsibility, high work ethic, respect for older people and caring more about the group success than individual. Worth remembering is the fact that Confucianism is not a religion, but a social and moral philosophy, what Europeans often confuse. It is easy to see and experience those values even during the first contact with Koreans.

Of course we have to remember about some rules that are rather unchangeable and the same everywhere in the world. One of them is punctuality. Koreans are rather punctual and they expect the same from their business partners.

Polish people can have some problems with Korean names. In business Koreans usually don't like calling them by their first names out loud, because many of them believe it can bring bad luck. Only closest friends and family members can use them. Typically Koreans have first and second name and a surname. The last name used to be always written and pronounced before first names, but now this situation got little more complicated and confusing, because it happens that names are reversed. It's caused by the trend of having European names, what on the other hand has some pros for us, simply because we are more used to those names, they are easier to pronounce and to remember. When it comes to Koreans working and living in Poland for a longer period of time it even happens that they are taking Polish names, so don't be surprised when you will see Roman Lee or Jacek Kim . So as we can see it is good to show some effort before a meeting and find out which name is the first and which is the second. Using titles like Mr. President or Mr. Chairman is also acceptable. Besides that Koreans very like when we use their titles connected with their education, for example Ph.D. There are two interesting facts about the names in South Korea. First is that there is only about 250 last names. Of these, Kim, Park and Lee make almost 50% of the whole (Kim makes about 25%). Of course most of them are not related, what makes a lot of problems for Europeans and creates many funny situations. The second is that women do not change their names after they get married.

Extremely important in doing businesses with Koreans are business cards. Exchanging them is an important thing; we could even say a ceremony. Its main purpose is to provide Koreans with information about our status, what helps them quickly assign us to a particular group and place us in their own hierarchy. The content of the business card will...
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