12 basic tips of Korean business manners & etiquette

Some people have been doing business in Korea for a very long time, and of course, they are very accustomed to Korean basic meeting etiquette which has been learned by doing.

However, what about these other business men that suddenly they have to travel to Korea and have a meeting with Koreans. What should they do? Or even better, how do they have to behave in order to be polite to some extent?

Taking into account that Koreans prefer to do with business people with whom they have a previous business or personal connection. Please note the following if you want to cause a good impression:

1. Punctuality!

2. Koreans will shake hand with westerner men and women. Sometimes they might bow first, but nowadays they just give a handshake.

3. You can bow as well. Do not look at the eye when you bow. Do it first and then wait for the most senior to make a small bow (or not) and shake your hand.

4. Let the Korean side to start the greeting-hand shake first, and this same person will guide you and tell you who is who, from the most senior individuals to the low ranked or junior individuals.

In the greeting remember who is the most senior and who is the most junior even though later on it is very possible that you will only communicate with middle command or juniors.

5. Hierarchy is a pillar of Korean culture. So the business card indicates the position of the individuals in this hierarchy and also indicates your position against their positions. It means, your position in the business card will determine not only how you are going to be treated but also how Koreans are going to behave towards you give your position.

6. Between Koreans, they usually inform to each party who are the attendees of the meeting, but with foreigners, they do not accustom to do that as many chances before the actual meeting happens. Therefore, if they don’t tell you in advance, ask to the Korean side for the names and positions so you can memorize or remember it in advance.

7. When exchanging business cards, it is better to stand up and extend the card with both hands, pass and receive the card with both hands (use right hand to take it).

Extend one card to one individual and then move to the next individual.

Do not put the business card in your pocket. Look and examine carefully the card (name and position) for some seconds.

8. Koreans do not enjoy talking with strangers or with people that they are not introduced before. For example, if you go to a networking event, wait until your Korean counterpart introduces you to the other Koreans. Will be better for the future relationship that can come out from there. In this kind of setting, when Koreans give you their business card, look at it carefully and save it in your business card holder. Never put the business card in your pocket.

9. Personal questions about marital status, wife of husband job, children, education, age (men and women) are frequently asked. It is the way Koreans have to get to know you and bonding. No need to feel offended.

10. When you leave the meeting, greet everyone with a bow and individually from senior to junior and finally to senior again.

11. Regardless you are buyer or supplier or any position when the meeting finish Korean side will give you a gift. You must receive it with both hands. Additionally, do not forget that you are expected to prepare a gift for them from the country that you are coming from. It more like a souvenir so you can make a final good impression.

12. Negotiations are longer than in western cultures, so do not expect to get a deal or agreement in the first or second meeting. Do not be disappointed or think that it is not possible to do business. Time is the key.

Additional information that you can visit and learn:

In this video from Korean Academy of Educators (KAFE), Mrs. Helie Lee explains with movements how to do the exchange of business cards.

Pictures and video source:



This is also a post from my blog www.mlkpartnersblog.com, which belongs to a consulting company for companies who want to enter into Korean market.

Laura Valls

One thought on “12 basic tips of Korean business manners & etiquette

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: