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First Contact

Doing Business in South Korea

MEETING for the FIRST TIME If possible, the meetings should be arranged well in advance by the person introducing you. Materials or documents to be discussed should be supported with as much detail as possible and should be sent in advance as well.

Business discussions in Korea are often held over breakfast , lunch, or dinner. These meetings tend to be formal. After the Koreans have introduced themselves, the most senior executive from your party should introduce himself.

Protocol Koreans are very conscious of protocol. There is a pattern in greetings, dress, and schedule. Find out who will be attending the meeting on their side and ensure to match the rank of those persons. Usually, representatives should be older and hold senior positions in the company.

Business Cards The first order of business are the bow (thirty to forty degrees from vertical) and the exchange of business cards. Have your name, company, and title printed in English on one side and in Korean on the reverse. Cards are very important since it will indicate your status in your company and will likewise dictate the respect you will be accorded.

In receiving your Korean counterpart’s card, do not place it in your wallet and then put your wallet in your back pocket. Examine their card carefully and do not write any information on it.
Names Should you make the above mistakes in protocol, make sure you do not mistake their names. Korean names are arranged backward from names in the West and consist of three characters, each with a special distinction. In Korea, the first name given is always the family name. For example, Kim Soo-Bok is the proper way not Soo-Bok Kim.

Even if there are only about 300 family names in Korea, refer to Koreans only by last name. Only close friends and family members know their first names and even then, they are still called by family name. Additionally, married women in Korea do not take the name of their husband as they retain their family name.





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