For the international business persons, doing business in foreign countries brings with it cross cultural challenges. An understanding of a country's business culture, attitudes and etiquette is a useful way of establishing good interpersonal relationships which ease the business process. Doing Business with South Koreans The changing face of Korea continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace in current Korean society. A country well known for its difficult history, Korea was liberated from Japanese occupation at the end of World War II, only to be faced with the Cold War struggle that divided the country into two separate states; the Southern democratic republic, and the Northern communist style government. In the years that followed the Korean War, South Korea experienced rapid economic development and has continued to prosper in today's modern world economy, becoming the largest in Asia after Japan and China. The present-day increase in business opportunities in Korea only increases the importance of cultural knowledge for those wishing to enter into this modern day market. Koreans will not expect you to be an expert on the nuances of their culture, but they will appreciate a show of interest in matters that are important to them. I. 1.a. What is more important - rules or relationships? Relationships are very important inside Korean society although the way they are being formed is full of rules. Alumni contacts are a major source of social networking in Korea, especially when we are talking about business relationships. Age is the most essential component within a relationship in Korea. A person older than you automatically holds a certain level of superiority. This is particularly evident in Korean business settings. Personal ties in Korea, such as kinship, schools, birthplaces etc, often take precedence over job seniority, rank or other factors, and have significant influence over the structure and management of Korean companies. Generally speaking, responsibility is delegated to trusted, dependable subordinates by their superiors. Therefore, it is imperative not to offend or ignore the lower ranks and to show the various managers the same respect as other senior levels. 1.b. Is relationship building needed before getting down to business? In Korea, personal relations take precedence over business. In order to be successful, it is vital to establish good, personal relationships based on mutual trust and benefit. Korean business culture is firmly grounded in respectful rapport and in order to establish this, it is essential that you have the right introduction and approach the company through a mutual friend or acquaintance at the appropriate level. Koreans spend a significant amount of time developing and fostering personal contacts. Therefore, time should be allocated for this process, particularly during the first meeting, which is frequently used to simply establish rapport and build trust. Once good, solid relations have been recognised in Korea, continuous reinforcement and maintenance is vital. Foreigners should be ready to mix business with social life as the Koreans base their business relationships on personal ones. The heavy drinking of the Korean alcohol, Soju (vodka made from rice), beer, scotch, or other liquor is commonplace in establishing a personal, business relationship. Also commonplace is the "no-rae-bang"(karaoke) where a group of businesspeople go to an establishment to drink and sing along to a video machine playing music. 1.c. Do business people from that country function in groups or as individuals? Korea still observes Confucian ethics based on strong ties to a group. Whereas an American may think in individual terms, (i.e., what is in my best interest?), a Korean frequently thinks in group terms, (i.e., what is in the best interests of the group and how can I help to maintain harmony within the group?) For this reason, the majority of Koreans are intensely patriotic, calling Korea by the term, "oo-ri-na-ra", ("our" country). In order to close a deal when negotiating, the benefits for the group, whether for the company or country, should be emphasized. Koreans think in group terms. A very small individualism index- around 20 describes best the fact that inside this country they are very collectivist, there is almost no individualism inside Korean society. Teamwork it is focused , individualism it is looked down upon in business. 1.d. Do people say things directly or not? There is a difference from what they say and what they mean sometimes and nice polite language can be used to threaten another company. Negotiating style is particularly important. Koreans can prove subtle and effective negotiators, and a commitment to a rigid negotiating atitude may work to the American's disadvantage. Your offer may include the best price, technology and profit potential but still be turned down because the Korean customer does not like your style. Like most Asian countries, Koreans believe that contracts are a starting
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