In South Korea, English is taught and practiced since preschool, but still not everyone is fluent in English while doing business, especially among seniors. In most cases, it is not necessary to translate written materials (although this will be helpful), but direct verbal communication usually requires the assistance of English - Korean interpreter.
If a business appointment is scheduled, it is advisable to check if it can be done in English language and if a translation is needed. If a translation is needed, whether by an external interpreter, Korean business adviser or one of the staff, it is advisable to send materials to the interpreter in advance to allow him / her to study the material and even ask questions before the meeting.
One of the topics where many mistakes happen in Korean translation is numbers. Due to the Korean counting method and especially in large numbers (hundreds of thousands and millions) there is some difficulty in fast verbal translation to Korean so it is advisable to write down the number and display it to make sure it is translated correctly and the other side understood. In general, it is advisable to repeat important issues several times during the business meeting to make sure the other party understood clearly. For more tips regarding meeting pratice etiquette and in Korea check out our recent article about "Meeting with Koreans Companies - The right way!"
As a principle, face-to-face business meeting with Koreans is preferable to a telephone or email conversation, but during ongoing work between the parties, communication via email is the most recommended way. Except in cases where the Korean party is well versed in the English language or an interpreter joins as well, conference calls and telephone calls are not favored by the Korean side. If such a call is made, it is advisable to send an email summarizing the topics discussed.
If possible it's adviced to get business meetings support in Korea by local Korean business adviser who can not only join the face-to-face meeting in Korea, but also be in charge on the follow up commuincaiton with the Korean party.
Sometimes the Korean side doesn't respond to business emails. This happens mainly when he / she has no answer on the subject or finds no interest in the subject. Another reason is that the party that received the email is not in the appropriate position or rank to answer. He/She may have forwarded the message to the right person, but in many cases this does not happen and the email remains unanswered. We recommend sending a reminder email follow by a phone call.