Meetings in South Korea can be very formal but also casual and relaxed. We don't always know what to expect at the first meeting, so in order to make a positive first impression, it is advisable to learn the culture and etiquette rules regarding business meetings in South Korea or with Korean companies.
We also advise to do Korea market analysis in order to study your market. Such market research will provide you with important information and data that will allow you to ask the right questions during your Korea meetings.
As the meeting begins, the first step is to greet the other party and exchange business cards. The exchange of business cards must be done with two hands. The handshake can be done before or after changing the business cards. Upon receiving the business card, place it on the table properly, do not fold it, do not play with it and do not scribble on the card during the meeting – it will be considered as rude and disrespect behavior. Before arriving in Korea do not forget to stock up on enough business cards as it should be exchanged with everyone present at the meeting. The business card must be in English and, if possible, in Korean as well.
In Korea it’s not common to set the first time meeting during the lunch or dinner time, therefore if you plan to have few meetings a day around Seoul, you may consider to limit the number of meetings to no more than four meetings a day. If the meeting ends close to lunch or dinner, it is common for the host party to invite the other party for lunch or dinner respectively. This is a great opportunity to develop personal relationships that will help in the normal course of business. It is advisable to plan the series of meetings in Korea accordingly and leave enough time for these meals. For more effective scheduling of meetings with Korean companies and maximizing your business visit, we recommend getting some meetings support in Korea, or even set up more meetings by finding the right Korean business partners in advance.
In Korean business culture, adults are given higher respect than young people and in most cases the older person is also the more senior. The way of sitting is supposed to be in accordance with the position and the ranking and therefore the most senior person will usually sit in the middle of the table, while the other person from the foreign company is expected to sit at the same location on the other side of the table. The same is true for women, although their presence is still relatively low in Korean companies.
The language of the meeting is another aspect to check in advance. For some tips check out our recent article about Language and Communication Practice While Doing Business in Korea.
The number of participants in the meeting is an important element that should be given the appropriate attention. When a delegation from Korea arrives for a meeting at the foreign company offices, it is advisable to ascertain the number of people who will enter the meeting on behalf of the Korean company and accordingly invite similar number of people from the foreign company side. There is no requirement for the same number of participants on each side, but few participants can be interpreted as disrespectful or lack of resources