When communicating with businesspeople in South Korea, it's crucial to keep in mind the cultural and business practices of the country. While email and scheduled video conferences are the norm, messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, or WeChat are not commonly used or acceptable for business purposes in the early stages of communication.
Even if you have the mobile number of your Korean business contact, as shown in their email signature or on their business card, it's important to avoid connecting via messaging apps or SMS unless it's been agreed upon, or it's an urgent matter that arises after the business relationship has been established. This is especially true due to the language barrier. Many Korean business people, despite being able to communicate in English, feel uncomfortable communicating in English by real-time messaging app, which requires them to respond immediately. The fear of misspelling or using incorrect English structures makes it difficult for them to use this channel. However, this largely depends on their proficiency in English. As advised, make sure to have an agreement with your Korean partner before moving to this channel.
If you are the buyer and the Korean company is the supplier, you may be able to communicate by messaging app in some cases, but this isn't the norm for mid to large size companies. If you're trying to sell your service or products to a Korean company, it's not advisable to start doing so by making communication through messaging apps or requesting to do so.
It's important to understand that while messaging apps have become popular for business communication in many Far East and Southeast Asian countries, it is still not the case in South Korea. In this country, email remains the most formal and professional means of communication, especially during the early stages of a business relationship.
However, if the communication between the parties develops, and both parties agree to use a messaging app, it's important to know that in South Korea, KakaoTalk is the most commonly used messaging app. By offering to use KakaoTalk, it will be appreciated by the Korean side as it is the main messaging app used in South Korea, and it will not require them to install a new app that they may be unfamiliar with or rarely use. Additionally, using KakaoTalk for business communication offers the added benefit of user ID-based communication, which provides more privacy for the users by keeping their personal mobile numbers confidential. KakaoTalk allows for the exchange of text, voice, multimedia messages, and even video calls, making it a versatile tool for communication. However, it's important to remember that the use of messaging apps should only be considered once a formal relationship has been established, and both parties have agreed to its use.
In conclusion, to effectively communicate with businesspeople in South Korea, it's important to be aware of the country's cultural and business practices. Email or scheduled video conferences are the best ways to communicate in the early stages of a business relationship. If both parties agree to use a messaging app, then KakaoTalk is the most commonly used and accepted messaging app in South Korea. By following these guidelines, you can effectively communicate with your Korean counterparts and establish a successful business relationship.