Negotiating International Business - South Korea
This section is an excerpt from the book “Negotiating International Business - The Negotiator’s Reference Guide to 50 Countries Around the World” by Lothar Katz. It has been updated with inputs from readers and others, most recently in June 2008.
Though the country’s culture is quite homogeneous, South Korean businesspeople are often experienced in interacting with other cultures. However, that does not mean that they are open-minded. When negotiating business here, some of your counterparts, especially among the older generation, may expect that you adhere to the traditional Korean way of doing things, as described in this section. On the other hand, younger people, especially those living in and around Seoul, may be more ﬂexible and well-versed in Western ways of doing business.
Relationships and Respect
South Korea’s culture is generally group-oriented. Asserting individual preferences may be seen as less important than having a sense of belonging to a group, conforming to its norms, and maintaining harmony among its members. However, Koreans are more individualistic than their Asian neighbors. Building lasting and trusting personal relationships is very important. While members of other cultures may expect this to happen gradually over the course of a business engagement, many Koreans expect to establish strong bonds prior to closing any deals. Consequently, proceed with serious business discussions only after your counterparts have become comfortable with you. This may require signiﬁcant time. Past experiences play a strong role. It is very important to emphasize frequently the long-term beneﬁts and your commitment to the business relationship you are seeking to build. Keep in touch on a regular basis during negotiations and beyond. Relationships are based on familiarity, respect, and personal trust. Modesty is also very important. Business relationships in this country exist between individuals or...