Business Etiquette In Korea

October 18, 2020
7 mins read

For thousands of years Korea has been a place where people and nature collided. Rice paddies once covered the country, and farmers would grow rice, barley, millet, and legumes. Much has changed, though. As South Koreas economy flourished, it began to incorporate modernity into its culture. Companies across the world now look to South Korea as the model for successful business practices. South Korea is one of the most innovative and efficient countries in the world, and it is also a place of great refinement. Impressing your business partners in South Korea can be tricky, but not impossible.

Etiquette In The Workplace

Each country has its own version of corporate etiquette, and South Korea is certainly no different. Whether you are meeting your business partners for the first time or you are a seasoned business veteran in the culture, it is important to know some South Korean business etiquette. South Korea is an exceptional place to strengthen your business relationships with your South Korean counterparts.

Upon Arrival

One of the easiest ways to get your introduction to business etiquette in South Korea wrong is to be late. Arriving anywhere more than ten minutes late is incredibly rude, as it is viewed as disrespecting the other participants in the event. If you absolutely must be late, it is important that you provide a short and clear apology explaining the situation, and be sure to apologize again when you arrive.

As there are so many rules surrounding business etiquette in South Korea, it is important to learn a few of the basic rules. As a general rule, it is important to avoid physical contact with your South Korean counterparts. This may be viewed as disrespectful. It is also important to know that your business colleagues will likely turn up late to meetings, which is perfectly fine. Be sure to ask them directly about their tardiness and do not assume that their lateness is disrespect.

South Korean business professionals readily admit that they do not value punctuality to the degree that Americans do, simply because it is not a priority. Manners are highly prized, though, so do not be surprised if a South Korean executive sits down to a meal after the first course has already been served. It is very rude to be impolite to your colleagues, as it is not expected. South Korea is a very polite culture, which is why you have to take into consideration that manners are a key part of business etiquette.


Gift giving in South Korea often takes the form of food. Make sure that you dont give your business partner a gift when they are leaving. When meeting business partners for the first time, remember that you should not give gifts. The giving of gifts is a big part of South Korean business etiquette, so you should ask your South Korean business partners what your responsibilities are by asking a friend or googling the appropriate translation for gift giving. It is a common practice to bring gifts to your business partners when you meet with them. This is a way to show respect, as well as a way to bridge the gap between you and your business partners. Gifts are used to show they are willing to go out of their way for you. To give a gift, you should give snacks, wine, or a drink, but make sure that your gift is significant enough to be worthy of the occasion.


South Korea is very formal, and it is important to dress appropriately. When attending an official business meeting, you should arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of your meeting so that you can have time to change if you wear casual clothing. Once you take part in one business meeting a year, you will be able to comfortably wear casual clothing without feeling underdressed. When participating in business meetings, it is important to always have a respectful attitude.

Refusing an offer and refusing to accept food is considered a huge breach of etiquette. The best way to refuse a drink is to say, No thank you, which is the polite way to say no when you are in South Korea. It is also important to never express any opinion that you do not share. Doing this will cause ill feelings. In terms of conversation, it is best to keep the topics to small talk. After a few meetings, you can begin to discuss topics like their children, hobbies, and pastimes.

Business cards

Business cards are another important part of South Korean business etiquette. Make sure that when you receive a business card, you look at it immediately and place it face down on your book, your lap. Looking at someone’s business cards is considered a great sign of respect. It is important to not place it in your pocket or wallet, and it is a great sign of respect to leave your business card with your business partners. You should not carry a business card case; instead, you should have one or two cards that you carry in your wallet. For a proper business card exchange, take your business cards from your case, hold your card slightly above your body after you hold it with both hands, and extend them toward your South Korean counterparts. When your South Korean business partners take your card, they should hold it with both of their hands, bow slightly, and say thank you.

In conversations, you should use you card holder to place cards in a row, and always write your name, title, address, and email address.

Taking Leave

Always seek out your business partners before you leave the country to tell them that you are leaving. It is considered highly insulting to leave without telling your colleagues that you are leaving. It is also important that you extend your hand to say goodbye when you are leaving.

Business Meals

Business meals are a huge part of business etiquette in South Korea, and you should take extremely seriously. Business lunches are especially important, so make sure you dont arrive late as a sign of respect. Business lunch is important in the South Korean business world, though; it is equally important to your South Korean business partners. You should never take a business lunch, and you should never lunch alone with a woman. South Korean business etiquette dictates that it is inappropriate to do so.


The gift-giving in South Korea is often classified in two ways: oens, which are gifts that are given to someone because of a special occasion, and gift-giving, which is something that you give out of a sense of obligation. Both types of gifts are important parts of business etiquette in South Korea, and it is important to learn which are appropriate for which situation.

Receiving a Gift

When receiving a business gift, it is best to accept the gift graciously. Most people are appreciative of a gift, though there are some who are not. This is understandable, so dont be offended if someone isnt overly elated that you gave them a gift. It is best to remember the importance of receiving a gift because it is a sign of appreciation

Gift giving is important to remember in South Korea. It is respectful to the recipient and helps to show your appreciation for something that they have done. It is also important to know when you should give a gift, which is only done when you express your gratitude for an event or action.

When giving a gift to someone, it is best to be extremely mindful of the procedure. It is best to give a gift at the end of a meal, and the right way to do this is to take the gift with the left hand while your South Korean colleague is holding the business card with the right hand. The next step is to bow and take the card from its holder with the right hand.


When attending a business meal with South Korean colleagues, you should try to avoid sitting by yourself. Sitting by yourself can be considered rude, as you should ensure that you are speaking with your colleagues as much as possible. It is important to treat your colleagues with respect throughout the business lunch, and it is essential that you do not make any jokes that could be considered inappropriate.

The Meal

The proceedings of business lunch are very relaxed. Make sure that your business partners have completed their meal before you begin to eat, and wait for your host to begin to eat, instead of eating first. Use chopsticks if you must, but never put them on the table. Use the spoon when eating soup. It is important to know that white rice is common with every meal and it is served as a staple to provide carbs and consistency in a meal, and that it is considered rude to refuse the white rice that is offered. Also, it is considered rude to leave food on your plate. Make sure that you do not take too much food, though.

The South Korean company will serve the food, and they usually will have one set of utensils and plates for everyone. When taking food, make sure that everyone gets an equal amount. When eating soup, it should be taken in small sips.

Business Cards

The gift of business cards is considered an important part of etiquette. Place your card in your pocket or wallet after you are expecting to meet with someone and take your card out from the wallet or pocket just before using it.

Business Negotiations

These procedures are a little bit different for men, so men should always keep this in mind. First, men should always wait for their South Korean colleagues to take their seats. Second, it is best to keep both hands on the table when you are sitting down. Third, men should remove their suit jacket. Fourth, men should be the first to raise the glasses of the meal as a sign of respect and as respect to their South Korean colleagues. Fifth, it is essential for men to cross their legs so as not to seem overly aggressive or dominant.

Parting Company

It is extremely important to remember to never leave anyone without saying goodbye. Before you leave someone, it is most polite to express your gratitude, as this was the action that caused the meeting to take place. Expressing gratitude for the time that you have spent with them is very important.

While it is important that you keep all of these popular South Korean business etiquette in mind while you are conducting business in South Korea, it is essential that you do not forget to be yourself. South Koreans love to talk with people who can engage in small talk and conversation and show interest in their family life and activities.

Finally, do not forget to treat all of your business appointments with respect and dignity, even if it is a relatively minor meeting. South Koreans can tell from the moment that they see you what your intentions are and will keep in mind the level of respect that they give you.


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About Levi Keswick

LeviKeswick serves as a vibrant hub for diverse individuals to share their stories, absorb and contribute to emerging fashion trends, lifestyle concepts, and innovative ideas. We offer valuable insights and advice, amalgamating information painstakingly curated by experts in the field, alongside fashion connoisseurs and influential social media personalities.