Get to Know Korean Business Language and Culture

Learning how to properly communicate in business and professional settings can be exceedingly difficult and challenging in any language, even more so for foreign languages that you are not yet familiar with. Especially if you're looking to work in another country, knowing how to properly communicate with people including your boss, coworkers, and business partners is crucial for success.

While you might be eager to get into the language used in Korean business settings, it is important to first understand the basics of Korean business culture and etiquette. The last thing you want to do is come across as rude when meeting and talking to new people. In this article, we'll be discussing the social norms that you can expect in Korean business culture and the right approach to take for most situations.

In general, Korean culture places heavy emphasis on always being respectful, well-mannered, and polite, especially to your elders and superiors. This is conveyed by the way they speak to each other along with their body language. If you want to make a good first impression, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic Korean business etiquette ahead of time.

Be aware that when you're in a another country, pay attention to local customs and practices. Not only will you get along better, people will appreciate that you're really making an effort to not only learn how to speak their language, but also learn more about their culture.

working business in seoul korea

Meeting Someone for the First Time

The importance of a first impression makes a big impact on the rest of your relationship with that person. While casual and formal settings call for different responses, today we'll be focusing primarily on the latter as most business situations are more formal than casual.

  • Bowing
    Many Westerners don't have any experience with bowing. When meeting someone for the first time in a professional or formal setting, try to demonstrate the utmost courtesy when greeting them. This usually means bowing and doing it like you mean it! It's understandable that you may not be familiar with the custom at the beginning but if you make a visible effort to be polite and respectful, people will surely remember and take note of it. Handshakes are now a common practice among Koreans when meeting someone for the first time and are usually used in conjunction with the bow.

  • Exchanging Business Cards
    Business meetings, even in the 2020s, means exchanging business cards. With the rise of online communication, it may seem a bit outdated, but it's a good idea to have cards handy as giving something offline can make a lasting impression. There are some differences to how business cards are exchanged. Whether you're presenting or receiving a business card, remember to always use both hands holding onto either side of the card. This is common practice in most East Asian countries. Having the business card handy at all times means you won't forget their name either. We recommend never using the word "you", but always addressing the opposite party with their full name, or their official business title, as if you're speaking in the third person. This is polite, and the best practice.

    Once you have the card, or the cards from everybody you're meeting with, don't fidget with them in your hands while people talk. Read over each card, take your time, make sure you get everybody's name pronounced correctly. Never put them in your pockets while still in the meeting. Instead, put them all face up on the table in front of you, and if you're standing, hold them all in one hand, but held up a bit as if you're holding something important. Holding the cards low, tossing them in a bag or shirt pocket, or sticking them into your computer keyboard or fidgeting with them is all extremely disrespectful.

  • Speaking
    When addressing someone, it is quite common for people to use titles instead of using their names directly, especially if you're talking to someone you're not very familiar with. As mentioned above, don't say "you" even when asking questions. Always substitute their name in the place of "you". Don't say "your company", instead, use the company's name. Unless they specifically tell you otherwise, don't drop honorifics when speaking to someone you just met. Honorifics are titles that convey respect and establish the nature of your relationship with another person.

Our Korean course is completely optimized to maximize your information absorption and retention while becoming comfortable with grammar, sentence structure, pronunciation, and learning new vocabulary. Below, you'll find a few sample sentences that you might expect to come across in our Korean course. Each sentence includes the English, Korean, and Romanized versions.

English Korean Romanization
Nice to meet you. 반갑습니다. panggapssŭmnida.
Here's my business card. 여기 제 명함입니다. yŏgi ce myŏnghamimnida.
I'd like to meet with you tomorrow. 내일 찾아뵙고 싶은데요. năil chajabwepkko siphŭndeyo.
What day is good for you? 무슨 요일이 괜찮으세요? musŭn yoiri kwănchanhŭseyo?
Will you be at work tomorrow? 내일 회사에 계실 건가요? năil hwesae kyesil kŏnggayo?
Are you free now? 지금 시간 있으세요? cigŭm sigan issŭseyo?
Can I talk to you? 지금 얘기 좀 나눌 수 있을까요? cigŭm yăgi com nanul su issŭlkkayo?
I'll be right there. 곧 도착해요. kot tochakhăyo.
What's your schedule like? 일정이 어떻게 되세요? ilccŏngi ŏttŏkkhe tweseyo?
Could we change it to next week? 다음 주로 시간을 변경할 수 있을까요? taŭm curo siganŭl pyŏnggyŏnghal su issŭlkkayo?
When do you want to meet? 언제 만나고 싶으세요? ŏnje mannago siphŭseyo?
Where do you want to meet? 어디에서 만나고 싶으세요? ŏdiesŏ mannago siphŭseyo?
I'll see you there. 거기에서 봬요. kŏgiesŏ pwăyo.
What did you need to see me about? 무슨 일로 찾으셨어요? musŭn illo chajŭsŏssŏyo?
Please be more clear. 더 정확히 말씀해주세요. tŏ cŏnghwakhi malssŭmhăjuseyo.
May I ask what it's regarding? 무슨 일이신지 여쭤봐도 될까요? musŭn irisinji yŏccwŏbwado twelkkayo?
That's not a good day for me. 그 날은 좀 안 될 것 같아요. kŭ narŭn com an twel kŏk kathayo.
I'm afraid I can't. 죄송하지만, 안됩니다. cwesonghajiman, andwemnida.
May I speak with ...? ... 씨와 통화할 수 있나요? ... ssiwa thonghwahal su innayo?
May I ask who's calling? 전화주신 분 성함을 알 수 있을까요? cŏnhwajusim pun sŏnghamŭl al su issŭlkkayo?
Would you mind calling back later? 이따가 다시 전화해 주실 수 있으세요? ittaga tasi cŏnhwahă cusil su issŭseyo?

🇰🇷 Start Learning Korean Today

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more to be learned if your goal is to speak and comprehend Korean on not just a fluent or conversational level, but on a professional level. With Glossika, you'll be on the fast-track to becoming completely comfortable in business settings and meetings! With a schedule that makes the most of your time and materials that actually trains your listening, speaking, and pronunciation skills, Glossika will surely be an integral part of your Korean language learning journey.

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