Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stay on Top with Korean Culture and Business Training

Time to time, I feel it's prudent to share some basics on Korean global business.

First and foremost...
Korean culture training within your organization should be a constant and never ending process. In addition to providing new team members with awareness and skills, provide all team members and key management with coaching and ongoing training. In other words, just because a team member has worked in Korea, for a Korean-based firm, or on a Korean-based project they can still benefit from training. More significant, Korea is constantly changing--so staying current is vital.

In addition...
I have observed countless non-Koreans visiting Seoul. Some were there as suppliers and vendors to the local firms. Many were there to work on projects, providing services and expertise to Korean businesses.

In conversations, I found that some non-Koreans, although savvy and experienced business people, lacked a real understanding of the working norms and expectations of Korean business and their client. Most often those new to Korea acknowledged their inexperience, while “veterans” actions showed a gap in understanding.

These cultural gaps are deeper than issues of where to eat, find lodging, shopping, or even business card protocol. For example, they include the dynamics of meetings and the discussion of sensitive issues. In Korea some issues will never be discussed in a formal meeting. It is also a good idea to allow Korean partners to preview and analyze discussion topics prior to the meeting. Finally, Korean’s prefer quiet and reserved interactions to loud boisterous conversation.

That said...
Always provide your teams with training and support. More specifically, go beyond the details and scope of the project to ensure they have insights and understanding of the Korean partner’s company culture. For example, Samsung is very different from Hyundai, which is different from Lotte. Norms even vary within the segments of the larger firms—some are more global while others are more rigid and traditional. Each requires a unique understanding.

As always, BCW is dedicated to supporting you and your team. I hope my insights and commentary stimulate and provoke thought, which leads to positive change and progress.

Questions? Comments? Please feel free to contact BCW at 1-310-866-3777 or email

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