If you are interested to work for a Korean company or doing business with South Korea, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the Korean business etiquette and Korean business phrases to make a good first impression.
Korean Business Etiquettes 에티켓
1. 인사 Greetings
The first Korean business etiquette you should know is that South Koreans greet either by bowing or a handshake. But these days it is more common in Korea to shake hands when you meet someone for the first time. However, this doesn’t mean it has replaced the bowing, which still might take place before the handshake.
To bow, keep your legs together and hands straight down on the side. Avoiding hanging your hands and keep minimal eye contact.
Another variation for bowing is with both hands clasped in front of your stomach.
It is also normal for Korean women to offer a bow instead of a handshake. Similarly, if you’re a woman, you have the choice of just bowing instead of shaking hands.
Sometimes, a person with a higher status or age will initiate a handshake. During the handshake, the person with a lower position might also shake with both hands.
2. 명함 Business card
The next Korean business etiquette you should know is about passing out or receiving business cards. When going on your first meeting, you should have your business card ready in hand to be given to the person you are meeting. You can pass it before shaking hands or after.
You should present or receive a business card politely with two hands. Do not simply drop the card into a pocket; instead, take a few seconds to read it carefully. Once you’re done reading it, put the card in front of you on the table or in your briefcase.
3. 복장 Dress Code
Dress code is another Korean business etiquette you should know about. The South Korean dress code for business is traditionally conservative with a dark color palette.
Men usually wear a black suit, a white shirt, and a colored tie while women wear skirts that are conservative with a white blouse.
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4. 감사의 표시 Express of appreciation
Another Korean business etiquette you should know is giving gifts to business partners. In Korea, gifts are given to express the importance of a relationship.
If you are invited over to a Korean person’s house, you can bring gifts such as fruits, flowers or quality chocolates. Don’t forget to present them with both hands.
Gifts should always be wrapped in a red or yellow paper as they are royal colors. You can also use colors that represent happiness such as pink. However, don’t use white, black or green wrapping paper. Gifts are also not opened when it is received and will be done only later.
5. 회식 Dining
The last Korean business etiquette you should know is dinning. Always accept invitations for dinners as this will make you gain trust from the Koreans.
It is customary for the host to order food and pay for it. Nevertheless, a good argument on who takes the bill is expected. It is also polite for a foreigner to offer a reciprocal dinner invitation.
Wait for the host to invite you to start eating. Use your right hand to pass the food around the table.
Korean Business Phrases
1. 안녕하십니까? An-nyeong-ha-sim-ni-kka?
This phrase means “hello, how do you do?” It is a formal way of saying the usual An-nyeong-ha-se-yo.
2. 처음 뵙겠습니다. Cheo-eum Boep-get-seum-ni-da
Meeting someone for the first time? Then use this Korean business phrase which simply means “it is our first meeting”
3. 저는 ………. 입니다. Jeo-neun “insert name” im-ni-da.
Want to introduce yourself? Simple say Jeo-neun [followed by your name] imnida.
This phrase means I am [followed by your name.]
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4. 만나서 반갑습니다. Man-na-seo Ban-gap-seum-ni-da .
This Korean business phrase can be used when you meet someone new. Man-na-seo Ban-gab-seum-ni-da means “nice to meet you”
5. 앞으로 잘 부탁드립니다. A-peu-ro Jal Bu-tak-deu-rim-ni-da
The Korean business phrase, A-peu-ro Jal Bu-tak-deu-rim-ni-da means “I’m looking forward to working with you.”
6. 갑시다. Gap-shi-da
Want to leave your current location or move to a new location?
Gab-shi-da means “let us go” in formal Korean language.
7. 화이팅! Hwa-i-ting!
You will often time hear Koreans translate Hwaiting! 화이팅! as fighting or persevere. You can use this phrase to wish someone luck before a difficult endeavor, e.g. before your colleague goes into an important business meeting.
8. 힘내세요! Him-nae-se-yo!
The phrase Him-nae-se-yo means “cheer up”. You can use this phrase when you want to uplift someone’s spirit or give them encouragement.
9. 포기하지 마세요 Po-gi-ha-ji Ma-se-yo
The Korean business phrase, “Po-gi-ha-ji Ma-se-yo” translates as “don’t give up.” You can use this to encourage someone who is demotivated or on the verge of giving up on a task.
10. 괜찮아요 Gwaen-cha-na-yo
The phrase Gwaen-cha-na-yo is the most common way of saying “OK”. You can use this in regular business conversations. If you wish to ask “Are you ok?”, just change the intonation so that it sounds like a question. E.g. Gwaenchanayo?
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11. 할 수 있어요! Hal Su I-sseo-yo
If you happen to have co-workers or anyone from work who is discouraged and doubtful, simply say “Hal su i-sse-yo!” which means you can do it!
Have you heard of these Korean business etiquette or these Korean business phrases? Let us know if we missed anything!
Check out our previous blog post on 7 Common Mistakes Korean Language Learners Make.