Customs and traditions
The common culture of the Koreans has deep
historical roots in the Koryo and Choson dynasties
between the 900s and the 1900s, but today there are
differences between the regions regarding cultural
customs in South Korea. Koreans attach great importance
to blood ties through generations, and the strong
national sense is often described with metaphors such as
blood and land. At the same time, the South Korean
flag's image of yin and yang is a symbol of Korean
belonging to the Chinese cultural sphere of eastern
Koreans would like to have respect for their long
history and cultural character. They are keen to
highlight their differences with Japanese and Chinese.
Therefore, one should not emphasize one's Japanese
contacts. Overall, there is mistrust of foreigners and
their motives, and efforts must be made to build trust.
Overview of the capital city of South Korea, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Many Koreans work hard, with a willingness to outdo
the Japanese. Work ethic, tenacity and punctuality are
important, although punctuality is not as important in
Korea as in China or Japan.
Know and label
Losing face in socializing is extremely sensitive.
Koreans talk about protecting the kibun, inner
feelings or outward reputation. Relationships are based
on social balance and correct behavior, a harmony that
must not be disturbed. You can lie or withhold bad news
and dissenting opinions so as not to hurt a person's
kibun. Koreans can therefore show polite attitude even
towards those they dislike. Humiliation is a virtue, and
compliments are politely rejected. You must not offend
or criticize anyone in front of others.
Respect for superiors and the elderly is crucial to
building a relationship. Status is important. By the way
of speaking and acting, you show in what hierarchical
relation you are to the other. You do not see a parent
directly in the eyes. Adults do not address each other
with first names except among very close friends. Titles
such as "professor" or "director" are used with the
honorary supplement nim, when addressing
someone with a higher social rank. In such interaction,
Koreans are polite on the verge of ceremonial, while
they can be very informal with friends of the same
Bowing is the most common way of health, but
handshaking is also common among men. Businessmen shake
hands and often bow at the same time. Women can meet by
extending their hands and grasping them. Children always
bow before adults. The most common greeting phrase is
Anyonghaseyo ? (Do you have peace?)
South Korea is a densely populated country with a lot
of congestion, especially in big cities, and people are
used to working close to each other. However, they
require space in formal situations. Touching unknown
people is considered inappropriate, while friends are
happy to hold each other's hands.
South Koreans want to do business with people they
have personal ties to, so it is imperative that you be
introduced by a third person. He can then also be a
contact person through which one can address sensitive
Upon introduction, the older one takes the initiative
in handshaking, but the younger one bowes first.
Business cards are handed over and received with the
right hand and the left as support under the wrist.
Korean text should be visible to the recipient, and the
reverse side has English text. A received business card
is carefully studied and you do not write it in the
presence of the donor.
It can be difficult to get lasting agreements with
Koreans. Their historical experience is that compromise
leads to loss, and they are driven to compete hard and
chase more benefits. But in doing so, they are also
creative, enterprising and willing to take risks. They
adapt and are open to change. Fast business is preferred
over sustainable business relationships, and a
relationship can suddenly be terminated if better
conditions are reached elsewhere.
You have to make an appointment for meetings,
preferably three to four weeks in advance. It is good to
send agendas, background material and information about
your own company. Written material should be presented
in both English and Korean. You show respect for the
person you meet by arriving on time. The oldest Korean
usually enters the room first. You don't take your coat
off unless the highest-ranking Korean does.
The purpose of the first meeting is often to get to
know each other. It lays the foundation for building a
relationship. But one should be aware that what is said
does not always correspond to facts. Sometimes Koreans
can answer a question just not to lose face. Then it is
important how questions are formulated: When can we
wait for delivery? instead of Can we wait for
delivery within one month?
Dress and gifts
Koreans in the cities often dress Western. Business
people wear strict attire. Men wear dark suits with a
white shirt, and women dress discreetly in dimmed
colors. Women should often national costume hanbok,
long skirt and blouse-like top with wide sleeves.
Gifts are important to the relationship and are
always answered with gifts. It is inconceivable to give
an expensive gift if you know that the recipient cannot
afford to answer it. You can bring good quality fruits,
flowers or chocolates to a Korean home. Gifts should be
nicely wrapped, preferably in red or yellow paper, but
not in green white or black. You hand in and receive a
gift with both hands, but it does not open right away.
If the gift has several parts, it should be kept in mind
that four are considered unlucky and seven are lucky.
At the Korean table, you can scoop the soup, taste
your lips and turn heartily to show appreciation for the
meal. But first of all, you wait for instructions on
where to sit and feel free to hesitate first to show
humility. The oldest person is assigned the finest
place, served first and foremost and starts eating. Well
seasoned vegetables, soup, fish and sauerkraut are
You never point with chopsticks, never tip the food with
them and do not cross them. You prefer to taste
everything, but ripple by refusing the first time you
are offered to take over. You eat everything on the
It is possible to arrive a little too late without
offending. You take off your shoes indoors. On returning
home, guests are followed to the gate, it is considered
insulting to say goodbye indoors. The next day you send
a thank you greeting.
Traditions and holidays
Korean New Year, celebrated according to the old
lunar calendar, is an important family and family
celebration with sacrificial ceremonies at ancestral
graves according to Buddhist custom. Even Christmas is a
celebration celebrated by many nowadays, since
Christianity has become the largest religion in South
Korea. January 1st is considered everyone's birthday,
when you add one year to their age. The 60th anniversary
is celebrated in particular.
The most important national holidays include the
Liberation Day on August 15 and the National Foundation
Day on October 3. Liberation Day commemorates the
liberation from the Japanese colonial empire in 1945,
and on October 3, the founding of the first Korean
kingdom in 2333 is celebrated before Christ.