Common Mistakes Companies Make When Entering the Korean Market

December 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Even though I’m of Korean descent, I experienced strong cultural shock when I went to Korea for the first extended period of time in 2010. Then, when I went back in 2011, I thought I would be prepared for the trip but I again experienced culture shock, this time in the workplace. The lessons illustrated below are just one example of the differences between Korean and American (business) culture. Some lessons bear repeating, so if you missed this two-part article a few years back, here it is again. (Both articles by Tom Coyner, Soft Landing Consulting, 2008).

How Not to Enter Korean Market (Part I)

The basic story is that company A’s “Division Two” hired a local business development manager, ‘Mr. Kim’, but that miscommunication concerning job titles as well as American versus Korean labor laws (and termination procedures) led to the firing of Mr. Kim without due process.

Division Two’s Asia regional manager (let’s call him Mark), who had prior Korean work experience, came to Seoul from their regional headquarters and hired a bilingual Korean man (we shall refer to him as Mr. Kim) who had just turned 60 years old, though he looked and acted much younger. Mr. Kim was given the artwork for his business cards and told to produce bilingual cards in Korea.

A few weeks later, Mr. Kim was sent to Acme’s regional office for orientation. During that time, Mr. Kim showed Mark his business cards. To Mark’s chagrin, Mr. Kim’s card depicted him as president of Acme Services Korea. Mr. Kim’s real position was that of local business development manager ― a euphemism for salesman. Mark ordered Mr. Kim to recreate the cards with the correct business title. « Read the rest of this entry »


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