It is a unique phonetic writing system called hangul.
The writing system uses sounds, stacked into blocks that represent syllables. The system was designed by a committee it looks when you first glance at it like it is predominantly right angles and small circles. It is very logical and so you may find you can start to recognise elements. These are still occasionally mixed into text but are becoming less common. These days, hanja are mainly used for making words less ambiguous — if the meaning is ambiguous when written in hangul. Hanja are also used to mark newspaper headlines, Korean chess pieces, as well as personal names on official documents.
The goal here is to avoid embarrassment of yourself or of others. The Koreans go to great lengths to avoid or smooth out any embarrassing situations. If an uncomfortable situation occurs the likely Korean acknowledgement or action will be an uncomfortable smile.
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There are some elements of conduct in South Korea that you may find disrespectful but remember it is all part of the culture. For example it is not usual to thank someone for holding open the door. Additionally it is not usual to apologise if you bump into someone. One thing to be aware of though is that if you dress in a brazen way and the circles you are moving in are not dressing in the same way it will be frowned upon. Koreans are reserved and well-mannered people. Korea is a land of strict Confucian hierarchy and etiquette is important.
If you learn and observe some of the local customs and cultures it will be much appreciated. Following some of these cultural rules will impress the locals: When meeting it is typical for Koreans to bow to each other as a sign of respect: an alternative maybe to shake hands. With people that you know well a nod of the head and the Korean equivalent of hello will suffice. It is a custom to take off your shoes in houses and in many traditional Korean restaurants so make sure you are aware of this convention.
An expected convention when interacting with older people is that if you are taking something from someone older always use two hands; if you have to use one hand, you can should support your right arm with your left hand.
MODERNIZATION AND TRADITIONAL CULTURE IN CONTEMPORARY KOREA
Another convention is to support your right arm with your left hand when shaking hands with somebody older. When meeting for the first time, older Koreans may ask about your age, your job, and your education. They may also ask of your parents careers. If you do not want to talk about these subjects you can politely give short answers and move the conversation along.
Koreans in general have strong nationalistic views and as with most countries it is advisable not to bring up any historical events make negative comments about anything culturally in Korea. When dining with Koreans, the oldest always eats first. It is common to hear people talking loudly in restaurants, as a sign of being happy and enjoying the food.
Remember never to pour your own drink, but do pour for others. Also, if you notice the slurping of noodles this is actually expected. It shows that you enjoy the food and you are appreciating the cooking. Money if given as a gift is placed in paper or an envelope. Swastikas are commonly seen in Buddhist temples.
This is a religious symbol to the Koreans and does not represent Nazism or anti-Semitism. It is common that when meeting a Korean business person initially you will be introduced by somebody rather than introducing yourself. Bows may or may not take place but handshaking is now commonplace.
It is definitely expected that at an initial meeting business cards will be exchanged. Role level and rank play a central part in hierarchy within Korean business so here the business card is important as is confirming your title so that status and rank can be understood. Koreans generally prefer to deal with someone of the same rank or level as themselves. Earlier we mentioned how to take things in terms of your hands. Use two hands when presenting and receiving a business card. If that is not possible, use your right hand and support your right elbow with your left hand.
A business card needs to be treated as an extension of the person.
Korean business culture and etiquette
Be sure to read it carefully and then place it on the table in front of you. It is seen as disrespectful to put it straight into your pocket and definitely do not write on the business card. Most business meetings are scheduled mid-morning or mid-afternoon. You must make an appointment in plenty of time so ideally a couple of weeks before you wish to meet. Punctuality is important as it is a sign of respect. You must call ahead if you will be late. In fact, it pays off to be the more sober one as key business information is often disclosed at the end of drinking sessions.
If you want to excuse yourself from drinking, do so for religious or medical reasons as opposed to moral ones. However, keep in mind that by exempting yourself from their drinking culture, you are excluding yourself from a large component of the Korean business culture.
Drinking sessions are used to develop camaraderie and loyalty as they consider this to be strengthening a business team to face their competition. The Korean business culture is fast paced, however this does not always equate to productivity. Rigid protocols of reporting back to superiors in order to observe hierarchies means that tasks often involve convoluted processes that take some time to complete. Furthermore, in an effort to give face and favourable impressions, the appearance of presentations and enterprises are often judged over the substance of them.
As such, a disproportionate amount of time is often spent on making something look good instead of making it function well. Koreans have also been known to sometimes exaggerate their workload to give an impression of diligence and dedication. Join over organisations already creating a better workplace. You can download this cultural profile in an easy-to-read PDF format that can be printed out and accessed at any time.
The figure of the total population of each country is drawn from the global estimates listed in the CIA World Factbook , unless otherwise stated. All other statistical information on the demographics of the migrant population in Australia is based on the Australian Housing and Population Census. South Korean Culture. Core Concepts. Dates of Significance.
Do's and Don'ts. Other Considerations. Business Culture. Meetings Do your best to be punctual, and be sure to make an apology for your tardiness if you are late. Bow to the most senior businessman first as low as he does. However, watch to see if he extends his hand to greet you with a handshake. Receiving Business Cards: Asian culture interprets the respect you show one's business card to be indicative of the respect you will show the individual in business.