U.S. businesses aiming to be successful in this dynamic nation of over 50 million people should take time to learn about, and be cognizant of, some important facts.
Long history: Korea’s over 10 thousand year history is one filled with dozens of rich dynasties and unfortunate conquests by rival Asian nations -- Japan and China. Japan first invaded Korea in 1592, followed by a Manchurian invasion in 1636, and another Japanese invasion from 1910 to 1945. The Republic of Korea, founded in 1948, soon experienced a civil war (1950-1953) which ended, in part, thanks to the arrival of U.S. military forces that have been present on the Peninsula for over 60 years.
One of the world’s most homogeneous societies, Korea is dominated by Confucian and Buddhist logic and traditions, which place great importance on age, rank, hierarchy and the value of one’s community and collective society -- all elements important in understanding how to navigate business in Korea. Whereas U.S. business culture places more emphasis on the merits of the deal, in Korea the emphasis is on the personal connection with the other party in the contract.
Post-Korean War: Korea in the 1950s and 1960s was one of the poorest countries in the world. Determined leaders gave economic/financial power to some privileged families, called chaebols (families that grew into multi-national, multi-sector industrial empires). The chaebols effectively and persistently combined their ‘evolving sector expertise,’ helped by a dense population in a geographically small area, into what is now a highly-respected and world-renown trillion-dollar economy driven by trade.
Today, Korea is known around the world for its popular and attractive white appliances, award-winning cars, smart phones and LED screens. It has a top-tier ranking in such diverse industries as ship building and the K-Pop “Korean Wave” culture called hallyu, which has captured fans worldwide, TV dramas, and attractive youth bands. Korea, hands-down, is also the most wired country in the world.
Korea hosted the Summer Olympics (1988), the Soccer World Cup (2002; along with Japan), the G-20 Leaders Summit (2010), and will host the 2018 Winter Olympics. These major events, a source of pride and accomplishment, have intensified Korea’s push to have a first-rate infrastructure, hospitality and transportation system.
The Han River divides Seoul: Seoul is a modern, bustling, international city with all the first-class culinary, cultural and business amenities, variety, and accommodations of any large metropolitan European or Asian city. The city is divided graciously and elegantly by the Han River and 27 bridges (they all have a different architecture and feel; there were only three bridges crossing the Han in the 1960s.) After you arrive at the award-winning Incheon Airport, your hotel will be located either on the north side of the Han (where the airport and U.S. Embassy are located) or south side. Traffic congestion, persistent and chronic, must be factored into arriving on-time for business appointments. In Korea, you should never be late. Instead, arrive 20 minutes early. That’s the norm.
Other important business success factoids:
o Ann-yong-ha-sayo – Hello and goodbye
o Gam-sa-ham-nida – Thank you
Consult: U.S. State Department http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1018.html
Visa Requirements for U.S. Citizens
If planning to stay more than 90 days or for any purpose other than tourism or business, U.S. passport holders must obtain a visa prior to entering Korea. For U.S. citizens, a five-year valid multiple entry F-4 visa is issued. This visa holder can stay up to 2 years each time he/she visits the Republic of Korea, until their visa expires.
Americans coming to Korea for activities such as employment, teaching English, or study must obtain a visa at a Korean embassy or consulate abroad.
For more information about Korean visa and entry requirements, please see the Korean Ministry of Justice's website at http://www.moj.go.kr/HP/ENG/index.do.
For information about visas to Korea, please also see the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at: http://usa.mofa.go.kr/english/am/usa/visa/Visa/index.jsp.
U.S. Companies that require the travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link:
U.S. Embassy to Korea Visa Website: http://seoul.usembassy.gov/visas_non-immigrant_visas.html.
§ SK Telecom: 82-2-6343-9000 (Press 4)
§ KT Olleh: 82-2-2190-0901
§ LGU+: 82-2-3416-7010
From Incheon International Airport to Downtown Seoul:
Other Transportation Recommendations
§ Covers large area around Seoul, other subway systems, and airport railroads
§ Purchase passes at tourism information centers at Incheon Airport
§ Cost: KRW10,000 for a one-day pass and KRW 59,500 for a week
(plus a KRW 4,500 refundable deposit and KRW 500 non-refundable service charge)
Banking and Money
For international health advisories related to Korea, please visit the CDC website at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/south-korea.htm
Local Time Zone
Business Hours and Lunch Hours
Observed Korean Holidays – 2014
New Year’s Day: January 1st
Liberation Day: August 15th
Lunar New Year’s Day: January 30th – 31st
Chuseok Days: September 8th – 10th
Children’s Day: May 5th
National Foundation Day: October 3rd
Buddha’s Birthday: May 6th
Korean Alphabet Day: October 13th
Memorial Day: June 6th
Christmas Day: December 25th
Articles in Excess of Duty Free Allowance
Coming into Korea consult: http://www.airport.kr/iiacms/pageWork.iia?_scode=C1202010500
Affordable hotels: http://www.benikea.co.kr
Airport Bus: http://www.airport.kr/airport/traffic/bus/busList.iia?flag=E
Coming to Korea: http://www.airport.kr/iiacms/pageWork.iia?_scode=C1202010500
Incheon Int’l Airport: http://www.airport.kr/eng/
Korean Emb. in U.S.: http://usa.mofa.go.kr/english/am/usa/main/index.jsp
Korean Railroad: http://www.korail.com/
M Pass: http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/ena/TR/TR_EN_5_1_4.jsp#Subway07
Returning to the U.S: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/us-citizens
Subway Map: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TR/TR_EN_5_1_4.jsp
Time Zone: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html
U.S. State Dept.: http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html
U.S. Customs: http://www.cbp.gov
U.S. Embassy Seoul Consular Section: http://www.asktheconsul.org