As a foreigner in a Korean company it was often my task to look after our foreign guests to the company. As such I have developed numerous welcome packs on Korean customs and business culture, what to bring and what to expect from the business trip.
Below is my guide for a foreigner travelling to Korea for business for the first time.
All travelers to South Korea must have a passport valid for 6 months.
Under current agreements visa-free status is granted to;
Malaysia (90 Days)
New Zealand (90 Days)
Australia (90 Days)
USA (30 Days)
For more information please contact your local consulate or check the website www.visitkorea.or.kr
The currency of South Korea is the Korean Won (KRW)
The exchange rate for your country can be found at www.x-rates.com
Credit Cards / Direct Debit cards are widely accepted in Korea including in taxis. However there may be circumstances when cash is required. There are many global ATM facilities available in Seoul with English menus, just look for an ATM marked as a ‘Global ATM’ or with the cirrus logo.
*Please Remember* to inform your bank of your travel pre-departure. This is to ensure that your credit card activity overseas is not recognized as credit fraud which could cause your credit account to be frozen by the bank. Cash can be changed into Korean Won either before departure or on arrival at the airport.
Tipping is not required in South Korea
Mobile Phones and Internet
Please check your service provider to ensure that your global roaming will work in South Korea. It is also recommended that the costs of global roaming be fully understood before departure. If you wish to turn off this function please turn off your data service on your Smartphone.
Most cafes and public areas in Seoul feature Free Wi-Fi services which can be accessed by your phone as required.
SIM cards are available from Korea Telecom but law restricts the purchase of these to 3 days after arrival hence they are not available at the airport. If you plan to have an extended stay then please check http://www.ktexpatblog.com for all the information.
That said rental phones are available on arrival at Incheon Airport. Average costs for a mobile phone is 6,000 KRW a day plus call/text charges.
(SK Telecom Rental Services are located inside Incheon Airports at Exits 10 and 11)
Taxis are easily available throughout the city and can be hailed from almost anywhere. However during peak times and in certain areas Seoul taxis are notorious for not accepting customers who wish to travel short distances.
Taxi drivers in Korea have relatively little to no English ability so it is advised to have a copy of the desired address written in Korean to be given to the driver should there be communication issues.
Taxis in Korea have no extra surcharges for luggage; the stated fare on the meter will be the exact fare. Also it is not common to sit in the front seat; even when travelling alone.
|Seoul Orange Taxis|
Electricity and Voltage
The standard voltage in Korea is 220 volts.
The outlet has two round holes and is the same type used in France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Turkey, and many other countries. If you do not have a multi-voltage travel adapter, you can borrow one from your hotel’s front desk. If you want to buy one in Korea, you can do so at a duty-free shop, convenience shop at Incheon International Airport, or Yongsan Electronics Shopping Town.
|Korean Power Outlet - Affectionately referred to as a "pigs nose" by the locals.|
While etiquette and manners are an important part of Korean culture it is important not to get too intimidated or nervous about the process. As a visitor to the country you are not expected to uphold all Korean traditions rather just adhere to the basic set of international rules that apply when visiting another nation. That said there will be occasions and times when you will want to join in and learn some of the unique nuances that are Korean etiquette.
Prior to doing business in South Korea bring a plentiful supply of business cards. They will be exchanged frequently. Try and have one side of the card translated into Korean. Mention your title on the card along as this helps convey your rank and allow them to address you in the appropriate manner.
When presenting or receiving a card, use both hands. After receiving a card, read it and comment on it before putting it into a card case or pocket. Do not shove it into a pocket as this will be viewed as disrespectful.
Many Korean restaurants are fitted with heated seating in which guests remove their shoes and sit on the floor. So it is important to bring clean socks! However if you have difficulty sitting on the floor or are self conscious about foot odour then simply advise the host – most restaurants will provide tabled seating as required.
Food in Korea is shared and it is not common practice to pile dishes onto one plate. It also means “double dipping” with spoons and chopsticks. Simply follow this custom and watch others around you. Many smaller dishes provided at restaurants have unlimited refills so feel free to eat as you please.
Slurping and other noises, as well as talking is very common during a meal and no offense should be taken by that practice.
Korea is infamous for its drinking culture which varies based on rank and seniority. Feel to ask your colleague about the drinking process! They will enjoy teaching you this part of their culture.
Drinking with friends or coworkers in Korea really is a communal affair. Shots, sips or gulps – depending on your mood – are usually done at the same time by everyone in the group, perhaps after a ‘cheers’ (gum-bae in Korean) or a round of a drinking game. In Korea, you also very rarely pour a drink for yourself. Instead, when the bottom of your glass becomes visible, one of the people nearest to you will immediately pour you another drink – and for them you should do the same. Waiting for the rest of your table to drink altogether might seem like a slow way to do things, but trust me – rarely does a cup get placed back on the table before being filled up again quick!
It’s general politeness in Korea to give to or take from someone older than you or that you don’t know very well either with two hands, or with one hand lightly touching your arm or your lower chest. The same goes for alcohol. If being poured a drink by someone you just met, its simplest just to hold your glass with both hands and the tips of all fingers, and to do a similar thing with the bottle if pouring for somebody else. If in doubt – just watch how the people around you are doing it!
In Korea, ‘going dutch’, although of course known as a concept, is still not very common among groups. Usually, the oldest person in the group or the person who suggested the get-together will foot the bill. If one of your group pointedly goes to pay, it’s best to simply offer to get the check at the next place (because there probably will be a next place) instead of trying to shove money in his or her pockets as you’re walking out the door. Rarely will groups of friend’s hang about at the counter sorting things out with notes and coins. Taking turns to pay for everything is much more common.
Nights out between groups in Korea usually go in levels, or ‘cha’. A common first level, or ‘il cha’, might consist of a Korean barbeque restaurant or other communal eatery. Level two, or ‘ee cha’, might consist of another bar, or a beer-hof selling side dishes, while the third level, ‘sam-cha’, might involve going to sing some karaoke in a private room for the group known in Korea as a ‘norae-bang’
It is always fun to try some of the local lingo, even if pronounced incorrectly it will be appreciated.
안녕하세요 Ahn-Nyeong-Ha-Sei-Yo Hello
감사합니다 Gam-sah-hum-nida Thank You
좋아요 Cho-Ah-Yo Good; Great
나빠요 Na-Pa-Yo Bad
맛있어요 Ma-Shi-So-Yo Tastes good
잘가요 Jal-Ka-Yo Goodbye / Farewell
맥주 Maek-Joo Beer
괜찮아요 Kwen-Cha-Na-Yo That’s ok, fine, no worries
주세요 Joo-Sei-Yo Please (give to me)
*placed after the object