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Korean for Business: Master Korean and Impress Everyone at the Workplace

Image of a Korean Palace to illustrate the importance of learning Korean for business

Trading favors. Making backroom deals. Evading taxes.

These are a few things that can get you ahead in business. Oh, wait, we were supposed to talk about legal strategies, right. 

Then there’s no doubt. If you want to succeed in the professional world while making sure you won’t end up in a cell, the best thing to do is learn Korean for business. 

What exactly do we mean when we say Korean for business? Well, we are simply talking about the kind of language you will need to cope with the communicative demands of work meetings, formal presentations, and even business dinners. Basically, the kind of language you will need to survive in the Korean business world!

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Why Learn Korean for Business? 

Is Korean really that useful? Well, let’s think about it for a minute. South Korea is one of the largest and most profitable economies of the 21st century. Home to giant corporations like Samsung, Hyundai and LG, it boasts some of the largest industries in areas like electronics, mobile communications, vehicle manufacturing, and shipbuilding.

If you have formal or informal training in any of these sectors, learning Korean may open the door to a blooming career. “But don’t they speak English in there? Do I really need to learn Korean?” Oh, come on, you can’t expect a whole company to just start speaking English just because of you! If you want to thrive in the Korean business world, yes, you will need to learn some Korean for business. 

So, why is Korean so useful for those wishing to relocate to South Korea? First of all, being fluent in Korean is proof that you are extremely clever (after all, it is one of the hardest languages you will ever find!). More importantly, though, learning Korean shows that you have respect for the Korean business culture and that you don’t expect your coworkers to make a huge effort to communicate with you just because you come from an English-speaking country!

So, if you want your CV to really stand up from your competitors’, learn Korean for business to show potential employees that you’re highly prepared and extremely hard-working. 

Where Do I Start?

Now, let’s be honest. Though we have been talking about the importance of learning Korean for business, you cannot really expect to do so without knowing some general Korean first. As with any language, before you can focus on the specificities of Korean for business contexts, the best thing you can do is start with the basics.

You can start with self-study books for beginners such as Korean Made Simple or Let’s Speak Korean. Much better, though, would be to take a personalized course with a native teacher (more on how we can help you with this at the end of the article!). 

No matter how complete and interactive modern book courses are, one-to-one conversation classes with a native speaker are still the best way to become fluent in any language. Once you are conversational in Korean, you can specialize by learning business vocabulary, as well as a few Korean idioms and proverbs to help you mingle with the crowd!

Korean Business Etiquette

If you want to make a good impression on your co-workers, understanding the Korean business culture and knowing some general Korean etiquette are as important as knowledge of the language. 

In fact, according to our Korean teacher Ho-Sook, the largest single barrier to conducting business in Korea for English-speaking businesspeople is not the language, but the clash between Korean business culture and codes of behavior and those of foreign newcomers.

Here are a few things you need to know about Korean etiquette:

    1. Koreans show huge respect for age and status, and hierarchy affects all aspects of social and professional interactions
    2. Giving and receiving business cards is an essential part of formal introductions. This exchange allows Korean people to determine their interlocutor’s position, title and rank. You have to take your counterpart’s card with both hands and make sure you read it before you put it in your pocket!
    3. In Korea, it is customary to begin a business relationship by exchanging gifts (wrapped in yellow or red paper!). However, bear in mind that it is tactless to give someone an expensive present if they cannot afford to do the same for you.
    4. Koreans bow to older people or those in higher positions both as a greeting and a show of respect. The angle is usually between 30 and 45 degrees.
    5. Korean business clothes are conservative, with an emphasis on modesty and soberness rather than style. Men usually wear dark-colored suits and white shirts, while women wear conservative dresses in subdued tones.

Be Careful With the Use of Honorifics

If there is one thing more important than finding appropriate Korean business clothes, that is getting the use of Korean honorifics right! In Korea, it is not allowed to use lone titles like Doctor or Professor when you’re addressing someone who is in a higher position. Instead, job titles should always be followed by the honorific suffix -님 (-nim). However, according to our Korean teacher Ho-Sook, if you’re talking to someone of equal or lower social status, the honorific suffix is not necessary.

Korean Vocabulary for Business

Korean business culture might be different from the one you are used to, but at the end of the day, they have the same kind of companies and corporations that we have in the US:

English Korean
Types of companies Multinational company 다국적 기업 (dagugjeog gieob)
enterprise 기업 (gieop)
large enterprise 대기업 (daegieop)
small or medium-sized enterprise 중소기업 (jungsogieop)
corporation 주식회사 (jusikhoesa)
joint-stock company 합자회사 (habjahoesa)
partnership 제휴 (jehyu)

Do you want to show your employers that you are in full command of Korean business terms? Use the following words and phrases when discussing objectives and tasks:

English Korean
Business-related terms  interest 이자 (ija)
stockholder 주주 (juju)
monopoly 독점 (dokjeom)
bidding 입찰 (ipchal)
import 수입 (suip)
export 수출 (suchul)
management 경영 (gyeongyeong)
supply 공급 (gonggeup)
demand 수요 수요 (suyo)
property 자산 (jasan)
market 시장 (sijang)
product 상품 (sangpum)
patent, license 특허 (teukeo)
investment 투자 (tuja)
bank note 지폐 (jipye)
complaint 불평 (bulpyeong)

Now that you know how useful Korean is, what will you do to acquire the Korean business culture and jargon? Luckily, we can help.

→Sign Up Now: Free Trial Korean Lesson With a Native Speaker Teacher!←

Whether you want to learn Korean business idioms, greetings, or just learn how to make the best Korean business card ever, we can pair you up with a Korean teacher so you can ask all your burning questions about how to succeed in the Korean business world. Contact us now and get a free trial lesson, no strings attached! We have the feeling you’ll want to come back for more.