south-korean-performance

A Comprehensive Guide to South Korean High Culture for Businesspeople

South Koreans value strong personal relationships with their business partners. As a result, you can expect quite a few occasions (like business meals or after-work socializing) where you’ll have to discuss topics that aren’t strictly related to business. To be taken seriously, your partners expect you to invest your time into strengthening your relationship.

 

One of the best ways to show your commitment to your partners is by learning things about their culture. South Koreans are usually very proud of their country and its rich culture and history. You don’t need to immerse yourself in ancient Korean texts; it’s enough to have some basic knowledge so you can ask questions and show your appreciation. As a bonus, culture provides many safe “small talk” topics to discuss with your business partners, who may be impressed by your interest in South Korean culture.

 

Some knowledge of Korean culture will give you an advantage when negotiating with South Koreans.

 

Korean Language

 

The official and national language of South Korea is Korean. It’s a language isolate, which means there are no other languages in the Korean language family (although some consider the Jeju dialect as a separate language within the family). The most accepted dialect of Korean is the Seoul dialect, although (with the exception of Jeju) all dialects are so similar that understanding each other is not an issue for Koreans. However, South Koreans quickly pick up on slight differences between dialects and can easily name the region the other speaker is from.

 

There are two writing systems used for Korean today. Hanja is an ancient script that uses Chinese symbols to write Korean. It was widely used by Korean upper classes until the 15th century. To help lower class people learn to read and write, King Sejong devised a new, simpler script called Hangul.

 

There are two writing systems used for Korean today. Hanja is an ancient script that uses Chinese symbols to write Korean. It was widely used by Korean upper classes until the 15th century. To help lower class people learn to read and write, King Sejong devised a new, simpler script called Hangul. Although upper classes frowned upon Hangul because it was considered too easy to learn, the script quickly gained popularity with lower classes. In the 19th century, Hangul was adopted as the official script of Korean.

 

Korean was traditionally written in columns but today, the language has adopted the Western style and is mostly written from left to right and in rows. Hangul uses letters but unlike the Latin alphabet, the letters are not necessarily written in a sequence, but grouped together into syllables. Each syllable consists of 2-6 letters. Spaces separate the blocks of syllables, and the language uses punctuation similar to English.

 

South Korean Art

Pottery is one of the most ancient forms of Korean art, its roots reaching back to 8000 BC. Vases, jars, and cups with intricate design made this form of art world famous. Many objects have both artistic and symbolic value, according to Korean traditions.

 

Dance is an important element of Korean culture. Many ceremonies and rituals are accompanied by dancers, including Chuseok, the harvest festival. Dances are usually performed in ancient costumes and sometimes even masks.

 
Korean painting
 

Korean folk music is very rhythmic and leans on traditional instruments like the gayageum, a string instrument. The most popular subgenre of folk music is Pansori, which is a traditional musical storytelling that involves a singer and a drummer. The UNESCO named Pansori a “masterpiece of human, oral and intangible heritage”, and deemed it “the intangible cultural property of Korea.”

 

An important element of Korean culture is the tea ceremony (darye in Korean). Its purpose is to enjoy tea and a conversation in a traditional setting. Today, tea ceremonies are a popular break from the fast-paced lifestyle of many South Koreans. There are 15 variations of the ceremony, each performed at different occasions with various participants. It’s very important not to confuse (or even compare) the Korean tea ceremony with the Japanese one when talking with your business partner.

 

Dance is an important element of Korean culture. Many ceremonies and rituals are accompanied by dancers

 

Traditional Korean literature is based on ancient Confucian texts. Nowadays, poetry is very popular in South Korea. Since the 1980s, Korean literature has been translated into English and other Western languages. Flowers of Fire is a popular English anthology of South Korean literature.

 

Several South Korean movies were successful in Western cinemas. Shiri is about a North Korean spy preparing a coup in Seoul. Movies like Poetry, Oldboy, Samaritan Girl and Pietá received recognition at major international film festivals. Fun Fact: The 2006 US movie The Lake House is based on Korean movie Il Mare.

 

Some knowledge of Korean culture will give you an advantage when negotiating with South Koreans.

 

Another way that could help further your relationship is paying your South Korean supplier through Veem. Veem offers fast and secure international payments that reach your suppliers faster than sending a traditional international transfer through your bank. Sending payments through Veem is as easy as sending an email, and it costs less than a regular transfer, saving your business time and money.

 


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