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South Korea Culture Understanding


 Nguồn: Tham khảo bài luận nhóm sinh viên khóa E-BBA1 trường ĐH KTQD Hà Nội

Tran Nu DieuAnh

Nguyen Thuy Duong

Nguyen Thi Thu Hang (4-7)

Vu Thi Thu Huong

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I. Introduction
II. Awareness

1.  Self-Awareness

2.  General awareness of  cultural differences

III. Specific knowledge of Korea for Expatriate

1.   Knowledge in daily life

a.   Overview of Korea country

b.   The Korean Languages

c.   Weather and climate

d.   Custom & etiquette of Korean in life

2.   Knowledge in business

a.   Overview of Korean economy

b.   Business etiquette and protocol

c.   Information of labor law

IV. Specific skill and Personal values

V. Conclusion

I. Introduction

1.  The important of Training packages

A Training Package is a set of nationally endorsed competency standards, assessment guidelines and Korean Qualifications Framework qualifications for recognising and assessing people’s skills in a specific industry, industry sector or enterprise. Training Packages describe the skills and knowledge that individuals need to perform effectively in the workplace. A Training Package does not describe how an individual should be trained. Trainers and assessors develop appropriate learning strategies, resources and materials – the ‘how’ – depending on the learners’ needs, abilities and circumstances to meet the needs of the Training Package.

Training packages are an important part of Korean’s vocational education and training system as they allow industry to define the skills it needs to grow competitive businesses and generate jobs. Training Packages also support nationally consistent, portable qualifications, so that Koreans can use their skills and training anywhere in the country. Training Packages were introduced to replace an earlier approach in which training providers and individual states and territories developed their own qualifications through accredited courses. This meant that people receiving a qualification from a training provider in one state or territory might have different skills and training to people receiving a similar qualification in another state or territory. People moving from one location to another often found that their qualifications were not recognised in the new location. By involving industry and all states and territories in a national approach to identifying skills (competencies) and qualifications, Training Packages have provided a consistent basis for workforce skills recognition across Korea.

tải xuống

2.  The purpose of this paper

The purpose of a training package is to

  • Enable qualifications to be awarded through the direct assessment of competencies
  • Encourage the development and delivery of training to suit individual needs
  • Encourage learning in a workplace environment
  • Provide a pool of potential employees who meet nationally recognised standards of competence in a particular area.

II. Awareness

3.     Self-awareness

Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self- Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.

So self-awareness is the first step in creating what you want and mastering yours. Where you focus your attention, your emotions, reactions, personality and behavior determine where you go in life.

Having self- awareness allows you to see where your thoughts and emotions are taking you. It also allows you to see the controls of your emotions, behavior, and personality so you can make changes you want.

Especially when you work abroad, self-awareness will help you know clearly the position you are standing in society, your core-value and how you will reach to success. Self -awareness also helps you find the differences in culture between your original country and Korea, therefore you will have afford to adapt new environment such as language, working style, food, customs, etc.

4.  General awareness of cultural differences

It seems to be not enough if the expatriates just only aware themselves. Awareness of culture is also essential for them. They must to conceive of the differences between 2 countries. Since , each nation has the own culture and typical features. They cannot apply the experience that has used in home country to the new environment. Knowing clearly of cultural differences will be the most useful tool for expatriate in Korea. When they know the differences, they can cope with the problem and communicate with natives more easily.  We use the Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture for international business.



PDI: Power distance

IDV: Individual vs. Collectivism

MAS: Masculinity (Assertiveness), Femininity (Nurturing)

UAI: Uncertainty avoidance

LTO: Long term orientation

III. Specific knowledge of Korea for expatriate

1.  Knowledge in daily life

a.  Overview of Korean country

South Korea is a presidential republic in East Asia, occupying the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. Also known as the “Land of the Morning Calm”, it is bordered by China to the west, Japan to the east and North Korea to the north, with which it was united until 1945. Its capital and largest city is Seoul, the world’s second largest metropolitan city.

Location: Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the East Sea and the Yellow Sea

Capital: Seoul

Climate: temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter

Population: 48,598,175 (July 2011 est.)

Ethnic Make-up: homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)

Religions: no affiliation 46%, Christian 26%, Buddhist 26%, Confucianist 1%, other 1%

Government: republic

Currency: Won

b.   The Korean Language

The Koreans are one ethnic family speaking one language.  They share certain distinct physical characteristics which differentiate them from other Asian people including the Chinese and the Japanese, and have a strong cultural identity as one ethnic family.
The Korean language is spoken by more than 65 million people living on the peninsula and its outlying islands as well as 5.5 million Koreans living in other parts of the world.  The fact that all Koreans speak and write the same language has been a crucial factor in their strong national identity.  Modern Korea has several different dialects including the standard one used in Seoul and central areas, but they are similar enough that speakers/listeners do not have trouble understanding each other.

c.   Climate and weather

Part of the East Asian monsoonal region, South Korea has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. The movement of air masses from the Asian continent exerts greater influence on South Korea’s weather than does air movement from the Pacific Ocean. Winters are usually long, cold, and dry, whereas summers are short, hot, and humid. Spring and autumn are pleasant but short in duration. Seoul’s mean temperature in January is -5° C to – 2.5° C; in July the mean temperature is about 22.5° C to 25° C. Because of its southern and seagirt location, Cheju Island has warmer and milder weather than other parts of South Korea. Mean temperatures on Cheju range from 2.5° C in January to 25° C in July.

The country generally has sufficient rainfall to sustain its agriculture. Rarely does less than 75 centimeters of rain fall in any given year; for the most part, rainfall is over 100 centimeters. Amounts of precipitation, however, can vary from year to year. Serious droughts occur about once every eight years, especially in the rice-producing southwestern part of the country. About two-thirds of the annual precipitation occurs between June and September.

è Vietnam and Korea all have the common features in term of climate .Like Vietnam , Korea also has 4 clear reasons .Although the winter in Korea is longer an colder than the winter in Vietnam  , the expatriate people are able to adapt easily to the weather in Korea . However, the expatriates must still prepare clothes carefully for winter in order to keep health best for works.

d.    Etiquette & Customs in South Korea

Working abroad, the expatriate people must concern about not only the work but also the customs in Korea.  There are many occasion in daily life that they have to communicate with natives so much .Therefore, expatriates need to equip some main elements of Korean custom for themselves. These are the basic etiquettes which expatriates should follow and bring along the trip:

v Meeting Etiquette   : Greetings follow strict rules of protocol.
Many South Koreans shake hands with expatriates after the bow, thereby blending both cultural styles.
–  The person of lower status bows to the person of higher status, yet it is the most senior person who initiates the handshake.
–  The person who initiates the bow says, “man-na-suh pan-gop-sumnida”, which means “pleased to meet you.”
–  Information about the other person will be given to the person they are being introduced to in advance of the actual meeting.
–  Wait to be introduced at a social gathering.
–  When you leave a social gathering, say good-bye and bow to each person individually.

v Gift Giving Etiquette

– Gifts express a great deal about a relationship and are always reciprocated.
– It is inconsiderate to give someone an expensive gift if you know that they cannot afford to reciprocate accordingly.
– Bring fruit or good quality chocolates or flowers if invited to a Korean’s home.
– Gifts should be wrapped nicely.
– The number 4 is considered unlucky, so gifts should not be given in multiples of 4.
– Giving 7 of an item is considered lucky.
– Wrap gifts in red or yellow paper, since these are royal colors. Alternatively, use yellow or pink paper since they denote happiness.
– Do not wrap gifts in green, white, or black paper.
– Do not sign a card in red ink.
– Use both hands when offering a gift.
– Gifts are not opened when received.

v Dining Etiquette

– If you are invited to a South Korean’s house:
– It is common for guests to meet at a common spot and travel together.
– You may arrive up to 30 minutes late without giving offence.
– Remove your shoes before entering the house.
– The hosts greet each guest individually.
– The host pours drinks for the guests in their presence. The hostess does not pour drinks.
– The hosts usually accompany guests to the gate or to their car because they believe that it is insulting to wish your guests farewell indoors.
– Send a thank you note the following day after being invited to dinner.

v Table manners

– Wait to be told where to sit. There is often a strict protocol to be followed.
– The eldest are served first.
– The oldest or most senior person is the one who starts the eating process.
– Never point your chopsticks.
– Do not pierce your food with chopsticks.
– Chopsticks should be returned to the table after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak.
– Do not cross your chopsticks when putting them on the chopstick rest.
– Do not pick up food with your hands. Fruit should be speared with a toothpick.
– Bones and shells should be put on the table or an extra plate.
– Try a little bit of everything. It is acceptable to ask what something is.
– Refuse the first offer of second helpings.
– Finish everything on your plate.
– Indicate you are finished eating by placing your chopsticks on the chopstick rest or on the table. Never place them parallel across your rice bowl.

2. Knowledge in business

a. South Korea economy overview

South Korea has a market economy which ranks 15th in the world by nominal GDP and 12th by purchasing power parity (PPP), identifying it as one of the G-20 major economies. It is a high-income developed country, with a developed market, and is a member of OECD. South Korea is one of the Asian Tigers, and is the only developed country so far to have been included in the group of Next Eleven countries. South Korea had one of the world’s fastest growing economies from the early 1960s to the late 1990s, and South Korea is still one of the fastest growing developed countries in the 2000s, along with Hong KongSingapore, and Taiwan, the other three members of Asian Tigers. Having almost no natural resources and always suffering from overpopulation in its small territory, which deterred continued population growth and the formation of a large internal consumer market, South Korea adapted an export-oriented economic strategy to fuel its economy, and in 2010, South Korea was the seventh largest exporter and tenth largest importer in the world.

Despite the South Korean economy’s high growth potential and apparent structural stability, South Korea suffers perpetual damage to its credit rating in the stock market due to the belligerence of North Korea in times of deep military crises, which has an adverse effect on the financial markets of the South Korean economy.However, renowned financial organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, also compliment the resilience of the South Korean economy against various economic crises, citing low state debt, and high fiscal reserves that can quickly be mobilized to address any expected financial emergencies. South Korea was one of the few developed countries that was able to avoid a recession during the global financial crisis, and its economic growth rate will reach 6.1% in 2010, a sharp recovery from economic growth rates of 2.3% in 2008 and 0.2% in 2009 when the global financial crisis hit.

South Korea’s economic prosperity as measured in GDP by PPP per capita was still only a fraction of industrialized nations. In 1980, the South Korean GDP per capita was $2,300, about one-third of nearby developed Asian economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan. Since then, South Korea has advanced into a developed economy to eventually attain a GDP per capita of $30,000 in 2010, almost thirteen times the figure thirty years ago. The whole country’s GDP increased from $88 billion to $1,460 billion in the same time frame. In 2009, South Korea officially became the first major recipient of ODA to have ascended to the status of a major donor of ODA. Between 2008 and 2009, South Korea donated economic aid of $1.7 billion to countries other than North Korea. South Korea’s separate annual economic aid to North Korea has historically been more than twice its ODA.


b. Business Etiquette and Protocol

v Relationships & Communication

– South Koreans prefer to do business with people with whom they have a personal connection.
– It is therefore crucial to be introduced by a third-party.
– Relationships are developed through informal social gatherings that often involve a considerable amount of drinking and eating.
– Individuals who have established mutual trust and respect will work hard to make each other successful.
– South Koreans treat legal documents as memorandums of understanding.
– They view contracts as loosely structured consensus statements that broadly define agreement and leave room for flexibility and adjustment as needed.
– Under no circumstances insult or to criticize in front of others.
– Sensitive matters may often be raised indirectly through the intermediary that first made the introductions.
– South Koreans are extremely direct communicators. They are not averse to asking questions if they do not understand what has been said or need additional clarification.
– This is a culture where “less is more” when communicating. Respond to questions directly and concisely.
– Since there is a tendency to say “yes” to questions so that you do not lose face, the way you phrase a question is crucial. It is better to ask, “When can we expect shipment?” than “Can we expect shipment in 3 weeks?”, since this question requires a direct response.

-In communicating, it is appreciated to use gesture, non-verbal communication as well as contact.


We can easily realize the similarities and differences in term of relationship and communication of 2 countries .The similarity is that both countries are appreciate the relationship that relating the personal connection .Because it will improve the trust of both sides. One more common feature is that they all believe the development of relationship through social informal gathering But the differences here is in communication factor. It can be considered as the contrast in the way to approach the problem. For Korean, when communicating and mentioning to any problem, they often choose the direct way to talk (High context). Their answers are also clear and go straight the main problem not like the way Vietnamese does. Vietnamese often go around and around at the beginning of the speech. Since they think that this way cannot only bring out the mild approach but also help the speaker poll listener’s opinion (Low context).The other difference is the using of nonverbal communication in business. In Korea, gestures and eye contact are always used in communicating .Because Korean thinks that this way easily conveys sincerity and build trust, which is rarely concerned by Vietnamese.

v Negotiation

– Although the primary negotiation style is competitive, South Koreans nevertheless value long-term relationships and look for win-win solutions.

-Sharing of Information – Korean negotiators are willing to spend considerable time gathering information and discussing various details before the bargaining stage of a negotiation can begin. In this phase, they seek to find the other side’s weaknesses

è In contrast, Vietnamese often take less time to consider one problem before beginning of negotiation. But the expatriate should notice and add this step in each negotiation with not only Korean but also the others. Because if the partners see your preparation by research information relating, they will think that you

– Koreans generally employ a polychromic work style. They are used to pursuing multiple actions and goals in parallel. When negotiating, they often take a holistic approach and may jump back and forth between topics rather than addressing them in sequential orderè It seems that Korean are more flexible than Vietnamese. In negotiating any problem, Vietnamese tend to solve from the first problem to the last one following the order. That way reflect one part in characteristic of Vietnamese .They should be more creative and flexible in working, which is really crucial in business to achieve the most effectiveness. The expatriate will practice in period in Korea.

– When making decisions, Korean businesspeople usually consider the specific situation rather than applying universal principles. Personal feelings and experiences weigh more strongly than empirical evidence and other objective facts do, but they will consider all aspects.

– Korean has the high uncertain avoidance index. It implies that Korean often towards to stability .This features also express in negotiation. They tend to choose stable options which are still effective. Korean is not ready to change because they think that changes can cause risks.  è In contrast, Vietnamese managers try to apply new options and they believe that creativity can create innovation.

v Business Meeting Etiquette

. Appointments are required and should be made 3 to 4 weeks in advance.
. You should arrive on time for meetings as this demonstrates respect for the person you are meeting.
. The most senior South Korean generally enters the room first.
. It is a good idea to send both an agenda and back-up material including information about your company and client testimonials prior to the meeting.
. The main purpose of the first meeting is to get to know each other.
. Meetings are used to understand a client’s needs and challenges. They lay the foundation for building the relationship.
. Do not remove your jacket unless the most senior South Korean does so.
. Have all written materials available in both English and Korean.

v Dress Etiquette

. Business attire is conservative.
. Men should wear dark- coloured, conservative business suits with white shirts.
. Women should dress conservatively and wear subdued colours.
. Men should avoid wearing jewellery other than a watch or a wedding ring.

v Business Cards

. Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions in a highly ritualized manner.
. The way you treat someone’s business card is indicative of the way you will treat the person.
. Have one side of your business card translated into Korean.
. Using both hands, present your business card with the Korean side facing up so that it is readable by the recipient.
. Examine any business card you receive carefully.
. Put the business cards in a business card case or a portfolio.
. Never write on someone’s business card in their presence

c. Information of Korean labor law

Wherever people working, they also follow the law of this place that they are working for .Expatriate in Korea is not the exception. The time that they stand down Korea country is the moment that expatriates have to obey this country’s law .In business , Understanding and Obeying labor law is not only the responsibility but also the advantage that expatriate can make use of. These are main factor in labor law which the expatriates should notice.

The Labor Standards Act of 1997, known as the Labor Act and amended in 2007, applies to South Korea’s work force. The act sets labor standards and prohibits gender and age discrimination. It covers workplaces with five or more employees. Violations should be reported to the South Korean Ministry of Labor, and upon a finding of a Labor Act violation, the employer may be fined.

Traditional cultural ideals such as, lifetime employment arrangements, have disappeared in favor of more Westernized normative ideals

v Employment Contracts

According to the Labor Act, temporary employment contracts can be no longer than one year, unless the job requires more than a year in order to finish it.

v Probationary Period

Probationary periods are allowed under the Labor Act if it occurs at the beginning of the employment relationship. Usually lasting three months, termination can occur at any time and for any reason during this period.

v Temporary or Part-Time Employees

Temporary employment is allowed for jobs that require specific training. The duration of temporary employment for special skills jobs must be less than one year but, in special circumstances, can be extended another year. After two years, the employee, if still retained, should be treated as a standard employee.

Part-time employees are treated equally under the Labor Act, unless the part-time hours are fewer than 15 hours weekly. If the employee exceeds this threshold, then she must be provided with identical holiday leave time to which full-time employees are entitled. The part-time worker must be paid on an hourly basis.

v Employment Suspension and Termination

Employment suspension is allowed for disciplinary concerns as defined by appropriate labor contracts. The employer must pay a specific percentage, as determined by the industry’s labor contracts (or collective bargaining agreements), while the employee is on disciplinary leave.

South Korea allows termination for any reason, both for-cause and no-cause, unless the labor contract requires it. If it does, then, there must be a 30-day advance notice period prior to termination, unless the probationary period is still in effect, the employee is considered a seasonal employee, or the employer shuts down.

v Maximum Work Hours

The Labor Act states that employees must not work more than 44 hours weekly, excluding breaks, and no longer than eight hours daily. Employees must be provided with a 30-minute respite period for every four hours worked, and at least one day per week of rest. Night shifts (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) are illegal for female and minor employees.

However, trade union agreements may allow a 48-hour work limit if the work completed and averaged in a two-week period doesn’t exceed 44 hours weekly. By agreement, this can be extended to 56 hours weekly or 12 hours daily, if the average weekly hours worked for that month don’t exceed the 44-hour per week limit.

IV. Specific skill and personal values

Every employer is looking for a specific set of skills from job-seekers that match the skills necessary to perform a particular job. But beyond these job-specific technical skills, certain skills are nearly universally sought by employers. The good news is that most job-seekers possess these skills to some extent. The better news is that job-seekers with weaknesses in these areas can improve their skills through training, professional development, or obtaining coaching/mentoring from someone who understands these skills. In the position of one expatriate manager, you should keep improve these skills continuously to adapt to working environment. Notice that the better performance, the higher advantage.

Skills which are most Sought After by Employers

  • Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written). By far, the one skill mentioned most often by employers is the ability to listen, write, and speak effectively. Successful communication is critical in business.
  • Analytical/Research Skills. Deals with your ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues that need to be addressed.
  • Computer/Technical Literacy. Almost all jobs now require some basic understanding of computer hardware and software, especially word processing, spreadsheets, and email.
  • Flexibility/Adaptability/Managing Multiple Priorities. Deals with your ability to manage multiple assignments and tasks, set priorities, and adapt to changing conditions and work assignments.
  • Interpersonal Abilities. The ability to relate to your co-workers, inspire others to participate, and mitigate conflict with co-workers is essential given the amount of time spent at work each day.
  • Leadership/Management Skills. While there is some debate about whether leadership is something people are born with, these skills deal with your ability to take charge and manage your co-workers.
  • Multicultural Sensitivity/Awareness. There is possibly no bigger issue in the workplace than diversity, and job-seekers must demonstrate a sensitivity and awareness to other people and cultures.
  • Planning/Organizing. Deals with your ability to design, plan, organize, and implement projects and tasks within an allotted timeframe. Also involves goal-setting.
  • Problem-Solving/Reasoning/Creativity. Involves the ability to find solutions to problems using your creativity, reasoning, and past experiences along with the available information and resources.
  • Teamwork. Because so many jobs involve working in one or more work-groups, you must have the ability to work with others in a professional manner while attempting to achieve a common goal.

Besides improving your skill, you should also develop some personal values because that helps much for success.

Personal Values Employers Seek in Employees

Here is list of the 10 most important categories of values.

  • Honesty/Integrity/Morality. Employers probably respect personal integrity more than any other value, especially in light of the many recent corporate scandals.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility. Deals with openness to new ideas and concepts, to working independently or as part of a team, and to carrying out multiple tasks or projects.
  • Dedication/Hard-Working/Work Ethic/Tenacity. Employers seek job-seekers who love what they do and will keep at it until they solve the problem and get the job done.
  • Dependability/Reliability/Responsibility. There’s no question that all employers desire employees who will arrive to work every day — on time — and ready to work, and who will take responsibility for their actions.
  • Loyalty. Employers want employees who will have a strong devotion to the company — even at times when the company is not necessarily loyal to its employees.
  • Positive Attitude/Motivation/Energy/Passion. The job-seekers who get hired and the employees who get promoted are the ones with drive and passion — and who demonstrate this enthusiasm through their words and actions.
  • Professionalism. Deals with acting in a responsible and fair manner in all your personal and work activities, which is seen as a sign of maturity and self-confidence; avoid being petty.
  • Self-Confidence. Look at it this way: if you don’t believe in yourself, in your unique mix of skills, education, and abilities, why should a prospective employer? Be confident in yourself and what you can offer employers.
  • Self-Motivated/Ability to Work with little or No Supervision. While teamwork is always mentioned as an important skill, so is the ability to work independently, with minimal supervision.
  • Willingness to Learn. No matter what your age, no matter how much experience you have, you should always be willing to learn a new skill or technique. Jobs are constantly changing and evolving, and you must show an openness to grow and learn with that change.

Employability skills and personal values are the critical tools and traits you need to succeed in the workplace — and they are all elements that you can learn, cultivate, develop, and maintain over your lifetime.

V. Conclusion

Expatriate training and support is critically important to the success of international organizations. These are some main points in our training package for the expatriate manager before moving to South Korea for work. During the training process, there are some tests to assess the effectiveness of the training program and to have needed modifications. We hope after this training program you will meet the requirement for a new life in South Korea. We will keep in touch with each other through internet and telephone so that we can help you whenever you have


1.   Textbook: Understanding cross-cultural management (Marie-Joelle Browaeys& Roger Price – Prentice Hall, 2011)

2.   Skills Employers Seek, from Loughborough University.

3.   Websites:


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