The following was extracted from one of my lectures in the Business Culture Fundamentals Specialization of the KBC Professional Certification Program. Visit Korea Business Central for more information on the program and to register and get certified.
"Alright, so I’d like to jump into today’s lesson on business cards by pointing out that the Essential Handout for this module is the only ebook in existence (as far as I know) about nothing other than Korean business cards, entitled “The Definitive Guide to Business Cards in Korea”. In that book, I really give you the skinny on just about everything there is to know... after all, it says it’s “definitive” right there in the title.
"But actually, it’s still not complete. Since I wrote that book, my own business card thinking has evolved through two additional transformations!
"Here’s the thing about business cards in Korea.
"I find that it’s often harder to explain to Koreans some of the things I’ve done than to show off a bit in the form of a mini-resume on the back of my card. Perhaps it’s that the language barrier is bigger when spoken, than when written, but I like to prime the discussion with a few facts about myself that will create a little interest.
"And since, as I explain in the textbook lesson, it’s common courtesy in Korea to actually review the business card that somebody gives you at the time of exchanging cards, I always get questions, and that gets us talking.
"But adding more stuff created a problem. With addresses, names and other information being written both in English and Korean, as well as some resume highlights, it soon became too much for one business card, until I thought of a new concept: the double-sized folded business card!
"Yup, here it is.
"That was cool, but it was also pretty over the top, and Korean culture is such that a little feigned humility is appreciated -- even in business! As I was struggling for an answer about what to do, I came up with yet an even better approach which my friend Jinho suggested!
"I now carry two separate sets of business cards; one set for Koreans, and one set for non-Koreans. In addition to letting me get away without having everything in both languages on every card, each set has just the information I think the respective group will be more interested in.
"For example, Koreans don’t give a hoot that I’m a certified Korean translator or that I passed some Korean TOPIK exam at the top level that they could pass in their sleep. On the other hand, I find that Koreans are more interested in knowing that I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington than non-Koreans, who often know that it’s a rathermid-level school.
"So, my point here is that since we know that business cards in Korea are a somewhat more respected business tool than back in the West, I encourage you to think through your approaches to them,and not just by creating two versions.
"Just as you should follow a few simple rules about business card exchanges (explained in the textbook portion of this module), so the business card can be a marketing tool in Korea in ways that are unique in Korea - and unique in ways that you can take advantage of it as a foreigner (remember how I said Korean business culture doesn't always work exactly the same with foreigners as amongst Koreans? We can get away with stuff.)
"So, how about you? Have you tried something that works with your business card? Share it with the class in the classroom, alright?
"Ah, and here are what my current cards look like.
"For more information on Korean job titles and business cards, be sure to read this article from Seoul Magazine: “Two Things to Remember about Korean Job Titles”.
"And I’ll also suggest that you read “Three Steps to Business Network Building in Korea”, another article for Seoul Magazine which is one of the extra reading links for this module. It explains that the business card exchange in Korea means “permission to contact” and why this is a vital key for business networking in Korea.
"So, am I keeping your attention through the lectures? I guess if you made it this far, you’re at least paying attention to the end. Give me some feedback though. What do you think so far?
"Share with the class in the Classroom."