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August 2012

eBriefing: "Answers to Top Questions about Business Visas in Korea"

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Download the Following Weblog Article in PDF eBriefing Format.

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3-8-2013 8-55-31 PMJared Muloongo--intern on KBC and job-seeker in Korea--and I are working to figure out some key information about the visa situation in Korea in order to share it with our members on KBC.

Based on the recommendation of my associate General-Secretary Yong-Moon Kim of the Gyeonggi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies, and through a couple people I worked with at InvestKorea last year to put together the KBC interview with Comissioner Hank Ahn, I was able to get in touch with the official from the Korea Immigration Service who is currently dispatched to InvestKorea to advise on visa matters for foreigners investing in Korea.

I visited his office today with a bundle of questions and the following are the answers I was able to get.

What are the visa options for foreigners who want to work in Korea in non-executive positions which are not teaching/ESL positions? (ex: E7, D8, E9, D9…)

To answer the specific visas mentioned in the question:

  • E-7: This is for foreign employees contracted with Korean companies to provide in-house services in Korea. It's the visa best-matched to most entry-level foreigners looking for a white-collar job in Korea.
  • D-8: This visa requires a large investment by a foreigner in Korea.
  • E-9: This is the visa under which laborers from certain countries come to Korea to work in factories in Korea at low wages. 
  • D-9: Foreigners who have a proven record of having achieved a certain degree of Korean exports in a trading business can be eligible for this visa.

Other visas which a foreigner might consider:

  • D-7: A foreigner who has worked for a foreign company or public agency overseas may be dispatched to Korea to work in the Korea branch or subsidiary of their employer and such person would be eligible for this visa.
  • E-1: Persons with an academic background may obtain a professorship and be sponsored by their university with the E-1 visa.
  • E-3: Foreign researchers at Korean research institutions (does not include professors) generally work under the E-3 visa.
  • E-5: Any number of foreign professionals, such as attorneys, doctors and accountants, would generally work in Korea under this visa.
What can you tell me about an E-7 visa? What are some of the requirements for this visa? 

The key point of this visa is that it's for foreigners working in positions in Korean companies which the Korean companies have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Korea Ministry of Justice cannot be filled suitably by Koreans. (This is the reason most former ESL teachers who have gone from the ESL visa (E-2) to a E-7 visa are still working in language-related tasks.)

What is a D-4 visa for? What kinds of interns get this visa? Is it only at investment companies?

The D-4 visa has a very specific purpose. It's for the foreign local employees of the overseas branches and subsidiaries of Korean companies who wish to bring the foreign workers to Korea for on-the-job training. It is not a visa that can be easily issued under the sponsorship of a Korean company or otherwise to just any foreign intern.

Can you briefly explain what the E-9 visa is for? Who can apply for this visa and what are the requirements to qualify for this visa?  

This visa is for foreign laborers (particularly those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and a few other countries) willing to work long hour in dangerous and dirty conditions for very low wages (currently about W900,000/month is average, or so I've heard). You don't want this visa.

Are these visas country-dependent? For example, are they available only to citizens of certain countries and not to citizens of other countries? (Does this include African countries?) 

As I understand, the E-9 and H-2 visas are available only to persons from countries which have signed agreements with Korea for these visas. The other visas depend on finding a company or organization willing to sponsor, and which can also persuade the Department of Justice that they need the specific foreign employee and will properly take responsibility for that person. Also, as Korean companies now have to pay into four kinds of national insurance/workers compensation plans even for foreign workers, this can also be a significant burden, both in terms of costs and paperwork hassle.

How long does it take a candidate in Africa to have their visa procesed? What are some of the best places to have your visa processed quickly and efficiently?

I don't know, but the official at InvestKorea did say that the visa issuance isn't a country-based thing. No doubt, citizens of certain countries will have an easier time of it, but there aren't specific regulations that would affect this.

If a company states that an individual they are hiring must get their own visa, what recommendations would you make to the individual? How can they get a visa without sponsorship?  What visas would you recommend for people coming to do business in Korea, especially if they want to invest but are below the $200,000 dollar mark?  

Certain visas are available without a company sponsorship, don't require a ridiculously high investment or export record and allow the foreigner to work in Korea. They include the following.

  • D-10: Foreign graduates of Korean universities may be awarded this visa for 6-12 months, which allows them to stay in the country to look for work. In fact, it's called a "Get a Job" visa. This visa does not allow the individual to work though.
  • F-2: Those who are able to jump through lots of hoops and pass the points system may be awarded an F-2 residents visa. F-2 visa-holders may work in Korea.
  • F-6: Foreigners married to a Korean get this visa and they can work too.
  • F-5: This is the visa for permanent residents who have fulfilled various long-term residence and other conditions, and these persons can work, also.
  • G-1: This catch-all visa only requires the foreigner to convince the Ministry of Justice to give it to them. It appears to be intended for special situations.
  • H-2: This visa covers a very wide range of work roles and based on this document which I downloaded from the Ministry of Government Legislation's website, it appears to be similar to the E-9 visa in that it helps Korean manufactures get low cost manpower. Online articles indicate that these visa-holders are only from a few countries which have signed certain agreements with Korea.
What are the process and minimum requirements for a Korean company to sponsor a foreign employee?  What conditions must the foreign employee meet in order to get a work visa? Can an individual ever sponsor the visa of another foreigner without being family? Is there a way to work legally as an intern in Korea without having one’s visa sponsored by the interning company? Are there any loopholes that would legally allow someone to work in Korea without having a business visa?

There don't appear to be formal minimum requirements for a sponsor, but the company has to find a way to persuade the Ministry of Justice that the visa is warranted and that the company will take full responsibility for the employee. Apparently the representative of the company must take personal liability for the foreign employee.

I asked if I, as a foreigner with a non-corporation company in Korea, would be able to sponsor a foreign employee. The official said that, in theory, it's permitted, but that it would be very hard to persuade the Ministry of Justice to award one in this case. So basically, the visa sponsorship process is just a matter of persuading the government that it's necessary but there aren't formal conditions; in some cases it's easier than in others.

The only way to work legally in Korea without a sponsored work visa is to get one of the non-company-sponsored visas mentioned above.

Can you explain about the visa points system?

I found this PDF online which explains it.

What can a business visa applicant do to speed up the visa process? What professonal support services are available/helpful for getting through the visa process?

The fastest way to get through is to prepare the paperwork and submit it properly. The official told me that Korea doesn't have attorneys specializing in immigration work; I guess there's just not that much work to warrant it and the Korean system appears to be a little more approachable than the US immigration, which is a black box. Most visa information is available at Hi Korea. Foreigners should also be able to get free help from offices like the Seoul Global Center (which I believe has a free hotline for questions).

I asked if there was a document which explains all this in one place (including a comprehensive list) and in English and the official said there isn't. He did give me a Korean-language print-out listing all the visas and their summaries which he said don't exist in English, and much of the information provided in this article is based on that document, in addition to my discussions with the official.

If your visa application is rejected, can you apply for another visa type? If your visa is rejected for not having the correct documentation, can you reapply or is there a specific waiting period? 

I didn't specifically ask these questions, but based on what I learned, I would say that the Korean system is quite flexible, with discretion for the government officials, and doesn't automatically lock people out for set periods of time. However, if one is rejected once and then applies again without improving the application, the officials will notice the previous record and are unlikely to award the visa the second time, either.

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Thus, in terms of recommendations for a foreign entry-level job-seeker in Korea who doesn't have the option of ESL teaching, or other short-cuts (such as marrying a Korean), here are what I've come up with as options.

  • D-2 (Foreign Student) - I've learned that Korean universities help their students (including foreign students) get internships and jobs, and that a D-10 visa (which would be awarded after graduation) would give the graduate up to a year to find a position.
  • D-7 (Korea Dispatched Employee) - Persons working for a company or organization with operations in Korea could get transferred to Korea after a time.
  • B-2 (Tourist) - Come to Korea and look for a job through intense networking and research... and hope for the best.
Other than these, there's the E-7 visa which can, in theory, be obtained from abroad. But without coming to Korea first, it'll be hard to find a job and compete in the application process with others who are already in-country. In addition, the company still has to persuade the Korean Ministry of Justice that the prospective candidate brings skills/expertise that they can't find from the tens of thousands of Korean graduates who also can't currently find a job, and it's really not reasonable to ask a Korean company to make this case to the Department of Justice for an entry-level job applicant whom they haven't met before.

Korean Translation Tip (Follow-Up): There's a Translation Error in the Korean Windows 7 Interface, Too!

Recently I posted a Korean translation error from the Google Android mobile interface. This week I found an error in the Windows 7 interface, and this one's a little obnoxious... Windows 7 has been out for, um... a couple or three years already and they still haven't noticed this? Who's doing language QA over at Microsoft anyway?

8-27-2012 12-09-02 AM

The circled text says "source file". 

That has no correllation whatsoever with the text that should be there. Here's what the English interface shows for the exact same screen:

8-27-2012 12-54-14 AM

This message though is a translation minefield since they've combined the title line and first line below it into a single English sentence structure (i.e. "Deleting 20,155 items (22.3 GB) from Recycle Bin.")

In this case, the most suitable translation in Korean is to split it into two sentences (which is actually what's been done in the Korean), with the "from Recycle Bin" being reworded as "휴지통 비움" or something similar which means "emptying Recycle Bin". Note that the bold text goes first in Korean, not second as in the English (a problem which is related to the Google one last time!)

Anyway, all kinds of things could have gone wrong here.. Perhaps Microsoft sent an Excel file of thousands of interface messages off to some translation team expecting that 10,000 words of contextless computer messages should cost the same as a 10,000-word piece of prose. This meant that the translators were rushing through the work. Or maybe Microsoft neglected to send screenshots for all those phrases. Likely, the Korean word "source file" got into the translation somehow inadvertently and the in-software review at the end of the project didn't catch it.

Best Practices Tip: Please budget adequately for software translations. They can be time-consuming to do correctly and there's just no way around it if you want a good job. Be especially careful of split sentences like that appearing in the screen above!

Considering the challenges of getting everything right, is it any surprise a mistake like this slipped through?

What's even more surprising though is that the error is still there after 2-3 years of Windows Updates... What do they fix in those Windows Updates? Sometimes I think they do them just to slow my computer down.

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* For more of these, check out A Collection of Korean Translation Errors in the User Interfaces of Leading Software.


Korean Translation Tip: Is the Standard Korean Greeting a Question or Not?

The most common Korean greeting (both in spoken and written forms) is this:

“안녕하세요?”

Literally, it means “Are you in peace?” But the perceived meaning is closer to “Hello”.

Thus, even though it’s a question, the answer is not, “I’m fine. Thank you. And you?”.

Oddly, the correct response is to repeat back “안녕하세요?”.

This greeting is not even spoken with the intonation of a question!

The reason I’m telling you this is that since it’s not used as a question, the question mark is often (but not always) left off by Korean writers.

Korean Translation Tip: If you have some English correspondence translated to Korean, the greeting in the Korean version will probably start with “안녕하세요?” even though the greeting in the English source was not in the form of a question.

Likewise, if you have some Korean translated to English, a greeting of “안녕하세요?” will often be translated as “How are you?”, but probably ought to be just “Hello”. Either approach is correct in its own way.

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** Visit the related online discussion at Korea Business Central for more information on this topic. **

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Answers to Questions About Transferring from Teaching to Business in Korea

I was recently contacted by a writer for Groove Magazine who is writing an article about people who have taught English in Korea but have moved away from this industry, both in Korea and back in their home countries. Looking for an expert opinion, he contacted me with some questions. The following are the questions and my responses.

1. How has the overall landscape for finding working outside of education in Korea changed in recent years?
No doubt, the number of jobs in Korea outside of education is on the rise. However, many of these jobs for English-speakers in Korean companies still involve language-related work, such as in-house teaching and editing. As always, to move beyond this point, job candidates need to bring additional and recognized skills that Korean companies find hard to fill. Considering though, the large labor pool of Koreans who are fresh out of Korean universities and who can't find jobs either, there really aren't a lot of non-language positions available and Westerners who land those jobs are the exception.
2. Have you witnessed many people successfully making the transition from English teacher to working professional?
If you just mean the transition from English teacher to company position, then yes, plenty are doing that. But as mentioned above, most of those are still language related.
3. Do you think English teachers encounter any major difficulties when trying to break into non-education related fields in Korea?
It's too easy to rely on one's English ability when applying for jobs in Korea. If one is trying to go beyond this, then yes, the English ability serves as an obstacle since many people settle for language-related jobs when other types of positions are not easy to find. This is particularly the case since many of these language-related jobs pay more than someone could expect if they were trying to go through the same channels as a Korean candidate. And Westerners are often not willing to make the sacrifices in the Korean workplace, in terms of long hours and other aspects, to succeed on the same terms as Koreans.
4. How open is Korea to employing foreigners, both at entry level and beyond, and what are the major challenges and advantages a person would encounter whilst seeking employment in Korea?

Most of this question is answered above. Korea is generally not open to non-language Western job seekers and most of these job seekers would not be interested in the entry-level positions on offer to Koreans anyway if they knew what the expectations were.


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Koreans and First Names of Foreigners"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

From the lecture in Chapter 1 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Today I want to start out by talking about the use of first names in Korea and how this is an example of things getting a little mixed up in interactions between Koreans and foreigners. 

"The main lesson alludes to this, but it is still a bit strange to me that Koreans tend to feel particularly at-ease in referring to foreigners by their first names only, even in business, even in situations that would not allow them to do this in a Korean context with each other, and even (yes, another “even”!) when speaking in Korean to those foreigners."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!


Korean Translation Tip: There’s a Translation Error in the Korean Google Android Interface!

Recently, while helping my wife download photos from her Android phone, I was baffled when the Korean-language interface indicated as follows that it was "uploading 344 of a total of 200 photos”

P1070420
That doesn't make sense.

Then I realized what happened...  The English source was provided to the translation team with coded variables, which then didn’t get placed correctly into the translation. In English, we would put the smaller number first, but in Korean, the larger number should be first. 

Best Practices Tip - Translating into a computer interface often has limitations, but when working with your client, it’s extremely important to remind them that we can’t just force Korean into an English grammatical structure or sequence. Sometimes it can be done, but this usually results in awkward phrasing.

Actually, there is one more error in this translation. 

Even if the number positioning issue is fixed, the sentence would read:

“Uploading 200 of a total of 344 [photos]”. 

But that’s wrong. 

Without having access to the original English, I can’t be sure exactly what it is supposed to say, but it should say one of these:

“Uploading photo 200 of a total of 344 photos”
(총 344개 사진들 중 200번째 사진 업로드 중)

or 

Uploaded 200 of a total of 344 photos”
(총 344개 중 200개를 업로드 했음.)

Either way, the current translation doesn’t reflect the meaning correctly and should be fixed.

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* For more translation errors, check out A Collection of Korean Translation Errors in the User Interfaces of Leading Software.


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Koreans Break Their Own Rules a Lot of the Time, Too"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 7 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"You’re not a Korean and Koreans know this. You could call Professor Lee, Dr. Lee, and he wouldn’t bat an eye about it. If you say Mr. Kim when speaking to President Kim of a company you’re doing business with, he’ll be fine. (Don’t call Professor Lee, Mr. Lee, though.. But you wouldn’t do that in English to a professor back home, anyway!)

"Koreans realize that their approaches are a little more complicated than we use in the West and so nothing bad will happen if you act out of sincerity. Of course, making that extra effort is even better.

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Paying for a Meal in Korea"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 7 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"If you’ve been in Korea for awhile and you haven’t been culturally astute (I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you, since you’ve gotten this far into our course!), you may have thought that eating out with Koreans is surprisingly cheap... It seems the Koreans are always arguing amongst themselves to pay for the meal, but nobody ever puts their hand out to collect from you, right? 

"Oh boy.... I hope you don’t think Korea is the land of the free meal... Because if that’s what you think, then for you, it’s also the land of the short relationship... 

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "What Do You Call a Doctor in Korea?"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 6 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"What do you call a Korean named Kim who is a Ph.D.-holder and a university professor? Professor Kim or Dr. Kim?

"What do you call the president of a large company named Lee who is also a Ph.D. holder? Is she President Lee or Dr. Lee?

"What should you call the owner of a one-person company named Jung who has a Ph.D.? President Jung or Dr. Jung?

"What do you call your physician named Yoo? Dr. Yoo?

"Bonus Question #1 - What do you call a professor named Choi who holds a Ph.D., but whom you are currently talking with at a meeting of an association on which the professor is serving as head of the board of directors?

"Bonus Question #2 - What do you call a professor named Ryu whose son named Jaeweon is on your son’s basketball team, who’s about your age and who you’re meeting for dinner at a get-together of all the parents of the basketball team members?

Get the answers to these questions in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "About Drinking in Korean Business"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 6 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"One of the things that surprised me when I first came to Korea was that there really isn’t a social stigma against frequent drinking.Perhaps this reflects my upbringing, but the amount of drinking Koreans freely own up to would generally be frowned upon back where I come from.

"I remember when I first started work at LG International back in the mid-90s and was being introduced to the director of our division, it came up in conversation that Director Kim was a big-time drinker. This was offered as a compliment, which the director proudly acknowledged to be true.  And what I find remarkable about this story is just how unremarkable it is in Korea, even nearly twenty years later.

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Gift-Giving in Korean Business"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 5 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Asians are renowned for giving lots of gifts. Since I mentioned my Mom in the last lesson, I’ll go ahead and bring her up again by saying that she comments regularly about how generous my wife is because my wife always shows up with gifts when we visit. But I keep telling my wife to slow down on the gift-giving because she’s frequently disappointed that others don’t reciprocate as she expects (or that our family caps the price of Christmas gifts at $25 since “it’s the thought that counts” - OK, so maybe we’re a little extreme.)

"The core disconnect here though is..."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Where the Boss Sits"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 4 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"...Moving on to the main lesson, item #3 in the Textbook mentions that the boss usually sits at the head of the table. There is a significant exception to this... it’s when the boss is trying to act egalitarian (or at least "employee-friendly", and especially at meals). In that case, if it’s a long table, he’ll often sit in the middle. At this point though, the hierarchy kicks back in..."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 


Korean Business Culture Insights: "About the Rapid Relationship Building in Asia Video"

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.


7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

"I want to discuss the Rapid Relationship Building video, which is the additional required resource for the lesson. It’s a bit long, I know, and isn’t about Korea specifically, but the content is solid, and I encourage you to watch it to the end (at least until the advertising kicks in) since it’s instructive to observe how certain things in E. Asia really are the same from country to country (though plenty is different - which reminds me of my Mom asking me a question a few years ago about culture in Vietnam since she figured things can’t be all that different there than in Korea...).

"I ran this video by a fellow Korea-focused American professional of mine back in 2009 when I made it and he had some helpful feedback that I’d like to share with you. Here’s what he said:

  • “Many Asians (especially Asian-Americans) don’t like the word “Orient”. Better terms would include E. Asia and the Far East.” OK, noted.
  • “If one doesn’t want to drink in a business setting, blaming it on the doctor is a good approach. It’s much more effective to say, “My doctor has put me on a non-alcoholic diet due to recent outbreaks of gout” than “I’m not really feeling like drinking today”.” Yes, indeed!
  • “Cut out the advertising about your website! Nobody wants to think you’re selling them something.” Well, OK. Sorry... Please skip that part. The content stands on its own without it, though.

"Alright, this brings us to the end of today’s lecture. What did you think? Did anything I mention bring up a question or comment? Have you noticed something about Korean culture that doesn’t quite square with my perspective?

"Please share with the class! (And you don’t even have to raise your hand before speaking!)"  

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

Sign up today for the KBC Professional Certification Program to be more successful in your business and career in Korea.


Korean Business Culture Insights: "Korean Business Problems Have Business Solutions; Cultural Problems Have Cultural Solutions"

The following snippet from one of my lectures in the KBC Professional Certification Program is now part of the ebook Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea! 

Purchase and download on Amazon.

 

7-26-2012 1-46-02 AM

 

From the lecture in Chapter 4 of Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!

"Do you remember that I mentioned in a previous lecture about the company that contacted me recently because their Korean operations were giving them a lot of trouble? I used that as an example of how Korean business culture can be hard to penetrate and why a foundation in business culture can go a long way.

"I want to use the same example to also make the opposite point today, which is that culture isn’t everything. The executives at the company that contacted me (a European-Asian joint venture, no less!) wanted some culture training to help them understand what makes their Korean team tick. But then they went on to tell me about..."

Get the rest of this article in Korean Business Etiquette Guide: Take an Essential Step Toward Your Business Goals in Korea!