South Korea Overview

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South Korea Overview


South Korea has grown to become one of the developing world's biggest success stories from a devastated, agrarian economy in the 1950's.

Exports remain very strong, and there are signs of recovery from the Asian crisis are in all industries.

Korea's business environment is dominated by chaebol - large conglomerates that set the tone for businesses nationwide

Chaebol seem to be in decline, exemplified by the crisis at Daewoo.

South Korea has a reputation of protectionism, favoring domestic competitors at the expense of outsiders.

With its rising standard of living, South Korea is losing its low-wage edge that enabled it to develop so rapidly.

The country is seeking to focus on higher value products inorder to compete in the global economy.


automotive parts and service equipment

computer hardware, software, and peripherals

cosmetics and toiletries

drugs and pharmaceuticals

electronic components

electronics industry production and test equipment

films, videos, and audio recordings

food processing and packaging equipment

household consumer goods

industrial process control equipment

laboratory instruments

machine tools and metalworking equipment

medical equipment

pollution control equipment

pulp and paper processing equipment

telecommunications equipment

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Marketing Tips

South Korea is one of the world's most dynamic economies.

Per capita wealth has increased tremendously. This has led to changing customer preferences towards more processed food, books and electronic items.

Import blockages are prevalent: petty bureaucratic obstruction, nontransparent regulations, and subsidized domestic companies.

Franchising is developing rapidly.

Koreans are nationalistic and often cooperate with a hidden agenda that may favor local trade partners.

Maintain a close relationship with your agent; visit and demonstrate your products thoroughly.

Registered traders and offer agents are the best means for outsiders seeking to enter the Korean market

Business Culture

Koreans are extremely polite, friendly and formal in business dealings.

Face, a measure of one's dignity, is crucial to Koreans, as in other Asian countries. Causing someone to lose face can instantly destroy a relationship and any business that might result from it. Avoid criticizing someone in front of others, no matter how subtle.

Koreans generally bow to each other, but shake hands with foreigners. Bowing is still appropriate when dealing with someone older.

Business cards are important. When receiving a card, examine it closely before putting it in your pocket.

Koreans are generally very disciplined and nationalistic.

Koreans are known for their group cohesion.


Be aware of the importance of face.

Also treat people with the respect to which their position gives them.

In South Korea, business relationships are personal. Establish a good personal relationship.


Do not insult or harshly criticize someone in front of others.

Legal Environment:

South Korea follows a western style of law.


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