Mastering Business in Korea with Tom Coyner

This was an exciting week at Korea Business Central (, where we hosted the first interview in our Korea Business Interview Series. Tom Coyner, author of Mastering Business in Korea, was kind enough to give us some of his time and wisdom.

Here are the links to the interview:

Part 1

Part 2

Each half of the interview is exactly 18:40 in length.

To purchase the book, click here [EXPIRED LINK REMOVED:] to visit Seoul Selection.

And to join the discussion about the interview, visit Korea Business Central at[EXPIRED LINK REMOVED:]

The main points of the interview:

  1. Korea is an interesting place to do business because it is a dynamic newly emerged developed economy.
  2. Opportunities in Korea are largely concentrated in one city: Seoul. This leads to some interesting challenges, such as customer expectations of extra quick support.
  3. Many Korean professionals have studied and lived overseas so command of the Korean language is not as important in Korean business as learning Chinese or Japanese are to doing long-term business in China or Japan.
  4. Westerners should make more up-front investments of time and energy to cultivate personal relationships before rushing into business. This is even more true in Korea than in Japan.
  5. Koreans are open to doing business with foreigners, especially when it will make them more competitive in international markets. Korea is incredibly competitive and some care should be taken about what information is shared.
  6. Koreans believe their country is a great place to do business internationally and many foreign companies are finding this to be the case, even more so than China sometimes.
  7. Korea is going green and non-Korean companies that have green technologies should be looking at Korea as a potential market.
  8. Lawyers perpetrate the myth that doing business in Korea is difficult and expensive, blaming labor inflexibility and the lack of transparency. Attorneys bill more hours than necessary. These issues can often be avoided by managing in a way that preempts problems. XX
  9. If looking for a job in Korea, the most important thing is to get one’s feet on the ground and meet people. It’s all about the relationships.
  10. Korea deserves credit for both its economic progress, as well as its transformation into a democratic society, in such a short time.
  11. Koreans are the Irish of the orient, meaning they are open, emotional, religious and family-oriented.
  12. “Predominant Korean thinking” can be summed up in catchwords that represent notable aspects of the Korean psyche. One word is kibun, which expresses the sensing, feeling, emotional side of Koreans. Nunchi is the ability Koreans have to ascertain the kibun of another person.
  13. To get along with Koreans, be open about yourself on a personal level.
  14. The Eleventh (and most important) Commandment for doing business in Korea: “As a foreigner, if you’ve done your homework and are prepared, you don’t have to worry about doing a perfect job on the first ten commandments.”
  15. Think in the mid- to long-term when entering the Korean market. You can’t do business in Korea on an opportunistic basis.

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