Korea Business Tips: “What Are Some Key Points for Using Names and Job Titles Correctly in Korean Business?”

Rich DeBourke is Principal Consultant at SBF Consulting.

With over thirty years sales and marketing experience, focusing since 1995 on the Korean and Asia markets, selling multi-million dollar capital equipment systems. His background includes presenting at industrial seminars throughout Asia, including Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China, as well as delivering presentations related to two of his personal interests, Odyssey of the Mind, and playground construction.

Hierarchy is an important part of Korean culture – both in the office and out in general society. While Koreans cut foreigners a lot of slack, it’s still a good idea to learn and apply the basics when doing business in Korea.

Following up on a previous Korea Business Tip where KBC Member Rich DeBourke shared additional insights about content in the KBC Professional Certification Program regarding gift-giving in Korean business, this set of tips covers Rich’s comments on names and job titles and how they fit into hierarchy in Korean business.

Quick Tips on Names, Job Titles and Hierarchy

Here are a few highlights from Rich’s feedback:

  1. Addressing someone as “Mr.” in a business setting is acceptable to start, but it’s a good idea to find out the correct job title and/or the person’s preferred form of address promptly.
  2. If you’re not sure how to read the Korean name on a business card that doesn’t have an English side, see if the name is spelled out in English in the email address.
  3. Even though some Korean companies are experimenting with flatter and more merit-based organizational structures, the traditional model of the major conglomerates still reigns supreme in Korea.
  4. When Koreans have relationships with others at multiple levels (such as when knowing someone on a personal basis and through business), this sometimes causes dissonance in interpersonal communications. (Refer to Rich’s example in the full commentary.)

To read the full commentary, visit Expanding on the KBC Professional Certification Program, Module 1 – “Understanding and Correctly Using Names and Titles in Korean Business”

Additional Related Resources on KBC

** BTW, comments are always welcome. If you have additional insights or come across information here that you disagree with or that needs to be updated — or just want to know something — don’t hesitate to leave a comment and share your opinion/knowledge/question!

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