South Korea Culture Analysis

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The report has comprehensively examined various ways culture may influence the performance of a business in South Korea. The local business of South Korea has been significantly affected by the prevailing cultural practices. Both verbal communications such as increased questioning and the written communication practices like the use of graphs have been adopted into the business for effectiveness. The religious practices have shown the little impact to the business because of the many religions that exist in the country. The ethical practices have also been integrated into the business models of the organizations making sure that both the business partners and the customers enjoy the high level of ethics that is found in the society. The companies observe the values and manners found in the society such as respect and the gratefulness. The local businesses do not have a lot of customary practices except in the few cases where they are tied to the religious practices. There exists social classes and ranks have been implemented in the businesses through the hierarchical leadership structure. Additionally, education levels determine people’s position within the business leadership hierarchies. South Koreans base their business relationships on personal ones, it is paramount for Americans to understand the need for mixing their business with a social life to avoid cultural conflicts. United States’ firms should focus on fostering the exchange of business cards as a strategy to allow individuals to learn about other's name, status and position. Social relations, collectivism and harmony play an essential role in making sure that there is the creation of an organizational atmosphere that fosters motivation and encouragement among the workforce. However, these issues have a direct counter to the US’ principles of corporate life. Societal, political and religious stability attracts more investments into the country. The government is making several free-trade agreements despite the challenges resulting from opaqueness and inefficiencies.

Global Business Cultural Analysis: South Korea

What are the major elements and dimensions of culture in this region?


Verbal communication

South Koreans prefer indirect verbal communication and are often reasonably loquacious. Because of the hierarchal nature of Korean society, Koreans communicate in such a way as to acknowledge the status of others. It is also for this reason that they frequently speak with ambiguity even though they are often firm in their delivery, which Westerners sometimes interpret as rude. Koreans focus a great deal on preserving the image of both parties. For this reason, Koreans will rarely directly disagree with another in public. Their indirect and conversational nature is tied to other parts of their culture which will be discussed later in this review, but the majority of Korean verbal communication is aimed at maintaining harmony for both parties throughout the conversation (Kim, 2015).

Silence is also key to Koreans communication. It is considered polite to pause before speaking to show the other party that you have carefully considered what they have said and given it a substantial thought. Laughter, on the other hand, is not frequently used in Korean communication. It is however used occasionally when someone is embarrassed or when someone is uncomfortable.

Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication is often more important in South Korea than verbal communication. In keeping with their indirect verbal communication style, Koreans generally rely more on gestures, posture, and facial expressions to discern the intended meeting of the person with which they are communicating. Koreans believe that eye contact is important when speaking with someone. However, grants will often look away when speaking with someone older or of a higher social status, especially if they have been admonished by that person. Similar to laughing, Koreans don’t usually tend to smile because that indicates shame or embarrassment. Their facial expressions, however, can indicate disagreement, irritation, or anger.

There are other elements of nonverbal communication which are also important in Korean society. Shaking hands is a common practice in Korea, but Koreans generally have a less firm handshake then do Westerners and it is appropriate to put one’s left hand on the forearm of the person whose hand they are shaking. Shaking with the right hand alone is also acceptable, however, the person’s left hand should not be in their pocket when they shake hands. Koreans tend to touch others less than Westerners. Furthermore, sneezing is considered inappropriate in Korean culture and it is appropriate for one to leave the room if they must sneeze. Lastly, while Koreans are not very effusive, gift giving is appropriate in some situations.


Religion is an important aspect of life for the majority of South Koreans. The nation has a rich religious makeup that consists of ancient religions such as Buddhism and Shamanism, as well as more modern religions like Christianity. Due to Chinese influences, Korea has also been significantly influenced by Confucianism.


Buddhism is the predominant religion in Korea. Approximately 23% of Koreans profess to have Buddhist beliefs (Choi, 2014). Buddhism, originating in India between 600 BC and 400 BC, is the fourth largest religion in the world (Choi, 2014). Followers of Buddha believe that by overcoming suffering one can attain Nirvana over many lifetimes. Buddhists have many beliefs, traditions, and spiritual practices that are focused on achieving harmony in one's life and for eternity. Korean Buddhism follows a sect of mainstream Buddhism, known as Mahayana Buddhism and it’s for doctrines, universalism, enlightenment, compassion, and liberation.


Fundamentally, less than 30% of the entire population in South Korea is Christians. Unlike some countries where a specific religion is dominant, Korean culture constitutes various religious elements that have significantly impacted individual’s behavior and way of thinking. In 1900, only 1% was but substantially through the efforts of missionaries (Choi, 2014). Over the past decades, Christianity has grown immensely to approximately 29% hence influencing peoples’ way of life and other cultural practices. The majority of Christians belong to Protestant denominations such as Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian Churches. Besides, Catholics have rapidly grown over the period from 5% in 1985, to nearly 18% by 2015 and which the increase has occurred across all age groups and education levels. Christianity has influenced the secular realm and individuals beliefs and values; for instance, its effects have enhanced the visibility of women in the public sphere by providing education regarding their plight in the community (Choi, 2014). Additionally, the vibrant democracy currently experienced in South Korea is associated with Christianity which inspired many people to fight authoritarian governments (Hee-Min, 1994). South Korea current position in the world can be linked to the role of Christianity in shaping individual’s characters, beliefs, and behavior as well as condemning various forms of discrimination and social evils that might interfere with peace. Presently, most Christian churches are adopting modern technologies as a method of attracting more adherents. Despite the smaller number, it is apparent that Christianity plays a significant role in


South Korea's culture usually reflects a mix of Asian religious influence combined with beliefs and Confusion values that permeate different sections of the society such as the business world. Individuals and companies are imperatively required to comply with ethical codes; hence, there are clear moral principles that define acceptable and non-acceptable behavior among the people. Most business formulates their own ethical framework to guide its employees on how to maintain professionalism in the workplace, interact with colleagues, and general contact (Yang-Im & Peter, 2008). Despite making a clear description of ethical on various dimensions, the primary challenge has been a high level of violations among individuals (Miles, 2008). Besides, the context of conducting businesses in South Korea has greatly changed over the past two decades because of an increased focus on enhancing compliance. Many of the ethical principles that are applied in South Korea stems from Confusion traditional values, including respect for seniority and group harmony which collectively bear substantive influence over employees, behavior in the organization. Moreover, unwillingness among workers to speak out about issues of corruption in government and private sectors has remained a major challenge towards enhancing compliance with ethical principles. As a result, various activities have been implemented by the government and such has indeed culminated in a significant improvement business ethical climate (Hak-Chong, 1999). Today, codes of ethics are common in South Korean companies because of the measures put forth by the government and investment community through promoting responsible behavior including creating a forum where businesses and individuals discuss best practices.

Values and Attitudes

Crucially, values refer to moral ideas, interests, orientation towards the world, sentiments, dispositions, attitudes, needs, and preferences. Values are sometimes explained as collective conceptions of what is considered desirable, improper, good, and undesirable. Further, values are perceived as legitimate and binding by society because of their ability to define what is worthwhile for individuals to strive for. Values can be broadly classified into individual and collective. Individual values are associated with the development of human personalities such as honesty, honor, veracity, and loyalty (Choudrie & Lee, 2004). On the other side, collective values are attributed to the solidarity of the society, including equality and justice. Therefore, cultural values and attitudes have a significant impact on an individual’s practices and way of life which ought to be considered by both local and international companies to overcome various challenges in the South Korean market.

Traditionally, values and attitudes among people in South Korea were influenced by Confusion ideology. As a result, cultural values emphasized on various issues are no longer applied in the modern economy. Some of the cultural values and attitudes promoted discrimination such as feminism that entailed preference for sons, sex discrimination in the labor market, and the rule of politics over rule of law (Miles, 2008). However, these values have currently changed because of the factors such as Christianity religion which advocates for equality and respect for dignity. For example, women have become invaluable in the society since they are allowed to engage in activities that were reserved for men. Government decisions are also enacted based on multiple aspects such as incorporation of the societal opinion and other stakeholders, and this ensures that only positive value system is maintained (Choi & Baker, 2017). One of the most important aspects of values in South Korea is family since it comes before everything. The actions of one individual in the community are perceived to reflect the entirety of others belonging to the same community.

Moreover, Confucianism influences South Koreans to embrace honor, loyalty, and respect for elders which inherently influence individual's behaviors. Additionally, Korean employees' tend to be more committed to realizing both personal and business objectives. As a result, they usually value their jobs and responsibilities which eventually culminate in customer satisfaction and increased outcome. Attitudes among South Koreans is influenced by several factors, including industrialization, culture, labor market conditions, and labor policies (Choi & Baker, 2017). Therefore, every local and international firm’s should evaluate the effects of values and attitudes to allow the formulation of appropriate strategies to super head growth.


In this context, customs refers to practices and beliefs that are transmitted from one generation to the other. When the transfer occurs for a long period among generations, the process takes the form of traditions which carries important or specific meaning for the community. Since a large number of South Koreans are non-Christians, some practices are well-preserved and transferred among groups (Miles, 2008). Notably, there is a wide range of religious beliefs from Confucianism, Christianity to Buddhism and other religions. Various beliefs have co-evolved and shared among groups, such as fundamental belief in the existence of a mountain, house, and fire gods. Individual’s belief that spirits of the dead and the gods have the capability to bring misfortune. Moreover, people also focus on maintaining traditions that assist them to remain in line with various principles and practices associated with religion, ethics, values, and attitudes (Kim, Pan & Park, 1998). For instance, Christians, Buddhism, and Ashaman believe that their power is derived from performing particular practices which are also passed among generations. Members are also taught about the importance of performing rituals and safeguarding holy place. Other customs are associated with death and the afterlife, where South Koreans believe in ancestral spirits and Confucian rituals regarding mourning practices, memorial, and funeral services (Miles, 2008). Therefore, it is apparent that custom practices will have a significant impact on the demand for the product and overall performance of the business.

Social Structures and Organizations

The social structures of modern South Korea portray the synthesis of the developments diverse influences, both foreign and indigenous. Most people believe that social practices help in creating unity among members in the society, especially those that belong in the same group. Throughout the Korean society, within different social dimensions, themes of hierarchy and inequality are still pervasive (Kim et al., 1998). Social structures and organizations exist in South Korea because of the rapid changes in the political, economic, technological, and social environment. Again, different groups are formed depending on various factors such as political influence, economic status, and level of education.

Social classes

Social structures in South Korea reflect the impact of diverse cultures. South Korea has four distinct group of social hierarchy, including scholar-officials, the middle people, commoners, and Ch'ommin who are the lowest in the spectrum. Besides, social classes are determined by an individual's wealth, career, and education, which eventually affect purchasing powers among the groups (Choudrie & Lee, 2004). Discrimination on community and individual levels against the people remains a source of inequality that is currently experienced in the country. Additionally, government control of financial systems has created significant inequalities among the people (Hak-Chong, 1999). Hence, when venturing into this market, it is essential for every business to provide products and services that align with the expectations of the social stratification. A more focus should be accorded to middle-income earners because they constitute a larger market.


South Korea is an extensively urbanized state, with various major metropolitan centers. All cities in South Korea face similar criminal problems just like other cities globally (Hak-Chong, 1999). Most of the crimes are driven by anger and rage, and such requires the intervention of the government through reducing existing inequalities. The high unemployment rate among the youth is also a primary contributor to social crimes that has rapidly grown in the recent years (Tait, 2003). Approximately 9.3% of the youth are presently unemployed, which influences them to engage in social crimes as a way of earning a living.


The education system for South Korea is grouped into three parts, including 6 years of primary school, 3 for the middle, and 3 years in high school respectively. The country is one of the top-performing nations in reading mathematics, literacy, and sciences. Notably, South Korea is also known for providing highly-trained workforce among OECD countries. Education is given high priority by South Korean families because of the perception that it is the only approach for improving social-economic status in the society. Further, the government also made a significant investment in the sector as a way of ensuring the entire society accesses quality education (Choudrie & Lee, 2004). Education is also believed to be the basic tool for enhancing innovation to be applied in industries for overcoming various problems. Hence, a precise overview of the South Korean education system is as follows:


The pre-school education is optional for children between 3-6 years. Places are usually available for children who either pay full fee or are assisted by the government. Importantly, the cost varies enormously between private and public providers across the country.


Upper secondary: Students spend 3 years in high schools where they specialize depending on the subjects taught. These schools are owned by both private and state who collaborates to ensure quality education is offered.

Higher education: Higher learning institutions specialize in equipping students on how to solve different problems faced by companies. Learners are also provided with key skills and knowledge needed for performing various roles in their workplaces. The quality and standard of the education offered adequately prepares students to meet the changing business needs.

How are these elements and dimensions integrated by locals conducting business in the nation?


Communication is one of the key aspects that have significantly affected the local business in South Korea. The businesses have integrated both the verbal and the non-verbal communications for effectiveness. In doing the local business, the verbal communication aspects affect the way through which the business messages are conveyed to locals in the area. Businesses have been forced to incorporate the practices of more questioning to customers and the business partners for effectiveness. Given the fact that they speak with a lot of ambiguity, lack of more questioning reduces the customer satisfaction level. Again, the negative questioning in businesses is discouraged, and most local businesses tend to question their customers positively because the Koreans are easily pissed off with such questions (Lee & Kim, 2013).

Also, as a communication aspect, the local business has played a lot of emphasis on the non-verbal communication into their business models for effectiveness. The official business communications have minimal words and more of illustrations through the charts, visuals and graphs among many others. The approach is propelled by the fact that the Koreans always want to see things clearly without questioning. Again, the business communications in Korea is done quickly (Krieckhaus, 2017).They have a lot of emphasis on speed and they consider slow operations as the rudeness and lack of interest in the subject. The business models for the locals of Korea foster for the faster operations for effectiveness.


The religion of Korea is mainly made up of Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity. The business activities are normally free from the religious lines. They strongly believe in the religious freedom of their business operations. In many cases, the business activities do not have any link to the religious practices. They have a little emphasis of religion to their operations (Choi, 2014). The scenario is mostly attributed to the diverse religious lines found in the nation, whereby different people belong to different religious lines within the same nation. Business partners may have a different religious background but still work together successfully. Most buyers are not specific to the sellers of their religious lines; hence, the nation is capable of accommodating people of different religious lines.

However, there are a few cases where some Koreans have observed the practices of Confucianism in their business. Some of these practices include believing in their ancestral while doing business. Some tend to perceive that the success of the business organization is significantly influenced by the force received from the religious lines. As part of the practice within the religion, the Confucians tend to offer the sacrifices to their gods to please them. In entire Korea as a nation, only a few groups of people have observed these religious practices into their operations. The nation has its business dominated by the low consideration of the religious lines between the buyers and the sellers. Hence, the local business clearly shows that other investors can comfortably.


The Koreans have a high consideration of the ethics. Businesses have incorporated the ethical practices within their operations for effectiveness. Ethics has been incorporated into their code of conduct, defining the specific activities and practices that the workers within a given business should do. For example, in regard to the attire, the businesses require the professional dressing within the workplace. All people need to stay official and depict a professional image of the business. Also, they keep the business communications as official and professional as possible.

There high ethical practices have also been integrated into the hierarchical business leadership. Everyone has to obey the senior leadership and follow their commands. They have a lot of emphasis on the key factors such as level of education, age and many others, which are used to place people into different ranks within the society and the business. Different ethical practices are conducted depending on these ranks in the society (Tait, 2003).

Values and Attitudes

The values in Korea are usually defined in different ways. The common values such as respect and generosity have been incorporated into most of the business models of the companies. They are for some of the key cultural factors within the nation, and hence, they are considered with a high regard in every organization (Kim, Pan & Park, 1998). All people have to be handled with a high level of respect, especially according to the societal ranks that they have. All the practices with the organizations align to this virtue for effectiveness. Again, the businesses have also considered the aspects of generosity, whereby they give out various items and services as gifts to others. Usually, there are official plans within the businesses where generous giving is incorporated into the operations.

Regarding the attitudes of the Koreans, they have more attitude concerns on certain aspects while little attitude concerns on others. Factors such as the political matters are less emphasized in the nation. The attitude has been extended into the business organizations that operate in the nations. Therefore, the businesses have moderate attitudes to politics within the nation (Lee & Hobday, 2003). However, factors such as the social factors have been highly considered among the people within the nation. The business considers people factors and the general social aspects within the nations, and they welcome them positively.


The Koreans are people who value the aspects of manners. All people are expected to carry themselves in a way that is acceptable in the society while showing manners to others. The young ones are expected to show manners to the old people. Within the local businesses in Korea, people in senior positions expect to be shown manners by the junior staff. The scenario has provided the compelling force for the adoption of the hierarchical business structure, whereby the distinction and distance between the senior and junior staff are clearly drawn (Tait, 2003). Within the hierarchy, the Koreans expect people to depict good manners to the junior staff ahead of them.

Also, manners are expected to be shown to all customers in the business. There should always aspects of gratefulness to the customers, as a way of showing the appreciation. Failure to consider the manners to customers makes the business to lose customers, hence affecting its sustainability. Also, the Korean local business is forced to deliver the business services to customers while considering offering the best general aspects of manners to the customers

(Hwang, 2012). The elderly should be respected, and the giving and receiving of the gifts should be associated with mannerism levels. Most of the companies have integrated the factors of manners into their operation for effectiveness.


There are various custom practices that are practiced by the Koreans and have been incorporated into businesses. Some of the examples of the common business incorporated customary practice include dining and drinking. Business partners tend to invite their colleagues for meals and drinks as a way to enhance the relationships. They also have the customs of bowing slightly while making handshakes (Choudrie & Lee, 2004). The practice has been incorporated into the business operations by making it necessary for the professionals to shake the hands. In Korea, this custom practices is exercised in local businesses and the failure to consider it makes the buyers develop a wrong perception of the company. The custom plays a critical role in building the relationships within Korea for better business.

Also, the practices of the traditional customs are exercised by the Koreans who are in Confucianism. As a custom, they recognize the ancestors and believe in the powers that they have over their businesses. They tend to make efforts to keep their connections with them for help

(Choudrie & Lee, 2004). The connections are mostly created through the offering of sacrifices and many other ways. However, these customs that have religious connections are only practiced by few businesses whose owners are deeply rooted in the religion.

Social Structures and Organizations

One of the key factors that are emphasized within the social structures and organizations in Korea is the social class. The Koreans strongly believe in the social classes in the society. The businesses have also embraced the same spirit by implementing the leadership hierarchies into their operation. There are senior people in the companies who manage the junior ones. In the structure, the communications are made from the top to the bottom, and each command must be handled with a lot of respect (Kim et al., 1998). Also, the junior staff is expected to show a high level of respect, etiquette and the related virtues to the seniors within the organization. Therefore, by so doing, the social classes are executed within the businesses just as in the general society.

Considering the other aspects such as the crimes, the Koreans are rarely involved in such practices. The cases of corruption are low within the businesses and the general society in the country. Most people are morally upright and do not crave for the criminal practices (Hak-Chong, 1999). The businesses have incorporated this societal practice by adopting the trust relationship practices whereby the employees are entrusted with most of the precious aspects of the business. However, there are rules and the regulations that still guide people in what they should do and how the events of crime should be handled.


Korea has an education system that starts with the pre-compulsory, compulsory, upper secondary and the higher studies. The society has a lot of emphases to pursue of education among its people. The force has made most of the Koreans to seek educations but has reached different levels. The spirit to seek education has been adopted and integrated into many aspects of the local businesses. One of the key considerations is made at recruitment. The jobs are possessed by people of different skill levels depending on their capabilities to undertake those roles. Senior jobs that require greater skills are taken by the most learned, who have the skills and abilities to manage them. However, some jobs that require little skills are handled by the less learned people in the country (Self & Self, 2009).

In most local businesses of Korea, the senior leadership positions are handled by those who have undergone through the higher education. Those who have pursued education up to the upper secondary become the junior staff that handles the moderate jobs in the organization (Miles, 2008). On the other hand, the people who pursued education up to the compulsory levels and the pre-level mainly deal with low profile jobs in most business organizations in Korea.

How do both of these above items compare with US culture and business?


Hofstede cultural dimension model provides different dimensions which can be used for examining the effects of society culture and values (Hofstede, 1984). To effectively compare cultural dimensions for South Korea and the US, various aspects should be considered, including individualism, power distance, and masculinity (Lee & Kim, 2013). Therefore, these elements can be described in detail as follows:

Power Distance

With this dimension refer to the extent to which less powerful members in the society expects such power to be distributed unequally. Notably, power and inequality are perceived by lower-level individuals. In this context, the power index is very high for South Korea compared to the USA (Hofstede, 1984). Since the US has clear systems of governance and diversities, there is a low level of inequality among the workforce. By basing on this element, South Korean culture may have more influence on business performance compared to the US (Lee & Kim, 2013). The difference is brought about by various factors ranging from communication, religion, tradition, to education. There are also many cases of non-compliance with moral imperatives in South Korea, compared to the US which ultimately lowers the power distance rate. Thus, a high level of inequality may perhaps affect the productivity of employees in the workplace or individuals engagement in societal activities.

Individualism vs. collectivism

Individualism describes the degree to which individuals in an organization or society are integrated different groups. On the other hand, collectivism explains how people in a society are strongly connected o each other. The in-groups formed are characterized with loyalty and support among group members. Importantly, collectivism is more practiced in South Korea than in the US because people engage in similar cultural practices and norms which keep them connected to each other (Lee & Kim, 2013). For the US, individuals have kept a distance from each other because of the low level of poverty which reduces dependence. However, it is important for a business to be more cautious with various cultural forces in South Korea than the US in order to survive.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index

The dimension refers to social tolerance to ambiguity, whereby, people avert events with unexpected outcomes. Comparatively, the US scores the high degree of this element because of the factors such as stiff codes of behavior, laws, and depends on absolute truth when addressing various issues (Hofstede, 1984). Conversely, there is low uncertainty avoidance in South Korea which is evidenced through fewer regulations and a high level of corruption. Hence, establishing a business in the US may perform better than in South Korea because these factors favor growth.

Masculinity vs. femininity (MAS)

The MAS aspect of the Hofstede’s cultural dimension measures the extent to which the society is driven by the achievement, success and competition factors for people to be winners in the society. South Korea has a low MAS index, indicating that the society is not driven by the competitio

January 19, 2024

Culture Religion

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