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South Korea at a Glance

South Korea’s Business World

Working in South Korea may help you start a brand-new international career. As one of the Asian Tigers, South Korea offers a strong economy and all kinds of work opportunities. Read our guide on business in South Korea and learn more about the economy, the job search and business etiquette!

Doing Business in South Korea

South Korea manufacturing industries are particularly successful. These include automobiles, semiconductors and digital electronics as well as construction and shipbuilding. Thus, the government has taken measures to attract foreign investment and promote exports.

In addition, expats working in South Korea’s import and export business benefit from special free economic zones. These were established to attract foreign firms, capital, and expertise. The free economic zones are self-contained living and business districts. They often offer access to their own air and sea transportation and logistics complexes. International business centers and financial services are available as well.

The Job Market in South Korea

Teaching English as a foreign language is a viable career option for expats and one that is highly supported by the government. Teaching opportunities are usually widely available throughout the country. However, it is harder to find a teaching job in big cities than in rural areas. If you are not ready to work in South Korea as a teacher, the technology and IT sector may be more up your alley. You should keep in mind, though, that the local competition is harsh. Many Koreans are eager to work in these fields of employment.

Many self-made expats also struggle with the language barrier. Unfortunately, proficiency in Korean is essential if you plan on working in any other field than teaching English. At the same time, Korea’s business world is defined by close-knit social ties which make it hard for many expats to gain ground. To get a foot in the door, you can try to focus on sectors which are invested in by the government, such as the financial sector, robotics or aerospace industries and the sciences.

When applying for a job with a company, make sure to mention your professional position and status within your last company. Experience is considered essential in South Korea. You should also consider short-term job opportunities to begin with. It can help you tie a few knots and get in touch with some potential business partners.

South Korean Business Etiquette

When you move to South Korea for business, keep in mind that no matter how progressive this country appears Confucian ethics still persist. Thus, patience and negotiation skills are crucial when you are trying to close a business deal. Implementing changes can take quite a while, as both the harmony of the group and respect for authority are highly valued. Your South Korean business partners will want to make sure that you are trustworthy and honorable before actually doing business with you.

Communicating with South Korean business partners may not always be easy for expats from countries in which closing a deal is quite straightforward. In South Korea, saying “no” openly is considered rude and bad behavior. Try to pay close attention, as your business partners may voice their disagreement only vaguely. Try to be patient and read between the lines. That way, you will not upset anybody!

At the same time, “yes” may not always mean “yes.” The word can simply mean that you have been heard or that your point of view will be considered. It is essential that you keep your cool and remain polite if meetings take up much more time than expected.

InterNations Expat Magazine