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Eureka: My experience negotiating with the Koreans
by Joseph Gatt
2018-05-01 06:27:07
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I've spent lots of time negotiating with Koreans. Some negotiations went great, others were weird. Here are generalizations about what you need to know, in no particular order.

-Deception. Making ridiculous offers to attract the negotiators, then making ridiculous counter-offers once the negotiator is at the table. For example they will say a product is worth a dollar, bring you to the negotiating table and shamelessly say it's actually worth ten dollars. If you stay at the negotiating table long enough the price could go up to a hundred dollars. Be careful with their hook, and go to the negotiation skeptical. 

nego1_400-Careful when using words like “you” “he” “she” “we” and “they” “him” “her” or “them” Such words are considered demeaning in Korean. If possible, don't discuss people other than yourself during negotiations. 

-Koreans tend to like the rich, powerful and proud and arrogance is not considered a bad thing in Korea. Don't be humble or act like a “people's person.” Treat your counterparts with respect, but don't be humble about having a lot of money or power. It used to be different, there used to be a time when humility was the norm. But now Koreans tend to prefer dealing with equally rich and powerful people.

-Koreans tend to belive everything you tell them. Focus on accuracy, give complete information. Any distrotion could have negative effects because they will have believed you. Be strategic when sharinig information. You can distort, but make sure you use that to your advantage. 

-Your ethnic background means a great deal to Koreans. President Obama was often not take seriously because of his ethnicity. It's sad and I find that irritating, but that's life. Be mindful that a lot of Koreans believe in racial hierarchy, and believe Blacks and Hispanics, or Arabs to be inferior.

-Koreans tend to rank countries, companies and universities. Don't mention previous companies you worked at or the university you went to if it's not top-ranked. But they don't rank art, literature and food. Liking “peasant food” is considered a good thing.

-Be prepared to be scolded like a child for minor things like eating too fast or too slowly, refusing to eat something, smoking, drinking or refusing to drink. Koreans can be very paternalistic.

-Deals can change and will change. Adopt simple deals. And simple measures in case the simple deal is broken. Don't sign or write 5,000 page deals. One page summarizing the big points tends to be enough.

-Koreans tend not to lose their temper with strangers. But if you go on a second date, you'll meet a completely different person. The more you get to know a Korean, the more likely they will be irritated with you pretty quickly. 

-Koreans tend to communicate with “yes” and “maybe.” Don't expect complex stories or narratives.

-For anything other than “yes” or “no” they tend to read statements. The rest tends to be small talk.

-Stay in Korea no more than 24 hours. If you stay longer, they will deliberately make the negotiations longer to get a better deal and will constantly change the deals. They can shamelessly change the deal completely and at will. So make it clear you want a deal in 24 hours or less. They tend to save the more important, sensitive and controversial points for last. So delay your flight by a couple of hours to make sure the sensitive or controversial points will be thoroughly discussed. 

-Practice making simple yet deep and complete statements with the Korean. As in one sentence which summarizes a great deal of depth in the action that needs to be taken.

-Make sure the deal includes minimal interaction in the future and highly ritualized interaction. Koreans tend to be pleasant and polite at the first meeting, but grow increasingly rude and confrontational as the relationship progresses. Change ambassadors or business representatives frequently, and as soon as your representative is complaining about bad treatment from the Koreans, call him or her back and send a new one. 

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