Workplace Policies in Korean Culture

Working in Korea requires an understanding of local culture.
Working in Korea requires an understanding of local culture. (Image: Tempelanlage in Korea image by Angelika Bentin from

The Western workplace culture varies greatly from its Eastern Hemisphere counterpart. While Korea is a bustling metropolis, understanding its workplace policies and culture is crucial to doing business in Korea.

Gender Roles

It is still rare to find women in positions in power, even despite an outstanding education. Business norms in Korea place men in executive positions, while women hold administrative or secretarial jobs in support roles.


Koreans prefer to do business by way of personal introductions. If introduced by the right "friend," business meetings take an informal but very important turn that involves drinking and eating. Once this new relationship has formed, Korean businessmen work hard to make the mutual venture successful.


As is the case in many Asian countries, greetings are important. In Korea, most businessmen follow the regular bow with a Western handshake in a hybrid of Western and Eastern cultures. It is the norm to have the subordinate or younger person bow first; in some cases, the boss will acknowledge the bow, but will not return it.

Business Attire

The Korean workplace environment generally expects neutral to dark clothing; women must dress conservatively. When wearing a suit, do not remove your jacket until the most senior level or eldest executive does so first.

Working Hours

Until recent years, Korea was infamous for its long working hours. Working late into the night or on Saturdays without overtime was common. Though recent laws have implemented the 40-hour, five-day workweek, most companies do not abide by these laws and continue to have longer working hours than in the Western world.

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