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Melanie Woo

Communications & Marketing Assistant, International Co-op

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Korea
Although the work atmosphere today is slowly being influenced by increased exposure to western culture, the Korean workplace still takes respect of the elderly very seriously.

About Korea

Bordered by China, Russia, and separated from Japan by the Korea Strait, Korea makes for a strong international hub of Asia. Korea was ruled by a single government and was a unified nation since the Goryeo Dynasty, and only experienced its separation in 1945 during the Cold War. Both the United States and the Soviet Union agreed on disarming the Japanese troops in Korea with one country accepting the surrender of Japanese weaponry north of the 38th parallel and the other taking the remainder. This became one of the causes that led to Korea’s current division of North and South.

Despite this history, Korean culture is sweeping its way across Asia and throughout the world today. Its cuisine, music, and architecture have sparked the interest of many making Korea one of the popular travel destinations in the world. Some notable inventions by Koreans include the traditional Ondol underground heating system, metal movable type printing, Thundersticks, and MP3 players.

Working in Korea

Although the work atmosphere today is slowly being influenced by increased exposure to western culture, the Korean workplace still takes respect of the elderly very seriously. A worker’s age determines their seniority and also where they stand in the social hierarchy as well. This definition affects many aspects in how one interacts with others in a work place including not calling older colleagues by their first names, and the younger generation not initiating handshakes with someone older. Acting in a reserved manner is also a very important part of Korea’s daily business etiquette. Other than the customary bow or handshake when meeting someone else, people use little to none hand gestures and avoid personal contact with other individuals. Do not be afraid or alarmed if it seems they are trying to avoid you, it is just part of the culture.

Interesting Facts

Land & People

  • South Korea has the world’s highest estimated national IQ

  • 80% of the area of North Korea is covered by high mountains

Food

  • Korea is probably best known for its Kimchi, pickled vegetables with seasonings.

  • Expect silence when eating in a group. Traditional households were taught that it is impolite to speak during meals.

  • Hosts usually refill drinks very quickly. It is considered rude if people refuse to drink it.

Random Facts

  • Always use both hands when receiving something from somebody older.

  • Tipping is not necessary anywhere in Korea

  • Babies are automatically considered one year old as soon as they are born.

Beyond the Blog

  • Interested in working here? Check out the Teach and Learn in Korea program on Symplicity. 

  • Learn more about Korea at Wikipedia, Goinglobal (log in with your SFU id), and Korea’s Tour Guide Site.

About the Author

Melanie Woo

Communications & Marketing Assistant, International Co-op

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