A stoic, proud demeanor, a hesitancy to speak English, and a pathological distrust of outsiders can be seen in some Korean companies' actions when dealing with others on the international stage.
For instance, in the recent 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, thousands of companies from many different countries, languages, and ethnic groups met together to discuss business. Each was a foreigner to the majority of the other conference attendees. For instance, while a large contingent of Spanish businesses did attend the conference, they were by no means a majority.
However, when LG Electronics, a traditionally Korean company, held its press conference to announce its new Shine and Prada phones at 3GSM, a panel of four quiet and frowning LG vice-presidents seemed to reluctantly answer only five questions from the over 200 assembled reporters. In fact, during the conference, questions from the assembled reporters seemed to become more hostile and unfriendly over time due to the atmosphere of the room.
Samsung Electronics also behaved strangely. In an exhibition of over 1300 participants, Samsung was the only one to post a security guard at the door of its exhibition booth on Thursday and turn people away. Other international corporations chose to post a receptionist. Some chose to use a large number of dancing women. Samsung chose to use a Spanish-speaking security guard.
An official involved with the promotion of smaller Korean companies commented that the Korean corporations he worked with had a strange tendency to do nothing when visitors walked into their booth. There would be bowing and a murmur of being a Korean company, and then not much else. Confused attendees would take a short look around and then wander off to speak to someone more friendly.
Korean companies must become more open and accessible if they want to do business in the international market. There are a number of ways to improve the international business manners of Korean companies.
The first and possibly the most difficult obstacle for Korean businesspeople to overcome when working on an international stage would be to stop thinking in nationalistic terms. The most important aspect of another businessman is not his country of origin or spoken language, but his business plan and financial capability. Thinking in terms of foreign versus Korean only hinders an international businessman in his every action.
A second, and also difficult, obstacle would be English fluency. The international language of business is currently English due to a variety of factors which are not relevant to the discussion. While a Korean businessman might hope that the world will learn to speak Korean, it is not a hope that will get anything done today, this year, or even this decade. Fluency in English is the most important factor when speaking to someone from Belgium, Honduras, or Russia in an international forum. If a Korean company is going to participate in the global marketplace, it is essential that they hire fluent English speakers, no matter where they must find them.
A third obstacle to overcome in the international business scene is a strong belief in Hallyu, or the Korean Wave. The concept of a Korean cultural wave sweeping across Asia and perhaps the whole world is undoubtedly a nice idea; and it is true that Samsung and LG are influential in the global electronics market; however a business cannot simply announce that is Korean and expect buyers and contacts to jump at the chance to speak to the company. A mobile phone company, Korean or not, still needs an innovative and well-presented product in order to attract international business.
In conclusion, an open, accepting, fluent and humble attitude will do any Korean business well when dealing with his fellow businessmen in the global marketplace. For as it has been said, all businessmen share a common loyalty and a common goal with each other that is stronger than nationalistic ties.