Recently I attended a workshop in Frankfurt organized by AHK Korea (the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry). It was led by Mr. Hoje Woo, the Deputy Secretary General of AHK Korea.
Since Eurideas has some partners in Korea, and we also have several partners who do business in Korea and they need translations from and into Korean, it was quite interesting to learn how this market works and what are the expectations of Korean customers.
The main topic, of course, was the trade relationship between Germany and South Korea. Not surprisingly, Korea’s biggest export is electronics (34%), the second is chemicals (12%), and the third is machinery (9%), while their biggest import from Germany is cars (31%). Korean customers tend to like everything that is ‘Made in Germany’, especially Mercedes, Audis, BMWs, Volkswagens. German brands/products are a status symbol in Korea. Therefore, there is a huge potential for German companies in Korea.
During the second part of the workshop, Mr. Woo explained the differences between the German and Korean business cultures. For me, this part was very interesting, especially as I learned that Korea is the Italy of Asia. So this means that Koreans are quite emotional, personal relationships are very important for them, they take risks, and they want everything immediately.
As in most Asian business cultures, hierarchy is very important. Therefore, a decision by a Korean business partner may take longer. Personal trust and personal relationships play a significant role in the business culture, these are more important than any written agreements.
And finally, here are two pieces of advice from Mr. Woo in order to gain and keep Korean customers:
1. Be fast. Koreans like fast reactions, an immediate response, short delivery deadlines.
2. Offer a great and free customer service. This means that the price of customer service should be calculated in the price of your product, as Koreans do not like to pay extra for an additional service.
By Kristina Bitvai, Managing Director of Eurideas Language Experts