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Cultural Environment Analysis Of south Korea

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Edward Hall’s high and low context framework is classified by how certain cultures communicate and the role context or the relevant environment has on their communication styles and patterns. Such context could be body language, behavior, where one is located in the room, and the order of who is speaking. In terms of Hall’s framework, South Korea can be considered a high context country. Most of their information is shared by the people in society and there isn’t much of a need to explicitly state it in their messages. This means that much of their communication is primarily implicit, indirect, and dependent on the context. In Korea, people have a wide variety of networks and they value long-term relationships compared to the more individualistic countries. They strongly have a preference for the high context information and appeal to ambiguity when it comes to communicating as well. Similar to Japan, the Republic of Korea values with utmost importance the principles of diligence, self-sacrifice, and harmony. This could be due to Confucianism and its teachings of certain rules and mannerisms which can be held responsible for heavily influencing most Asian countries to be considered high-context. By using indirect communication, Koreans are able to help others “save face” and by not taking a stand, they avoid sticking out.    

Trompenaars’ seven-dimension framework based on social sciences describes the behavior resulting from underlying cultural value. The first five address the culture’s patterns for the relationships among people and the rest deal with the way we understand time and nature. South Korea’s culture is based on particularism in which they value relationships and trust over the rules. As mentioned earlier, Korea’s widespread networks have a significant role in regulating behaviors. In addition, they believe circumstances dictate the rules they follow and their responses are dependent on the situations and are likely to vary based on the given moment or who is involved. Thus, legal contracts are often modified and more flexible depending on the relationship. Next, Korea falls under communitarianism as they believe in regarding themselves as part of a group and working together towards advancement will lead to a better quality of life. As a result, there’s loyalty within groups and joint responsibility.    

With that being said, it also causes decision making to be much slower as everyone is giving their inputs and a consensus is needed. Korea is also considered to have a neutral culture where they withhold any emotions or thoughts and maintain all composure. People can be considered to be cool and rational when it comes to making decisions. Korea has a diffusive culture in which their work and personal life are integrated and overlap each other. For instance, their work relationship carries over and influences other aspects of their lives. Koreans often build upon the relationships with their colleagues after work in order to meet their business objectives. South Korea also has an ascription culture as they consider a person’s status to be based on who you are. Some factors that affect this could be social status, power, position, education, and age. Considering Korea has a big formality for showing respect and using titles, there is a certain hierarchy when it comes to their roles, behavior, and decisions. Sequential/synchronous: future oriented > emphasis on planning and future possibilities    

South Korea believes in letting fate and things take their own course as well as living in harmony with nature. As a result, they’re considered to have an external direction culture where the external forces control them. They essentially must work with the environment to achieve their goals. For example, through the relationships they form with others, they focus on their actions and avoid any potential conflict. Their flexible “go with the flow” attitude is due to their willingness to compromise to keep the peace.    

American investors face a huge challenge when it comes to Korea’s cultural environment. The reason being is that the United States has a complete opposite cultural environment in terms of Hall’s and Trompenaars’ framework. 

To summarize, the US is more individualistic and places a higher emphasis on oneself rather than others. In addition, the way Americans are more direct and explicit in communicating could cause a potential misunderstanding and conflict between the two countries. Since Korea believes in building and forming a strong relationship when doing business and making decisions, it can cause delays for the US as well. Investors need to adapt to the differences in order to comply with Korea’s value and be able to carry out business smoothly and effectively. However, there are some opportunities for American investors given Korea’s very different cultural environment.                

One recommendation that can be used to navigate Korea’s cultural environment would be to take the time to build upon the relationships with potential businesses to establish the trust to be able further benefit.  

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