A Guide to DoingBusiness in South Korea

Asian Market Insights

Market Overview

The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement provides strong opportunities for Irish firms willing to make the commitment needed for export success. South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world and the 4th largest in Asia-Pacific. It is home to some of the world’s biggest conglomerates including Samsung and Hyundai. It is a leading global exporter of semiconductors, telecommunications equipment, automobiles, chemicals, ships and consumer electronics. The country leads the world in broadband internet penetration and has one of the world’s highest rates of internet and mobile telephone use.

€26,514 GDP per capita for 2017

3.2% GDP Growth for 2017

€84.5m Enterprise Ireland client exports (2017) (+7% on previous year)

Get Export Ready

Many companies have their headquarters in the capital city of Seoul. Other large cities in South Korea include Busan, Incheon, and Daegu. The largest international airport in the country is Incheon Airport. Gimpo Airport handles domestic flights and a small number of international flights to Japan, China and Taiwan. Gimhae Airport serves Korea’s second largest city, Busan.

Korea has a fast-moving business culture that places importance on relationship building and hierarchy. Skills in developing and managing relationships and the knowledge of how to face challenging price negotiations will increase the chances of success.

Key Market Sectors

As Brexit plans progress, Irish businesses are exploring export options in sectors across the Eurozone markets, the USA and Canada, and the APAC region.

Enterprise Ireland is playing a key role in supporting ambitious companies seeking opportunities in South Korea’s agritech, animal nutrition and vet pharma sectors.

Additionally, medtech, education, ICT, fintech and digital continue to perform and add appeal to Irish exporters and service providers who want to scale, and develop a presence in the South Korean market.

Read more on South Korea’s sectoral successes in our Going Global Guide.

  • 51 Million Population
  • 3.2% GDP Growth for 2017
  • 3.0% Predicted GDP Growth for 2018

Doing Business

When meeting a Korean business person for the first time, it is best to be introduced by a trusted third party rather than introducing yourself. Korean culture does not encourage a laissez-faire approach to relationships.

Koreans are most comfortable interacting with someone they consider their equal. Status is determined by someone’s role, company or the university they attended.

Korean companies tend to be price sensitive, so be prepared to face challenging price negotiations.

Best Routes to Market

Choosing the right route to market is very important.

Agents bring a deep understanding of local business practices and distributors can deliver products geographically across large nations. Joint ventures and acquisitions bring valuable established contacts, customers and market knowledge. Local representatives may not always be necessary with many global markets open to direct sales and prospecting from Ireland. Other markets require a ‘boots on ground’ approach – the power of referrals and networking shouldn’t be underestimated. The key routes to market in South Korea are distributors, trading companies or direct sales.

Download our Going Global Guide to South Korea to find out more.

Before You Go

Before you go, we recommend you invest some time in researching the terrain before you explore the South Korean market. Here’s a few starting points to consider…

  1. Market Landscape
  2. Market Trends
  3. Target Market
  4. Market Segmentation
  5. Market Competition
  6. Market Research Resources

Visa requirements, South Korean labour laws, import rules and regulations, key taxes, and data and intellectual property protection are also addressed in the Going Global Guide. Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre offers client companies access to market intelligence in the form of company, sector, market, and country information to explore opportunities and compete in international markets.

Helping You Succeed

We are committed to helping you succeed in global markets and have an immense wealth of knowledge and expertise in the South Korean market.

Enterprise Ireland assists clients entering new markets with pre-visit support, in-market support, international trade events, additional supports and access to mentors.

Our Market Advisors are always available to support you and provide business expertise and on-the-ground knowledge.

South Korea – Seoul Office
Patrick O’Riordan

Email
pat.oriordan@enterprise-ireland.com

Address
Enterprise Ireland
Ireland House,
13F Leema B/D,
42 Jongro 1-gil,
Jongro-gu,
Seoul 03152
South Korea

Telephone
00 81 3 3263 0611

South Korea – Seoul Office
Dianne Rhee

Email
dianne.rhee@enterprise-ireland.com

Address
Enterprise Ireland
Ireland House,
13F Leema B/D,
42 Jongro 1-gil,
Jongro-gu,
Seoul 03152
South Korea

Telephone
00 82 2 721 7250

Download our Going Global Guide or talk to one of our Enterprise Ireland market advisers in South Korea, today. Find out how you can achieve your global ambition.