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Enterprise Ireland’s top tips for entering the South Korean market

The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement has created opportunities for Irish firms that are willing to enter the world’s 12th largest economy, which is home to some of the world’s biggest conglomerates including Samsung and Hyundai.

If you are considering doing business in South Korea, please be sure to explore our ten tips to enter the market below and also be sure to reach out to our team in Seoul.

  • Initial arrangements for meetings with Korean companies need to be at least four weeks in advance. Securing meetings at short notice can be difficult. Introductions are a vital part of doing business in Korea. When meeting a Korean businessperson for the first time, it is best to be introduced by a trusted third party rather than introducing yourself directly.
  • Korean companies tend to be price-sensitive, so be prepared to face challenging price negotiations.
  • A world-class technology, product or service innovation with a clear value proposition has a higher chance to win business in Korea, given the high level of industry development in such sectors as electronics, chemicals, digital technology, automotive etc. It is very helpful to have a list of well-known, major companies as your reference customers.
  • Korean partners expect Irish exporters to commit to staying the course over a long timeline in order to penetrate the market and lengthy sales cycles in Korea. A short-term sales approach is often viewed as not committing to the market and being too opportunistic.
  • Korean business culture is highly relationship-based, and therefore it is strongly recommended to travel regularly initially to build relationships with in-market partners and customers, and ultimately to have in-market representation as the business grows.
  • It is usually required to have the ability to deal with demanding technical and customer servicing requirements.
  • The EU-South Korea FTA was ratified in 2015 and has been in effect since then, eliminating most custom duties on imported goods from the EU, including industrial and agricultural products.
  • Korea has well-entrenched domestic and international competitors and new entrants will need to research the market thoroughly to identify opportunities. Products need to be competitive against Korea’s high-technological standards to be successful.
  • Large conglomerates, often composed of multiple subsidiaries and affiliates, contribute disproportionately highly to Korean GDP and they have dominant market positions in many key sectors. This makes it challenging for Irish exporters to directly compete. Instead, a market entrant can prosper by targeting a niche area that is too specialised for the large companies to enter.
  • Working with Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai and SK, can also serve as a platform to the wider Asian markets and beyond, given those companies’ global market share in key sectors such as mobile phone, 5G, shipbuilding, automotive, chemicals and more.


Enterprise Ireland is committed to helping Irish firms succeed in global markets and have industry experts on hand, ready to help you access the South Korean market.

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

For more, download our Going Global Guide

If you would like to know what to prepare ahead of your first MA call, click the graphic below

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