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Seoul Doing Business

Doing Business in Seoul: Overview

Korea is one of the so-called tiger economies of the Pacific Rim, which underwent rapid growth and industrialisation from the 1960s onwards and forged a major presence in world export markets. Koreas strength came from four main areas: shipbuilding, steel, consumer goods and construction. Rice-growing and fisheries dominate the agricultural sector that is an important export earner as well as meeting domestic demand. Tourism dominates the service sector, which is still relatively small but growing.

Compared with the North, which has extensive coal and mineral deposits, the South is relatively poor in natural resources, although there have been recent offshore discoveries of natural gas which should help to reduce South Koreas dependence on imported energy. The financial crisis which struck Asia in the autumn of 1997 had a very serious effect on the South Korean economy and raised major concerns about the long-term viability of the chaebol - the large conglomerates that provide the foundations of South Koreas industrial economy - and the stability of the finance sector, which had assumed increasing importance.

The economy was saved from further damage at the beginning of 1998 by a US$60 billion financial rescue package put together by the IMF. This kick-started a strong recovery by the South Korean economy which has now settled at an average annual growth of about four per cent. The structural problems of the South Korean economy have yet to be fully addressed but the government has begun to tackle some of the most important weaknesses in the financial sector. The USA and Japan are South Koreas main trading partners, followed by China, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore. Korean companies have been making inroads into new and emerging markets such as China and Russia.

Business Etiquette in Seoul

Businessmen are expected to wear a suit and tie. English is widely spoken in commercial and official circles. Prior appointments are necessary and business cards are widely used. The use of the right hand when giving and receiving particularly applies to business cards. Best months for business visits are February to June. Office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1800; Sat 0900-1300.

Seoul Commercial Information:

The following organisations can offer advice: Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), PO Box 25, 45 4-ga, Namdaemun-ro, Chung-ku, Seoul 100-743 (tel: (2) 316 3114; fax: (2) 771 3267; e-mail:; website:; or Korea Trade Centre, 5th Floor, 39 St Jamess Street, London SW1A 1JD (tel: (020) 7491 8057; fax: (020) 7491 7913; e-mail:; website:

Conferences/Conventions in Seoul

The following organisations can offer advice: Korea Exhibition Centre (COEX), World Trade Centre, 159 Samsong-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul 135-731 (tel: (2) 6000 0114; fax: (2) 6000 1301; website:; or Korea Convention and Coordinating Committee, PO Box 903, c/o Korea National Tourism Organisation (see address section), which can also offer advice and information on meeting facilities in the Republic of Korea.

A foreigner who wants to set up a business in South Korea can go to the main headquarters of any local bank or to the Korea Trade Investment Agency (KOTRA) and fill out and submit an application. To make procedures more convenient, KOTRA also offers one-stop investment consulting service.
KOTRAs foreign investment service center
300-7, Yonggok-dong, Socho-gu, Seoul
Tel: +82-2 3460-7553
Fax: +82-2 3460-7946/7
Web site:

Most of the local industries have been more widely opened to foreign investors