Seoul, Korea

Called the “soul of Korea,” Seoul boasts an advanced economy powered by small and medium-sized companies, startups and fair-trade practices.

Seoul if often referred to as the soul of South Korea. The country’s capital, it is also the business and financial hub and boasts an advanced economy whose development is being led by small and medium-sized companies working in high value-added industries.


According to its website, the city’s municipal government is working to turn Seoul into a fair-trade city, a movement based on “communication, transparency and mutual respect, assuring fairer international trade.”


Mayor Park Won-soon has also said he wants to make the capital a “global role model for the sharing economy” with a view to encouraging local startups and reducing the city’s dependence on giants such as Samsung and LG.


1. Great gifting. Taking a gift for your business associate isn’t obligatory, but it’s a nice gesture. However, anti-corruption measures by government and the private sector alike dictate that a gift mustn’t be worth more than 50,000 South Korean wons ($60). Canadian icewine is a good choice.


2. Hierarchy matters. Top-down management is prevalent in Seoul so expect to meet with the boss. Others in the room are unlikely to speak much.


3. Passing the card. South Koreans present business cards with two hands and receive them with two hands.


4. Boardrooms are king. Business is often conducted in boardrooms, but occasionally it happens over meals.


5. Be on time. Punctuality is important in South Korea, where businesspeople are careful to give good first impressions.


6. Business dress is the same as it is in Canada.


7. Speedy dealings. In Seoul, business moves at a faster pace than it does in Canada and South Koreans will put in longer hours, often working 10- to 12-hour days.



1. Seoul ranks 22nd out of 92 cities in the 2017 edition of the Global Financial Centres Index.


2. Of 400 cities in the Innovation Cities Index 2016-2017, Seoul is rated 11th.


3. In its Global Power City Index, Tokyo’s Mori Memorial Foundation ranked Seoul sixth in the global top 10. The study looks at economy, research and development, cultural interaction, livability, environment and accessibility.



1. Warmer winter weather. Seoul has four seasons. It doesn’t get as cold as most of Canada, with average lows in January of -6 C and average summer highs of 29 C in July.


2. English is almost everywhere. South Koreans learn English from junior kindergarten until university. If you need some help, ask a 20-

or 30-something.


3. No tip of the hat. There’s no need to tip in restaurants; South Korea doesn’t have a tipping culture.


4. Getting around. Seoul has subways, but they’re complicated to figure out. It also has buses and trains, and high-speed bullet trains between cities. Taxis are available, as is “Kakao taxi,” an Uber-like service.

Seoul, Korea sidebar