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Intercultural Understanding: Interacting with Koreans PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Intercultural Understanding: Interacting with Koreans. Beom Yoo (Chungbuk National University) ([email protected]). Aims of This Presentation. To help the participants better understand Korean culture in the areas of interpersonal communication and everyday life .

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Intercultural understanding interacting with koreans l.jpg

Intercultural Understanding: Interacting with Koreans

Beom Yoo

(Chungbuk National University)

([email protected])


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Aims of This Presentation

  • To help the participants better understand Korean culture in the areas of interpersonal communication and everyday life .

  • To help the participants avoid intercultural miscommunication when they interact with Koreans


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Lecture Plan

  • Talk about intercultural differences between high-context culture (Korea) and low-context culture (anglophone countries)

  • Provide explanations on various intercultural differences between Korean and anglophone countries that the participants need to be aware of to interact with Koreans in their everyday life


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Hall's model of cultural value orientation

(Chen & Starosta(1998), Foundations of Intercultural communication,  p. 51)

Low-context Culture

  • Overtly displays meaning through direct communication forms

  • Values individualism

  • Tends to develop transitory personal relationships

  • Emphasizes linear logic

  • Values direct verbal interaction and is less able to read nonverbal expressions

  • Tends to use "logic" to present ideas

  • Tends to emphasize highly structured messages, give details, and place great stress on words and technical signs


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High-Context Culture

  • Implicitly embeds meanings at different levels of the sociocultural context.

  • Values group sense.

  • Tends to take time to cultivate and establish a permanent personal relationship.

  • Emphasizes spiral logic.

  • Values indirect verbal interaction and is more able to read nonverbal expressions.

  • Tends to use more "feeling" in expression.

  • Tends to give simple, ambiguous, noncontexting messages.


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Individualistic Cultures vs. Collectivistic Cultures

  • Individualistic Cultures

    characterized by the primacy of individual goals, achievement benefiting the individual, self-esteem, and self-reliance

  • Collectivistic Cultures

    emphasize the subordination of individual goals to those of the group and place greater importance on the group's needs, norms, and beliefs relative to those of the individual


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Important Areas of Intercultural Differences in Communication


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Verbal Communication

  • linguistic expressions

  • stress and intonation

  • conversation topics

  • discourse structure/strategies

  • speech acts

  • conversational structure/strategies


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Nonverbal Communication

  • eye-contact

  • facial expressions

  • posture

  • hand gestures

  • body gestures

  • situational behavior

  • personal space

  • voice 


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Living Customs

  • daily life

  • special occasions


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Koreans' Verbal and Nonverbal Communication and Their Behaviors

Most of the following examples have been cited from

Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans published in 2006 by

BCM Media in Korea.


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  • Keeping one’s face is extremely important

  • Tend to be sensitive to hierarchical relation in a group

  • Tend to ask personal questions

  • Often respond negatively to complements

  • Often do not separate private matters with public matters

  • Building up “Jeong” (a feeling of caring about each other) is crucial.

  • Treat guests devotedly

  • Often make comments about appearance such as weight, height, nose, ears, or skin

  • Often smile at you after making a mistake or being embarrassed

  • Korean women cover their mouths when they laugh


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  • Often speak Korean among themselves and do not translate for a foreigner, even though they can speak English.   

  • Do not greet when passing by a stranger    

  • Tend to shake hands too long or too limply.

  • Male friends sometimes hold hands.

  • Females often hold each other with their arms around each others waist. 

  • Often have extensive small talk before business.

  • Tend not to express his/her opinion clearly when asked.

  • Often grab their neighbor's sleeve or hand to get his/her attention.


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  • Korean females often slap their friend next to them while bursting into laughter.

  • Some Koreans avoid eye contact  during a conversation to show respect.

  • Often eat dried squid in public. They also enjoy "cheonggukjang," which smells really bad to many westerners.

  • Parents tend to let their children disturb others in public.

  • Some Koreans stare at foreigners and talk about them in their presence.

  • Often make invitations or important announcements at the last minute at work.

  • Don't wear shoes inside their houses or apartments.


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  • Often close their eyes at a meeting to concentrate on listening.

  • One's seniority is more important than one's achievement or ability.

  • Many Koreans use a roll of toilet paper for tissues or paper napkins at home or at an office.

  • Often slurp loudly while eating noodles or soup.

  • Often reach across the table to pick up something instead asking their neighbor to pass it.

  • Many Korean men unbuckle their belts during meals when they feel they are tight.


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  • Many Korean use toothpicks after meals especially at restaurants.

  • Might add cream and sugar to coffee without asking their guests how they like it.

  • Korean men and women tend to form separate groups at parties, dinners, etc.

  • Some Koreans get into subways or elevators before others get off.

  • Have facial expressions that are flat and dull.

  • Some public restrooms are used by men and women in common.

  • Public restrooms often do not have toilet paper or paper towels.


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Korean students

  • Bow to their teachers

  • Wear uniforms

  • Tend to be quite noisy during the break

  • Tend to show passive attitude in class

  • Do cleaning up after school

  • Study at school till late at night (high school)

  • Tend to be afraid of speaking English


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Questions and Answers


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