Top 30 Korean Companies and What Koreans Think about Them

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Top 30 Korean Companies and What Koreans Think about Them

Need to know more about Korean companies?

Want to know how Koreans view them?

Korean conglomerates, also known as “Jaebeol (재벌)“, go all out when it comes to expansion.

They take “cradle to grave” literally and provide everything from childbirth at their hospitals to funeral services at their funeral homes.

Here are the top 30 Korean companies, their 2019 financial status and what Koreans think about them.

1. Samsung (삼성)

Total Assets (자산총계)216,180,920,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)38,310,673,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)177,870,247,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)154,772,859,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)15,353,323,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Samsung Electronics on financial supervisory service

Most Koreans are very proud of Samsung.

So much that they sometimes call Korea the “Republic of Samsung”.

Founded by Lee Byung-chul, it’s been a family business with Chairman Lee Kun-hee and Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

Recently, Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong held a press conference and apologized for non-compliance regarding ongoing trials.

What people paid most attention to was him announcing that his children would not succeed him (he has a 20 year-old son and a 16 year-old daughter).

Only time will tell whether Samsung will be managed by the 4th generation or not.

2. Hyundai Motor Company (현대자동차)

Total Assets (자산총계)74,157,219,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)20,238,210,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)53,919,009,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)49,155,693,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)2,832,289,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Hyundai Motor Company on financial supervisory service

Is Hyundai a Japanese company? No, it’s Korean.

It’s a conglomerate in Korea run by the Chung family.

Chairman Chung Mong-koo succeeded Chung Ju-yung, who started from nothing and became one of the richest men in Korea.

Ulsan is the base of the multinational Hyundai Group, and Koreans nicknamed it the “Republic of Hyundai” or “Hyundai Metropolitan City”.

It’s considered a good place to work as they pay a high salary.

3. SK Group (에스케이)

Total Assets (자산총계)22,535,086,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)9,132,524,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)13,402,562,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)3,245,516,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)1,420,543,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for SK Group on financial supervisory service

SK is the third largest conglomerate in Korea. 

Despite what some people think, SK stands for Sunkyong, not South Korea.

Started as Sunkyong Textile in 1953, the cornerstone of this group is energy & chemicals.

SK Group also owns the largest mobile service provider, SK Telecom, which Koreans consider the most reliable.

It has a somewhat positive reputation in Korea as it doesn’t do anything exceptionally well or poorly.

4. LG (엘지)

Total Assets (자산총계)9,577,961,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)251,216,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)9,326,745,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)874,672,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)581,161,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for LG on financial supervisory service

Formaly Goldstar, LG is a Korean conglomerate run by the Koo family.

Followed by founder Koo In-hwoi, former Chairman Koo Jakyung and Koo Bon-moo, now Koo Kwang-mo runs the group.

LG is also known for smooth successions without bloody battles between family members, thanks to its strict management training.

Its tagline is “Life’s Good“.

LG is especially famous among netizens.

The reason being, LG makes good products, but their marketing team doesn’t always get the word out, so netizens promote LG products for them.

5. Lotte (롯데)

Total Assets (자산총계)7,796,179,617,620 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)2,395,666,359,495 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)5,400,513,258,125 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)N/A
Net Profit (당기순이익)N/A
Note: 2019 data for Lotte on financial supervisory service

A conglomerate with controversy over its nationality (due to Korea’s history as a colony of Japan).

It’s the only company headquartered in Japan among the top 10 Korean conglomerates.

As you can imagine, Koreans tend to have mixed feelings about this.

Their marketing team seems to be doing its job, because most Japanese people consider it a domestic company.

Lotte was founded by Shin Kyuk-ho, a Korean Japanese person, in 1948.

Then, he expanded his business to Korea with Lotte Confectionery in 1967.

Now, the second son of Shin Kyuk-ho, Shin Dong-bin, runs the group.

Shin Kyuk-ho used to manage the conglomerate by spending odd numbered months in Korea and even months in Japan.

His legacy was to build a 123-floor building, Lotte World Tower, which Koreans often call the “Tower of Sauron”.

6. POSCO (포스코)

Total Assets (자산총계)55,710,766,417,120 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)10,096,581,285,877 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)45,614,185,131,243 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)30,373,510,738,515 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)1,175,712,402,299 KRW
Note: 2019 data for POSCO on financial supervisory service

Launched in 1968 with the mission of national industrialization.

It was the first integrated steel mill in Korea.

Posco has grown to produce 41 million tons of crude steel a year.

It’s also a global business with production and sales in 53 countries.

Their reputation is pretty solid in Korea.

Parents would be proud if their children work there.

7. Hanwha (한화)

Total Assets (자산총계)7,931,295,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)4,507,346,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)3,423,949,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)4,433,163,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)100,270,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Hanwha on financial supervisory service

Founder Kim Chong-hee was nicknamed “Dynamite Kim” by the US military for his hot temper during the Korean War.

And things haven’t changed much since.

One example of him being overly passionate was:

When a Japanese student attacked a Korean student while attending high school, Kim Chong-hee beat the Japanese student and got expelled from school.

Kim Chong-hee suddenly died at the age of 58 in 1981 with no successor planned.

There was a dispute between the brothers Kim Seung-yeon and Kim Ho-yeon.

The first son Kim Seung-yeon took over at the age of 29.

But the dispute went on for ten years and ended with Kim Ho-yeon taking Binggrae.

Kim Seung-yeon has 3 sons.

His first son is currently the vice president of Hanwha Q Cells and considered to be the third generation successor.

Unlike his gangster father, addict brother, and other street fighter brother, he’s never caused a problem.

Despite the fact that they own the 63 Building, they continue to maintain their gangster image.

8. GS (지에스)

Total Assets (자산총계)6,172,968,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)758,728,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)5,414,240,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)365,336,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)277,528,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for GS on financial supervisory service

GS Group is a Korean conglomerate.

It’s the 8th largest conglomerate in Korea.

GS Holdings was incorporated in 2004 and officially split from LG Group in 2005.

The Koo family has full control over LG Group and the Huh family runs GS Holdings.

GS has a relatively clean image among Koreans.

Their home shopping network is very popular.

They even have their own chain of convenience stores.

9. NongHyup (농협)

NongHyup became one of the top 10 conglomerate groups in 2010.

NFCF (National Agricultural Cooperative Federation) was established with a merger of agricultural cooperatives and the agricultural bank in 1961.

In the decades since, NACF has played an important role in the growth of the Korean economy.

In 2012, NACF started separate operations for its NongHyup Financial and NongHyup Agri-business groups.

NongHyup has a larger presence outside of Seoul given its agricultural roots.

Most people who live away from the capital do their banking with them.

10. Hyundai Heavy Industries (현대중공업)

Total Assets (자산총계)8,583,906,445,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)2,741,696,853,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)5,842,209,592,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)492,651,093,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)590,858,298,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Hyundai Heavy Industries on financial supervisory service

Hyundai is so big, it made this list twice.

Hyundai Heavy Industries is one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world.

Headquartered in Ulsan, Hyundai Heavy Industries was founded by Chung Ju-yung in 1972.

Its 4 core business divisions are Shipbuilding, Offshore & Engineering, Industrial Plant & Engineering, and Engine & Machinery.

11. Shinsegae (신세계)

Total Assets (자산총계)7,265,903,910,527 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)3,494,702,199,945 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)3,771,201,710,582 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)1,557,606,954,646 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)705,956,104,999 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Shinsegae on financial supervisory service

12. KT (케이티)

Total Assets (자산총계)27,733,854,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)14,837,153,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)12,896,701,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)18,204,751,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)431,828,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for KT on financial supervisory service

13. Hanjin Group (한진)

Total Assets (자산총계)1,913,421,079,849 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)373,030,693,449 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)1,540,390,386,400 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)N/A
Net Profit (당기순이익)32,069,046,829 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Hanjin Kal on financial supervisory service

14. CJ (씨제이)

Total Assets (자산총계)2,311,282,516,146 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)2,047,886,723,143 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)263,395,793,003 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)1,046,370,346,744 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)-66,062,360,898 KRW
Note: 2019 data for CJ CGV on financial supervisory service

15. Doosan (두산)

Total Assets (자산총계)11,360,877,605,101 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)7,920,170,221,035 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)3,440,707,384,066 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)3,708,635,207,378 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)-495,190,677,202 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction on financial supervisory service

16. Booyoung (부영)

17. LS (엘에스)

Total Assets (자산총계)287,961,695,936 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)12,493,520,970 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)275,468,174,966 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)N/A
Net Profit (당기순이익)6,079,714,496 KRW
Note: 2019 data for LS Cable & System Asia on financial supervisory service

18. Daelim (대림)

Total Assets (자산총계)10,072,030,499,443 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)4,625,408,469,816 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)5,446,622,029,627 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)7,347,747,862,631 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)396,878,717,263 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Daelim on financial supervisory service

19. Mirae Asset Financial Group (미래에셋)

20. S-Oil (에쓰-오일)

Total Assets (자산총계)16,455,433,000,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)9,969,313,000,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)6,486,120,000,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)24,393,980,000,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)62,602,000,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for S-Oil on financial supervisory service

21. Hyundai Department Store (현대백화점)

Total Assets (자산총계)5,795,560,155,000 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)1,963,854,413,000 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)3,831,705,742,000 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)1,385,243,797,000 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)195,656,742,000 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Hyundai Department Store on financial supervisory service

22. Hyosung (효성)

Total Assets (자산총계)3,186,012,395,511 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)2,242,082,228,246 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)943,930,167,265 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)3,110,979,030,962 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)11,919,974,352 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Hyosung Heavy Industries on financial supervisory service

23. Korea Investment Holdings (한국투자금융지주)

24. DSME (대우조선해양)

Total Assets (자산총계)11,067,648,301,949 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)7,436,139,441,145 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)3,631,508,860,804 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)8,317,581,776,350 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)-57,722,248,994 KRW
Note: 2019 data for DSME on financial supervisory service

25. Young Poong (영풍)

Total Assets (자산총계)2,282,953,196,769 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)462,704,604,322 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)1,820,248,592,447 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)1,347,979,587,535 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)76,098,143,168 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Young Poong on financial supervisory service

26. HARIM Co., Ltd. (하림)

Total Assets (자산총계)1,614,029,486,351 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)507,805,818,077 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)1,106,223,668,274 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)N/A
Net Profit (당기순이익)1,478,669,797 KRW
Note: 2019 data for Harim on financial supervisory service

27. Kyobo Life Insurance (교보생명보험)

28. Kumho Asiana Group (금호아시아나)

29. Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corporation (KT&G) (케이티앤지)

Total Assets (자산총계)9,112,777,639,505 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)1,332,693,987,094 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)7,780,083,652,411 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)2,942,618,858,461 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)891,380,827,802 KRW
Note: 2019 data for KT&G on financial supervisory service

30. KOLON Group (코오롱)

Total Assets (자산총계)1,272,530,111,868 KRW
Total Liabilities (부채총계)772,185,761,350 KRW
Total Shareholder Equity (자본총계)500,344,350,518 KRW
Sales Revenue (매출액)60,462,264,683 KRW
Net Profit (당기순이익)9,146,518,952 KRW
Note: 2019 data for KOLON on financial supervisory service

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Forehead Thermometer Made in Korea Helps Diagnose Coronavirus

Korea has had an exceptional response to the Coronavirus.

In late February, South Korea was home to the most COVID-19 patients of any country not named China.

Now, they have one of the lowest per capita mortality rates in the world.

They accomplished this while not shutting down the country or their borders.

What’s their secret?

High testing rates and widespread mask usage.

Part of this equation is forehead thermometers. Like the Thermo Checker DT-060 by Easytem.

Designed and manufactured in South Korea, it’s one of the best thermometers on the market.

It’s a cutting edge, non-contact thermometer that:

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It’s so good, they’re exporting them to the US and EU.

We recently became their translation provider.

So far we’ve translated their product labels into English, French and Spanish.

We hope to overhaul their website in the future.


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Looking for a good translation blog?

Translators are an afterthought to most.

Even though every product you encounter has required translation in some form before it reaches you.

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We at Lingua Asia have gained a wealth of knowledge from reading their blogs and feel that they deserve recognition.

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1. Thoughts on Translation

One of the most user-friendly and helpful translation blogs out there.

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2. Translation Tribulations

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It also covers a wide range of subjects from marketing techniques to workflow optimization.

Created by Kevin Lossner, a German to English translator, who has also written 4 books, all of which are about memoQ.

His posts, which date back to 2008, are written in a conversational style that is very easy to read.

3. Translators Anonymous

While not the prettiest girl at the dance, this blog has a lot of personality and humor.

The site is run by two girls who are well, anonymous, and is updated regularly, sometimes twice a day.

It’s a great place to laugh and forget the tedium of translation for a few minutes, or hours.

They also have a sister blog called, A Day in the Life of a PM, which has the same brand of humor and irreverence.

4. Brave New Words

Although this blog hasn’t been updated recently, it contains extensive info on translation, language, literature, and other related topics.

It’s run by B.J. Epstein, a Ph.D in translation studies who is a Swedish to English translator, writer and editor.

There’s 10 years’ worth of bite-sized blog posts here that cover a variety of subjects.

His post on machine translation is especially informative for translators who are into that sort of thing.

5. Transblawg

A blog that focuses on German to English legal translation with useful resources including links to legal dictionaries and usage cases for terminology.

It’s well-organized by category, with content dating back to 2003.

6. Musings from an overworked translator

Jill Sommer is a freelance German to English translator who provides a number of entertaining exerts on what it’s like to be a translator, along with entertaining memes.

Her post on certified translation is especially informative for those who are unsure of what it entails.

7. Translation Times

Judy and Dagmar Jenner are twins who translate between Spanish, German, French and English.

Their blog contains a wealth of info on court interpretation and ways to acquire new clients.

Their post on machine translation is especially informative and demonstrates ways to utilize MT to improve the quality of human translation.

They also offer a course on translation marketing.

8. Blogging Translator

If translation, linguistics, and freelancing interest you, look no further.

Philippa Hammond is sharing her experience as a 21st-century freelancer who translates from French, Spanish, and Portuguese into English.

You can get easy-to-read tips on navigating a career in translation, including reviews of the latest software.

9. Want Words

Losing the passion for professional translation can take the wind out of your linguistic sails.

Thankfully, Marta Stelmaszak turned her blog into the Business School for Translators to help others find their inspiration again or for freelancers to learn more about the business side of translation.

Aside from offering these lessons, including a particularly popular one on how personality impacts your translation career, Marta offers her book, “The Business Guide for Translators”.

*** Update ***

Want Words is currently down and will hopefully be back online soon.

10. Swedish Translation Services

Tess Whitty’s Swedish Translation Services helps companies market in Sweden or the U.S.

Tess is an English-to-Swedish and Swedish-to-English translator with a marketing background and more than 10 years in the field.

Mistranslations are sloppy mistakes to avoid; therefore, when translating your marketing material or anything business related, it’s best to contact a professional translator.

Swedish Translation Services offers presentations to businesses, as shown in their media kit.

11. Lingua Greca

The adventures in technical translation and translations into or from Greek abound at Lingua Greca.

The freelance translating duo of Catherine Christaki and Christos Floros offer a one-stop shop for Greek technical translation services for local and international companies.

The blog posts date back to 2011 and offer tips on social media, public speaking, marketing and more.

12. Naked Translations

Naked Translations sounds naughty, but it’s actually a reputable translation site that’s totally bilingual, including its blog posts.

Céline Graciet is the owner who offers freelance English-to-French translation services.

She holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Toulouse.

Céline explains that the best translations are done by native speakers, so she only translates into her native language of French.

In her words, “If I am not the right person for the job, then I will help you find The One.”

The blog is not longer under development, so no more suspense!

13. Translator Fun

Who knew some translators moonlight as cartoonists?

Romina Bona is doing just that at Translator Fun, a blog that features cartoons about translation to bring a smile to your day.

The hilarious cartoon posts, such as A Translator’s Flexibility Towards Proofreading, cover everything from translation jargon and working environment to challenges translators face.

Romina is an English-to-Spanish translator for social media, translation news, and fun projects.

14. A Smart Translator’s Reunion

Meet Catharine Cellier-Smart, a British-born French-to-English translator.

Catharine has one of the few translation blogs (if not the only one) from Reunion Island, a French island in the Indian Ocean.

Her resume is full of acronyms that we have translated at no cost to you.

She is certified by IQC and Proz.

She’s also a member of the Syndicat National des Traducteurs Professionnels (the French national translators’ union), and UNETICA (French national union of sworn translators and interpreters).

Learn the languages of different regions, such as Oman, plus roundups of language-related events happening around the globe by reading her blog.

15. Translating is an Art

Are you looking for a native Dutch speaker to translate English-to-Dutch or German-to-Dutch for an artsy project?

If so, check out Percy Balemans of Translating is an Art.

Percy specializes in translations of advertising material (transcreation), fashion, art, travel, and tourism.

Find out more about transcreation, common misconceptions about translation, and other useful tips from this creative person’s fashionable blog posts.


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How to Get the Best Translation Service

  

Need good translation fast?

Not sure where to begin?

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s actionable info on how to get the best translation service.

Introduction

So, according to your resume, you’re fluent in a language you haven’t used since high school.

Your boss just asked you to translate an important document.

Google Translate looks tempting; it’s free after all.

But, like an unstable ex, you know it will come back to haunt you.

You look at some translation company websites.

They claim to be the best in every language on earth.

Their customer testimonials sound like they were written by the same person.

Their “customers” look like discount stock images.

You realize that translation is a highly unregulated industry.

With new companies popping up on the internet every day, there’s been a steady race to the bottom.

Quality varies greatly making it difficult to find reliable resources.

We understand the struggle.

Wasted hours searching for document translation at our previous jobs inspired us to start our own company.

After a decade of experience as customers and as service providers, we know the industry inside and out.

Now we’re sharing our knowledge with you.


What Are Your Options?

You have three choices (besides learning a second language for 10 years)

FREELANCE TRANSLATORSENTREPRENEUR-OWNED AGENCIESTRANSLATOR-OWNED COMPANIES
Self-motivated, independent translators who usually work alone.Agencies that outsource to freelance translators with the lowest rates and perform minimal quality checks, if any.Companies that usually translate files in-house and focus more on quality. They charge more and keep clients for longer periods of time.

Your Options

FREELANCE TRANSLATORS

+ Pros

Typically eager to work.

A good one will provide reliable, long-­term translation solutions.

– Cons

There are thousands of them, but a good one is as easy to find as a needle in a very spread out haystack.

Their quality varies and is not always correlated with their rates.

They need someone to review their work, especially customer-facing documents and other important material.

∨ How to recognize them beforehand

They usually won’t have a website and their email host will be AOL or Yahoo.

◈ When to use them

They’re great for recurring projects with moderately tight budgets, provided you review the files yourself.

ENTREPRENEUR-OWNED AGENCIES

+ Pros

Flexible with their prices and deadlines.

A good option when both are an issue.

– Cons

Quality is not their priority.

They mostly farm out translation to the lowest bidder to keep costs minimal.

Files are not usually proofread, leaving you with the privilege of revising or even re-translating their work.

∨ How to recognize them beforehand

They’re willing to accommodate your price range with aggressive discounts and provide moving target deadlines.

They’ll make vague guarantees that can’t possibly be upheld.

◈ When to use them

When your budget is tight and you need a rough understanding of non-­technical documents.

Just make sure not to post their work on your website before reviewing it for accuracy and readability.

TRANSLATOR-OWNED COMPANIES

+ Pros

Generally provide better quality translation and deliver on time.

– Cons

They can be expensive as they have high fixed costs (in-house translators, proofreaders, editors, etc.).

This is especially true if they have been around for a while.

∨ How to recognize them beforehand

Their rates are firm and they have set deadlines.

Also, they won’t promise the sun, moon and stars just to get your business.

They’ll see if you’re a good fit as a client before taking on your projects.

When to use them

They’re the best option for technical documents that require a high level of accuracy.


Before you Start

Save Money 

Translators charge by the page, which is determined by word count (e.g. 250 words equals 1 page).

Why do they do this?

Probably to standardize quotes, or maybe just to confuse you.

So, before sending a file, ask yourself what needs to be translated.

It’s possible to eliminate a lot of your text and reduce your costs.

Ask your translator to remove numbers and symbols from the word count.

This will show that you’re an informed client, or annoy the heck out of them.

Either way, you’ll save some money.

Try to get a discount on duplicate sentences.

Most translators use software that can count repetitions in a file.

Don’t pay twice for the same work.

This is especially true for large projects where repetitions can add up to hundreds of dollars.

Ask for a volume discount on large files.

Most companies will subtract 5 to 10 percent on files over 1,000 USD.

Remember, the bigger the file, the less admin and marketing they have to do.

Stack the Odds in Your Favor

Find out what their procedure is.

Check their website and ask them to clarify how they manage projects if necessary (spoiler alert, it will be necessary).

Make sure they use both a proofreader and internal review system.

This will increase the likelihood that you won’t spend all night redoing their work.

Remember, procedures, just like rules were made to be broken.

Always have critical documents reviewed independently before showing them to your boss or customers.

Get the Most Out of Your Translation

Give the company a terminology list and ask them to keep it updated.

This is your insurance in case you have to switch translators at some point.

Also, it will keep terms consistent.

Feel free to ask for revisions if necessary.

This will give them feedback and make them pay more attention to your files.

Save Time and Money on Revisions

There are a hundred ways to translate a sentence (we counted).

You can either hope your translator is a mind reader or provide a reference when possible.

A reference file shows the original text and the translation side-by-side.

This lets translators know the wording, sentence structure, style and tone you prefer.

Most importantly, it will make life easier for both of you.

If you do not have a reference file, make sure to tell them exactly who and what the translation is for.

The more details you give (i.e. selling cosmetics to Korean females in their 20’s from Seoul), the better your results.

Don’t request deadlines that are too tight.

A good translator can handle between 1,500 to 2,500 words per day.

Any more, and they might split the file with another translator, or pull an all-nighter. Both of which will leave you with a mess of words lacking continuity.

Also, don’t forget to leave time for proofreading and review, otherwise you can add them to your to-do list.

5 pages (around 1,250 words) take at least 48 hours to translate and polish.


Get Consistent Quality

Many translation companies will claim to provide the best results right away.

Great translation, however, doesn’t happen overnight.

It takes a few files for even experienced translators to find the best word choices and sentence structure.

A good translator will consistently search for optimal solutions for you.

Look for people who ask the right questions to provide better results.

Once you receive well-translated documents from someone, let them know.

Make sure to request the same translator and proofreader if you’re satisfied with the quality.

They’ll be more than happy to accommodate you.

A good translation company will be eager to receive any kind of feedback.

Never hesitate to voice your concerns or appreciation.


The Bottom Line

Translation quality comes down to individual talent and sense. 

Education, certificates, experience, association memberships and high rates aren’t the best indicators of high quality.

There are excellent translators with minimal experience and vice versa.

A good way to discover the best ones is to “date” them by sending smaller files first.

We wish you the best of luck with your future translation projects.

Feel free to send us a file for review.

Get the PDF Version of this Guide here!


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Important Changes to Korean Import Law and Tariffs

Korean tariff and customs regulations change every few months.

Unfortunately, these updates are not provided in English.

Failure to keep track of these new amendments could result in large amounts of money and effort being wasted.

Embassies in a few countries and trade organizations rely on us to provide accurate translation of everything from tariffs to regulations on livestock import.

We take pride in the importance of these translations and review files three times to ensure the highest level of detail and clarity.

Here are some samples of the work we have done over the years.

Industry: Trade

Document Type: Amended Agreement

Language Pair: Korean to English

특정국가와의 관세협상에 따른 국제협력관세의 적용에 관한 규정

[시행 2017.1.1.] [대통령령 제27758호, 2016.12.30., 일부개정]

【제정·개정이유】

[일부개정]

◇ 개정이유 및 주요내용

「통일상품명 및 부호체계에 관한 국제협약」에 따라 변경된 품목분류기준에 맞추어 특정국가와의 관세협상에 따른 국제협력관세율이 적용되는 물품에 대한 품목번호 및 품명을 변경하려는 것임.

Regulations for the Application of International Tariffs According to Negotiations with Specific Countries

[Enforced on January 1st, 2017] [Presidential Decree No. 27758, December 30th, 2016, Partial Amendment]

【Reasons for Enactment and Amendment】

[Partial Amendment]

◇ Reasons for Amendment and Main Content

To change item numbers and names of articles that are applied with the international tariff rate according to negotiations with specific countries in compliance with item classification criteria modified by the “International Convention Regarding Unified Product Name and Code System”.

【제정·개정문】

국무회의의 심의를 거친 특정국가와의 관세협상에 따른 국제협력관세의 적용에관한 규정 일부개정령을 이에 공포한다.

대통령권한대행 국무총리 황교안 (인)

2016년 12월 30일

국무총리 황교안

국무위원 기획재정부 장관 유일호

【Enactment • Amendment】

The partial amendment to Regulations for the Application of International Tariffs According to Negotiations with Specific Countries through deliberation during the Cabinet meeting is hereby issued.

The Acting President, Prime Minister Kyo-ahn Hwang (Signature)

December 30th, 2016

Prime Minister Kyo-ahn Hwang

Cabinet Member and the Minister of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance Il-ho Yoo

⊙대통령령 제27758호

특정국가와의 관세협상에 따른 국제협력관세의 적용에관한 규정 일부개정령

특정국가와의 관세협상에 따른 국제협력관세의 적용에 관한 규정 일부를 다음과 같이 개정한다.

별표를 별지와 같이 한다.

부칙

제1조(시행일) 이 영은 2017년 1월 1일부터 시행한다.

제2조(국제협력관세율을 적용하는 물품 및 세율에 관한 적용례) 별표의 개정규정은 이 영 시행 이후 수입신고하는 물품부터 적용한다.

⊙Presidential Decree No. 27758

Partial Amendment to Regulations for the Application of International Tariffs According to Negotiations with Specific Countries

Regulations for the Application of International Tariffs According to Negotiations with Specific Countries shall be partially amended as follows:

The table shall be attached as the following annex.

Addendum

Article 1 (Date of Enforcement) This Decree shall take effect on January 1st, 2017.

Article 2 (Applicable Examples of Articles and Tax Rates to be Applied with the International Tariff Rate) The revised regulations of the Table shall be applied to articles that are declared for import after the enforcement of this Decree.


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The Ultimate Guide to Doing Business in Korea for 2020

15 minute read

modern Korean business etiquette

Thinking about doing business in Korea?

Need to learn more about Korean business etiquette?

Navigating the murky waters of Korean Business Culture can be challenging.

There’s much to be gained through a successful partnership, but many ways to lose 정 (Jeong), or the unspoken bond that holds the country together.

With the many hidden rules that can make or break a business relationship in Korea, it’s important to be prepared.

These simple tips will help you avoid major mistakes when doing business in Korea.


Before You Meet

Background Information

  • Korean Business Etiquette is influenced by Confucianism and Military Hierarchy.
  • There’s a lot of similarity with Japanese Business Culture as both use job titles derived from Chinese characters.
  • Your age and job title relative to others determines how you communicate and behave. A higher age/job title will give you more credibility.
  • Most Koreans have been exposed to Western culture through movies and TV shows, and will often have their favorites.
  • Many have studied abroad or interacted with native English speakers at private academies.
  • Regardless of the amount of exposure to the West, Koreans will most likely follow local business protocol.
  • A close relationship is the key to doing business in Korea, while planning takes a backseat. Since most businesses operate this way, it’s especially difficult to predict the future, so things are often decided on the fly.
  • The concept of “face” also applies. So make sure never to correct/criticize someone in public. You might be met with a lot of resistance in the future.
  • Flexibility is also very important when doing business in Korea. Don’t be surprised if you end up performing tasks well outside your scope of expertise.
  • Although becoming less important, gender is still a factor. Married males over 40, or “ajeossi”, are perceived as having a higher position in society. Women still handle domestic duties, even when they have their own careers. It’s not uncommon for female managers to serve tea in business meetings.
  • In business you will either be a 갑 (gahb), “the party with power and money” or 을 (uhl), “the party without”. Some examples of this are “employer and employee” or “buyer and seller” relationships. All contracts in Korean define “Party A” and “Party B” as either “gahb” or “uhl”, while in western countries “Party A” and “Party B” are considered somewhat equal.
  • Two people usually attend a business meeting, a junior and a senior employee, so plan accordingly.

Dress Code

You will be judged by your appearance and grooming (clean shaven and clean cut are a plus).

Dress shoes, slacks, a button up shirt and tie are recommended.

If you are meeting an ajeossi, or married man over 40, it’s a good idea to wear a jacket and tie.

Your watch will also be judged. Tag Heuer grants instant credibility. Citizen and Tissot are the bare minimum. Anything cheaper than 200 USD is better left at home.

Bring a wallet and a business card holder (full of your business cards), preferably a brand name like Mont Blanc or Gucci.

Korean office dress code
Appearances are very important in Korean business culture.

During the Meeting

Greetings

Bow slightly and shake with a loose grip using two hands (a firm grip is a sign of aggression) after the oldest/highest ranking person reaches out.

Business cards are exchanged at the same time while standing, even if you have their contact info.

Don’t make small talk at this stage, just follow our formula unless a question is asked.

Present your business card with two hands when the oldest/highest ranking person presents theirs.

Make sure your info is facing the person accepting the card, so they can read it.

Look at their card for 3 seconds, then say their name and title (add a “nim” at the end of the title for extra points).

Place their card on the table so you can see it during the meeting (don’t put it in your pocket as this is uncommon).

Eye Contact

The older person by more than two years usually makes eye contact while the younger person will look away slightly as a sign of respect.

As a non-Korean, you can simply use soft eye contact.

Meeting Agenda

The main topics in order of importance are:

  1. Price Negotiation (they will want a discount)
  2. Quality Assurance (especially for ongoing projects)
  3. Their Company History and Process (during the first meeting)

You will hear a full presentation on their company history and milestones. Prepare yours as well.

Koreans are vague by Western standards, especially during the first meeting. They will not settle on numbers, dates and specifics.

They will minimize the time spent on details and will mostly be feeling out the situation.

Gathering Information

Don’t expect them to present the information you need. Prepare specific questions.

When they respond that “they aren’t sure” or “don’t know yet”, ask politely when you can receive the information.

Koreans will answer your questions after providing context.

Whereas in English, questions are answered first, then an explanation is provided.

If someone goes off on a tangent when asked a question, ask again for a rough estimate.

Korean business information
There’s often a lack of information due to the language barrier or cultural differences.

Negotiating Price

It’s ok to ask for a discount or an adjustment.

Asking for a final and best offer is considered a bit aggressive.

Koreans won’t say “no”, instead they will say, “it will be a little difficult”.

Expect there to be multiple rounds of negotiations.

It takes at least a week to finalize details.

The decision maker doesn’t usually attend the meeting, and their approval is necessary to proceed.

Gifts

You will most likely receive a gift near the end of the meeting.

Accept the gift with two hands and thank them. Do not open it in their presence.

What to Buy as a Gift

You are not required to give a gift unless you are a seller, but something small would be appreciated.

Company gifts (pens, umbrellas, calendars, etc.) are safe choices.

For women, Yankee Candle or L’Occitane Hand Cream.

For men, alcohol (Ballentines or Chivas Regal if you really want to make an impression) or golf equipment including golf balls as they cost double in Korea.


After the Meeting

Goodbyes

Goodbyes are short. Repeat the same steps in the Greetings section minus the business card exchange.

Thank them for their time.

If your deal is important to them, you will probably be invited to a meal.

Expect alcohol to be involved.

Having Lunch/Dinner

Most Korean restaurants serve a few main dishes with a variety of side dishes that you can get refilled.

The main dishes sometimes come in a large pot for everyone to share.

So, people in groups tend to order the same thing.

Feel free to order what you want at a western restaurant.

The youngest staff member in each group will set up the utensils and pour the water.

You can gauge how progressive the company is if the oldest/highest ranking person helps out.

When the oldest/highest ranking person lifts their utensils, you can begin eating.

Tips at a Korean Restaurant

Do not lift plates or bowls while eating.

Do not use chopsticks and a spoon at the same time.

Close your mouth when chewing and try not to make noise.

korean food bibimbap
Meals are a necessary part of business culture in Korea.

When you’re done eating, put your spoon and chopsticks in their original position.

Koreans normally share side dishes, so don’t repeatedly touch them with your chopsticks.

Small talk during meals is uncommon, especially with middle-aged people.

Seoulites tend to eat quickly by western standards.

The oldest person or the person inviting usually pays for the entire meal.

You might find yourself fighting for the check.

If you are the seller, regardless of age, make sure to fight extra hard for the check.

If you absolutely need to pay, pretend to go to the bathroom near the end of the meal and pay at the front (this would only be acceptable if you are a seller).

I’ve been successful with this about 50% of the time, since Koreans are experts.

After Dinner

접대 (Jeopdae, wining and dining) is a very important part of business.

This is sometimes where the deal gets made.

A night out with Koreans will involve bar hopping and possibly 노래방 (Noraebang) or Karaoke.

You can be more informal (semi-formal would be the operative word with basic etiquette still followed) and get to know each other better.

South Korean nightlife seoul
What happens after the meeting can be more important for building relationships, the driving force of business in Korea.

Don’t say no to the first shot of alcohol and make sure you finish it in one gulp (Koreans call this 원샷, one shot).

When an older/higher ranking person pours liquor for you, hold your shot glass in your right hand and touch the bottom of your right elbow or the bottom of the glass with your left hand.

This same principle applies when you pour for others.

If things get really relaxed, you might find yourself playing some drinking games.

Even if you are reaching your limit, do the 건배 (geonbae) or “cheers” motion and lightly touch the glass to your lips and put it back on the table.

If you don’t drink at all, make sure you fill your shot glass with soft drinks and go through the motions.

The most important seat is the center furthest from the entrance.

The second most prestigious is next to the most important seat, where the two can converse.

The least important seat is near the entrance.

If you see that an older/higher ranking person’s glass is empty, pick up the bottle with your right hand as to cover the label.

Touch the bottom of your right elbow or the bottom of the bottle with your left hand.

Pour liquor (usually soju) until it fills 3/4 of the glass.

When you drink, turn your head slightly away from the older/higher ranking person and drink.

Koreans have a variety of drinking games, some involving math.

I advise you not to play them, unless you want to drink a lot.

Follow Up

Make sure to follow up in two days.

Request the information you didn’t receive during the meeting.

If you do not receive it by the date promised, call them on the phone.

Expect to follow up in a week or two.

About Contracts

Contracts should be in both Korean and English.

It’s possible for a Korean court to invalidate a contract if the counter party didn’t understand the terms.

Avoid ambiguous and inconsistent language.

A Korean court will often balance out any contract in favor of the counter party if the terms are vague.

Expect to continually renegotiate terms, even after they have been agreed upon.

Failing that, arbitration can be the next step to resolving any differences.

Of course, make sure to designate an impartial arbitrator to make sure your interests are looked after.

Korean companies often have cash-rich subsidiaries in other countries.

It’s often better to have your counter party be one of these overseas subsidiaries.

Also, designate an overseas district to enforce a contract when possible, since it’s much easier to win a judgement in a non-Korean court.

Finally, make sure that the signing party is the one with the highest likelihood of having a judgement enforced against it (this is not always the Korean HQ).

A contract in Korea is usually a loose agreement to work together in some capacity with the particulars changing to your benefit or detriment as time goes on.

Keep this in mind and focus more on the relationship to make sure things stay balanced.

Define as many terms as possible to increase clarity and not leave anything up to the courts.

This will help you understand your counter party as their definition might differ from yours considerably.

A contract doesn’t always carry the same weight as it does in other countries.

Just because something is put in writing, doesn’t make it ironclad.

Always proceed with caution and use your best judgement.

I learned these rules the hard way while working in Korea for over a decade.

After starting a translation company, I follow these guidelines whenever I interact with Korean clients.

I hope these tips get the results you need. 

Contact Lingua Asia Translation to find out about our services.

Richard Walker

Get the Infograph Version of this Guide here!


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Check out our helpful guides on Korean translation and how to find great Korean translation service.

Understanding Korean Job Titles

Korean corporate titles can be very different from their English counterparts. Make sure you understand them before doing business in Korea.

translation company errors

21 Funny Translation Errors

Translation isn’t always fun and games. Here are some times it went really wrong.

How Korean is Becoming Two Languages

North and South Korean are changing drastically. Here are some interesting ways they differ.

Important Changes to Korean Import Laws and Tariffs

Korean tariffs and customs regulations change every few months. Here are some important differences this year.

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The Ultimate Guide to Doing Business in Korea

Doing business in Korea is hard. Here are some important tips to help you succeed.

How to Get the Best Translation Service

Finding good translation resources is hard. Here are some ways to choose the correct one and get consistent quality.

The Top 15 Translation Blogs

Translation is an unappreciated industry. Here are the top blogs that shed light on the subject.

Interesting Facts about Korea

Want to learn more about Korea? Check out these interesting facts!

21 Popular Korean Drinking Games

Interested in Korean drinking games? Want to make Korean friends fast? Here are 21 popular Korean drinking games!

5 Binge-worthy K-dramas on Netflix Recommended by a Korean (feat. Useful Korean Expressions)

Bored at home? Looking for some new k-dramas to watch? Check out these binge-worthy dramas on Netflix approved by a Korean!

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Forehead Thermometer Made in Korea Helps Diagnose Coronavirus

Korea has had an exceptional response to the Coronavirus. What’s their secret? Find out here!

21 Interesting, Funny and Tragic Translation Errors

translation company errors

Translation is an after-thought for most businesses.

We get it.

Slick company mousepads and employee trips to Disneyworld are a priority, while communicating with customers takes a backseat.

To be fair, it’s not easy to find a good translation company.

Rather than get preachy about how bad translation will ruin your business, here are some amusing and tragic examples of when it goes wrong.

Olympic Chefs Use Google Translate to Order 1,500 Eggs, End up with 15,000

Is cholesterol a performance enhancer?

Norway’s Olympic team chefs at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang might have hoped so when they accidentally ordered 15,000 of them.

After using Google Translate to buy their groceries at a local supermarket, a truckload of never-ending eggs arrived.

Fortunately, they were better at math than translation and figured out that they had ordered too many.

The grocery store was kind enough to take the rest back as they were wondering if eggs were the only thing Norwegians eat.

(See the article here)

NPR Tries to Tweet Something Inspirational, Says Something Horrible Instead 

2018 was a great year for women entering politics, unfortunately, it was a horrible one for translation.

NPR tweeted that 2018 was the “year of the woman” in both Spanish and English.

However, they forgot the ever-important tilde symbol (~) over the ‘n’, writing instead “el ano de la mujer”.

NPR must have gained some interesting new readers after that.

(See the article here)

Danish Healthcare Workers Legally Obligated to Use State Approved Interpreters, End up Giving Patient Diarrhea

There are people from 200 countries in Denmark.

Most of them are in trouble if they need help from the government.

Denmark spends 305 million Kroner (36 million USD) on interpreters a year without a strict screening procedure.

They rely on government employees such as nurses to decide whether they are competent.

This recipe for disaster led to one patient being prescribed olive oil and gaining a serious case of the “backdoor trots”.

(See the article here)

Walmart Canada Tries to Sell Swimsuits, Body Shames Instead

Et tu Walmart?

All both people who go to Walmart in Canada to buy swimwear are in store for some judgement.

One of their third-party ads for plus-sized floral print bathing suits stated that it was the “best choice for fat girls to spend hot summer.”

The most unbelievable part is that they have a summer in Canada.

(See the article here)

Brexit Adds Poor Translation to its List of Woes

If you can’t spell the name of the language you translate properly, you might want to reevaluate your career choice.

A white paper regarding the Brexit deal in 27 E.U. languages was riddled with translation errors.

Some notable ones were the Polish and Estonian versions misspelling the names of their respective countries.

Also, the French version wrote “principled Brexit” as “un Brexit vertueux”, which implies that the UK’s departure from the E.U. is virtuous or morally correct.

Maybe the British need the E.U. more than they think.

(See the article here)

Attempt to Collect Parking Fees in Welsh County Backfires due to Translation Errors

OK idea, poor execution.

The Welsh have battled to preserve their language for centuries.

Oddly enough, their biggest threat was not the British Empire, but government incompetence.

Wrexham Council attempted to introduce a £1 daily parking fee at three country parks to increase revenue for upkeep.

Unfortunately, they forgot to hire a competent translator for their signs.

A vigilant Samaritan underlined the errors in red and wrote “ofnadwy” underneath, which translates to “awful” in perfect Welsh.

The Welsh haven’t returned fire this deadly since they invented the longbow.

(See the article here)

President Carter’s Interpreter has Rudimentary Knowledge of Polish, Entertains Two Countries

Jimmy Carter seldom got the respect he deserved.

Maybe if he had the right interpreter it would have been different.

On a visit to Poland, President Carter was assigned a Russian interpreter who was not exactly well-versed in Polish.

He misinterpreted phrases like “when I left the United States” to “when I abandoned the United States”, and “your desires for the future” to “your lusts for the future”.

Needless to say, President Carter became a hit with the ladies there.

(See the article here)

Nikita Kruschev is Misinterpreted as Threatening, Really is Just Menacing

Nikita Kruschev was not a guy you’d want to cross, especially at the height of the cold war.

His bombastic persona influenced how some of his words were interpreted.

An impromptu exchange, known as the “Kitchen Debate”, with then Vice President Richard Nixon was communicated in English as “we will bury you”.

This was viewed as a literal threat of nuclear attack, which escalated tensions even further between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

In reality, he meant something more like, “we will live to see you buried”. Which pretty much means, you will die, but by your own incompetence.

See, isn’t that much better now?

(See the article here)

HSBC Spends 10 Million Dollars on a Translation Error

HSBC is one of the largest financial institutions in the world.

They are not, however, immune to mistranslation.

After spending presumably millions to come up with “Assume Nothing” as a slogan, it was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in multiple countries.

They then had to spend another 10 million dollars to rebrand, which was probably found between their couch cushions.

(See the article here)

Minor Error Causes Global Turmoil

Warren Buffet once said he goes to Wall Street to watch people make mistakes.

Maybe he should have gone to the headquarters of China News Service instead.

An article by reporter Guan Xiangdong made some casual and speculative remarks about financial reports, but the English translation sounded much more literal.

This led to a panic in the global foreign exchange market and a subsequent plunge in the value of the dollar.

Which leads one to wonder if the translator was trading Forex.

(See the article here)

Biblical Translation Gets One Word Wrong, Gives us Some Very Cool Statues

St. Jerome is the literal patron saint of translators, but even he needed a proofreader.

Ever the overachiever, he studied Hebrew so he could translate the Old Testament into Latin.

However, he misread a critical word describing what was on Moses’ head when he descended from Mount Sinai.

He mistook “karan”, which means “radiance”, for “keren”, which means “horned”.

As luck would have it, his version became the basis of hundreds of translations for centuries.

Fortunately, we were gifted some epic artwork featuring a horned Moses.

(See the article here)

Mistranslation Gives Japan Two Valentines Days

Valentines Day is probably one of the most loved and reviled holidays in the world.

Started in mid-February to Christianize a Pagan Roman festival and moved to commemorate an execution somehow, it is a celebration of love and Hallmark’s best day after Christmas.

In 1968, Japanese chocolate companies started mimicking western holidays and the companies that were making a killing because of them.

Unfortunately for Japanese women, there was a mistranslation along the way that made it obligatory for women to give chocolates to men.

Not to be outdone, a follow-up “White Day” was invented for men to reciprocate.

Korea took it one step further (as they are known to do) with “Black Day” for single people to eat Jjajangmyun (짜장면), a type of black bean noodle dish, and lament their crippling loneliness.

Even to this day, men and women all over East Asia can thank bad translation for having to deal with two sham holidays instead of one.

(See the article here)

Italian Astronomer Gives Birth to Martians

Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli loved looking at Mars.

So much so that he avoided alcohol and caffeine to better focus on it for hours.

His observations were so detailed that they were used until the dawn of the space probe era.

He wrote of dark and light areas on Mars as “continents” and “seas” for lack of a better term.

The light areas snaking through the continents were described as “canali” or channels, which sound an awful lot like “canals” in English.

This allowed people’s imaginations to run wild with speculation about canals created by life forms on Mars.

Thanks to him, Tom Cruise could add “martians” to the list of things he ran from in movies.

(See the article here)

Mistranslation Leads to Dramatic Drop in Productivity

Street Fighter 2 was a staple for kids growing up in the 90s.

It was even cooler when a mistranslation led to the birth of a secret character.

In the game, Ryu says, “if you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!”, in Japanese.

The translator was evidently not a fan of the game and left the phrase “Rising Dragon Punch”, which is the name of a move, as “Sheng Long”.

This was misinterpreted as the name of a secret character by dateless nerds around the world.

Gamers then began to waste even more of their time trying to find this secret character.

A gaming magazine went so far as to publish fake instructions with a doctored screenshot of “Sheng Long” on April Fools Day.

This wasn’t revealed to be a hoax until 8 months later, which still didn’t stop me from spending all my lunch money at the arcade.

(See the article here)

Two Versions of a Treaty are Signed, Centuries of Discord Ensue

The Maori during the British Colonial period rank up there with the Zulus on the list of people you shouldn’t mess with.

However, even they were not powerful enough to overcome inconsistent translation.

At the time, the Maori wanted the British to keep their citizens in line, who were marauding around the countryside, while the British wanted to expand their territory.

The Treaty of Waitani was created to somehow make both sides happy.

Unfortunately, they signed two different documents with one favoring the British and one favoring the Maori.

To this day, the details of the treaty are being worked out.

This is why we can’t get along.

(See the article here)

Another Bad Translation, Another Drop in Stock Price

Shigeru Miyamoto is considered to be the “father of gaming” at Nintendo after having created iconic characters such as Mario.

Back in 2011, he was in dire need of a vacation.

He started going around the office saying he was going to retire.

For people working at Nintendo, it was just another Tuesday as he is known for his sense of humor.

Unfortunately, investors weren’t laughing when they caught wind of this and began to dump Nintendo stock in fear that he was leaving.

In actuality, he was just blowing off some steam and was not leaving the industry.

Chalk this one up more to rumor and people being unable to take a joke.

(See the article here)

Interpreter Gets One Word Wrong, Costs State 71 Million Dollars

Translation errors aren’t always a laughing matter.

They can cause international incidents or even bodily harm.

This was the case when a comatose Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in 1980.

His family attempted to explain the situation in Spanish using the term “intoxicado”, meaning poisoned.

This of course sounds like intoxicated to English speakers with a weak grasp of Spanish.

The doctor proceeded to treat him as such when he was actually suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage.

By the time they realized what was wrong, he had lost the use of his limbs.

The family sued and was awarded 71 million dollars in damages.

(See the article here)

Incorrect Translation Leads to 12 Deaths

Chemotherapy is no picnic, especially when you get 20 percent more than usual.

The trouble began when radiation machines at a hospital in France were upgraded to American ones with English instruction manuals.

This led to 450 patients receiving 20% more radiation than necessary over the course of 4 years.

The radiologist, Joshua Anah, only made things worse by doubling down and denying any wrongdoing.

Of the 450 patients that were overexposed, 12 died as a result, while the majority suffered health complications.

The two doctors in charge were sentenced to 4 years in prison, fined 20,000 euros and banned for life from practicing medicine.

Anah was sentenced to 3 years in prison, fined 10,000 euros and banned for only 5 years from practicing radiology.

(See the article here)

Mistranslation gets America Involved in a Quagmire

Continuing with the tragic side of bad translation, we take you to 1964 when U.S. naval ships were patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin.

The U.S. government received mistranslated reports of the North Vietnamese attacking its ships twice before it decided to enter the Vietnam War.

The original report only mentioned one attack, since a second one didn’t happen.

This didn’t stop the N.S.A. from destroying the original document and insisting that the false report was true.

That was the last time the N.S.A. ever overstepped its boundaries.

(See the article here)

Nokia Fails to Check the Meaning of Name in Other Countries

Branding is never easy as evidenced by HSBC above.

It’s even more difficult when you name your product after the world’s oldest profession.

Nokia was on top of the world before Apple and Samsung came along and released their smartphones.

In an attempt to catch up, they rebranded one of their phones as “Lumina”, which is Spanish for a “lady of the night”.

Fortunately for them, the Spanish have a sense of humor and news of their phone spread like wildfire.

(See the article here)

Chinese Pepsi Brings you Back from the Dead

This one was neither confirmed nor refuted, but we’ll include it anyhow.

Chinese and English translation is one of the trickier language pairs as evidenced by the baffling translations seen on both ends.

What was intended to mean, “Come alive with Pepsi”, came out as, “Pepsi brings your dead ancestors back to life” in Chinese.

Needless to say, Coca-cola is still number one in China.

(See the article here)


More helpful articles on Korea

Check out our helpful guides on Korean translation and how to find great Korean translation service.

Understanding Korean Job Titles

Korean corporate titles can be very different from their English counterparts. Make sure you understand them before doing business in Korea.

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21 Funny Translation Errors

Translation isn’t always fun and games. Here are some times it went really wrong.

How Korean is Becoming Two Languages

North and South Korean are changing drastically. Here are some interesting ways they differ.

Important Changes to Korean Import Laws and Tariffs

Korean tariffs and customs regulations change every few months. Here are some important differences this year.

modern Korean business etiquette

The Ultimate Guide to Doing Business in Korea

Doing business in Korea is hard. Here are some important tips to help you succeed.

How to Get the Best Translation Service

Finding good translation resources is hard. Here are some ways to choose the correct one and get consistent quality.

The Top 15 Translation Blogs

Translation is an unappreciated industry. Here are the top blogs that shed light on the subject.

Interesting Facts about Korea

Want to learn more about Korea? Check out these interesting facts!

21 Popular Korean Drinking Games

Interested in Korean drinking games? Want to make Korean friends fast? Here are 21 popular Korean drinking games!

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Korean Job Titles Explained by a Korean

10 minute read

Need help figuring out Korean job titles?

Want to know the pecking order in a Korean company?

Understanding corporate titles is a vital part of doing business in Korea.

Here are the most common Korean job titles and their duties.

We also cover how to use them and how long it takes to get promoted to each role.

Understanding Korean job titles can make or break your first impression

Introduction

Based on Chinese characters, job titles determine your position in Korean society.

They’re similar to military rank.

Since all males perform mandatory military service, that culture exists in the office environment.

Job titles in English can be inconsistent with their Korean translation.

Some people use inflated titles in English, especially on business cards.

No matter what a person’s position is in English, the Korean title is the only one that matters.

Learning someone’s Korean job title is the best way to know their level in a company.

Even though Korean office culture is becoming more relaxed with the increase in start-ups and overseas subsidiaries, they are still run top down.

I once went to a Korean tourist agency in Brisbane, Australia, and thought I was back in Seoul when I stepped inside. It had the same level of formality and protocol as a Korean office.

It’s vital that you refer to someone by the correct title.

Always make sure to say their full name followed by their title and add a ~님 (~nim) at the end as a sign of respect. This will help build 정(Jeong) or rapport and make your life easier.

Here are the most commonly used Korean Job Titles.


Job Titles

Executives

회장 Hwe-jang (Chairman / CEO)

The Chairman or CEO holds the highest position in a Korean company. He/she rarely makes an appearance in front of employees as they are in charge of establishing the company vision. They are the main decision makers and financial shareholders in a company.

사장 Sa-jang (President / COO)

The President or COO is the right hand of the Hwe-jang. He/she is in charge of a particular business division in the company and sets comprehensive goals for growth.

전무 Jeon-moo (Executive Vice President / CFO)

The CFO heads the finance department of a company and makes major decisions related to finance, investment planning and risk management.

상무 Sang-moo (Vice President)

Sang-moo is a title for senior directors who are the head of a department, but have more experience than the Ee-sa (Director).

이사 Ee-sa (Director)

The director of a Korean company is considered to be the younger department head. This person makes important department-related decisions and implements them.

사외 이사 Sa-oe Ee-sa (Outside Director)

After the 1997 IMF Financial Crisis in Korea, this position was borrowed from the U.S. corporate system to allow for more company oversight through unbiased opinions. Like in the U.S. they are not employees of the company and instead serve on the board of directors.

고문 Go-moon (Advising Director)

Go-moon provides opinions and advice with his/her expertise and experience in a specific field. In Korea, Go-moon is often an honorary position that does not go to work or work regularly.

감사 Gam-sa (Auditor)

Gam-sa inspects and verifies whether the corporation is properly processing the accounting in accordance with the laws and the articles of association. In Korea, it is normally the second position in the company who monitors the work of the CEO.

수석 부장 Soo-seok Bu-jang (Chief General Manager)

The department head is in charge of the operations of their assigned department. He/she handles recruitment, supervises managers and is responsible for the performance of that department.

실장 Shil-jang (Department Head)

Literally translates to “head of the room” or “chief of the section”. This title is used when departments are divided into different sections using the suffix of Shil (실). Slightly less senior than the above mentioned Ee-sa (director), but similar in job role/scope.

Staff

부장 Bu-jang (Team Leader / Head Manager / Senior Manager)

The senior manager is also referred to as the head manager and is the same level as the team leader. He/she manages teams responsible for working on specific current projects. 10 years of experience is necessary to become a Senior Manager.

차장 Cha-jang (Deputy Team Leader / Senior Manager)

The deputy team leader makes sure that all members of their team are assigned specific roles.

과장 Gwa-jang (Manager)

A manager must have 7 years of experience in a relevant industry. He/she is responsible for managing team members while working on projects. They are the project leaders.

대리 Dae-ri (Assistant Manager)

Assistant managers are just below managers and assist them with projects. They perform basic administrative duties and provide support for day-to-day tasks.

주임 Ju-im (Senior Staff / Assistant Manager)

An in-between level. Not all companies have a Ju-im but they are basically a step up from a graduate worker. Sometimes when a new employee has a Masters or Doctorate, they are automatically promoted to this level. The main difference from Sa-won is a small pay increase.

사원 Sa-won (Regular Staff / Assistant / Officer)

Regular staff members work within teams headed by managers or team leaders. They are slightly higher than entry level employees.

신입 사원 Shin-ip Sa-won (New Graduate Employee)

These are employees who have just been hired after graduating from university. Unlike in other countries, they often have no real work experience and need to be taught basic office etiquette.

This is because the Korean Education System is competitive, so they spent most of their life studying.

Other Positions

반장 Ban-jang ((Field) Foreman / Squad Leader)

조장 Jo-jang ((Field) Leader / Group Leader / Junior Mechanic)

판매사원 Pan-mae Sa-won (Sales Clerk)

비서 Bi-seo (Secretary)

운전기사 Woon-jeon-gi-sa (Driver)

용역 Yong-yeok (Hired Services)


How long does it take to get promoted in Korea?


Until the Gwajang level, promotion is somewhat automatic, provided you show up and don’t make waves.

Companies tend to have different HR policies, so the time frames may vary.

Normally, when a company has the Ju-im title, it takes this long to get promoted:

Sa-won → Ju-im = 2 years
Ju-im → Dae-ri = 2 years
Dae-ri → Gwa-jang = 3-4 years
Gwa-jang → Cha-jang = 5-6 years ± performance

Being promoted from Gwa-jang to Cha-jang can depend on your performance.

After that, only exemplary employees make it to Bu-jang and above.

Promotion can take as little as 2 years at smaller companies or sales-related positions.

For larger companies, it can take anywhere from 10-12 years to make it to management.


How to Use Job Titles

korean job titles
It’s one thing to know Korean job titles, and another to be able to use them.

 
There are three job title terms: 직위 (jik-wi, position), 직급 (jik-geup, job grade or rank), and 직책 (jik-chaek, duty or responsibility).

Don’t worry if this is confusing at first. Even Koreans have trouble understanding the differences and need to learn them during their first job.

직위 (Position)

A position refers to a ‘social and administrative position defined by a job’, or a basic corporate hierarchy.

This category includes Bu-jang(Vice President), Cha-jang(Manager), Sa-won(entry-level position), etc.

The basic structure of positions is nearly identical everywhere.

However, positions differ slightly depending on the company or have different names.

The basic hierarchy system is as follows:

Regular Positions: Sa-won < Ju-im < Dae-ri < Gwa-jang < Cha-jang < Bu-jang
Executive Positions: Ee-sa < Sang-moo < Jeon-moo < Bu-sa-jang < Sa-jang < Bu-hwe-jang < Hwe-jang

직급 (Job Grade)

A job grade refers to the rank of a job.

It’s a way of ‘grouping positions with similar types, difficulties or responsibilities of work’.

Job grades are more common for government officials or public servants under 호봉제 (ho-bong-je, salary system).

They’re not used often in general corporations, but the nuance is similar to Nth-year dae-ri or gwa-jang.

직책 (Duty)

A duty refers to ‘main occupational responsibility’.

Often a Team-jang, Bon-bu-jang or CEO belongs in this category.

Since a duty is assigned according to your responsibilities and authority, it sometimes stays the same after you’re promoted.

Duty: Part-jang < Team-jang < Shil-jang < Bon-bu-jang < CEO, CFO, COO

직함 (Title)

A title refers to both position and duties in Korea.

We recommend asking what someone’s title is when you want to learn their position.

If all else fails, this is the best way to find out someone’s rank in a company.

Addressing Someone in a Company

In everyday situations, you can address a superior with his/her last name and their position, such as ‘김 부장님 (Kim Bu-jang-nim)’.

For more formal situations, make sure to use the last name, then first name followed by their position, such as ‘김철수 부장님 (Kim Cheol-su Bu-jang-nim).

However, if you are on the same team or their duties are clear, it’s better to call them by their duty, such as ‘팀장님 (Team-jang-nim)’ or ‘본부장님 (Bon-bu-jang-nim)’.

Addressing a Superior: ‘Last Name’ + Position + Nim
Addressing Colleagues: If a colleague has the same job grade = Last Name + Position, or First Name + Ssi (i.e., ‘이 대리 (Lee Dae-ri)’ or ‘___씨 (__ Ssi)

If a colleague joined the company before you, but doesn’t have a title = ‘선배님 (Sun-bae-nim)’
If a colleague joined the company before you, but has the same job grade or is older than you = Last Name + Position + Nim (i.e., ‘이 대리님 (Lee Dae-ri-nim)’)

Addressing a Subordinate: If a subordinate has a duty = Last Name + Duty (i.e., ‘박 주임 (Park Ju-im)’)
If a subordinate doesn’t have a duty = First Name + Ssi (i.e., ’__씨 (__ Ssi)’)

When in doubt, 직함 (jik-ham, title) is the most important, which combines 직위 (position) + 직책 (duty).

For example, When someone asks in a polite way:
“직함이 어떻게 되십니까? (What is your title?)”
The answer can be:
“저는 _____회사 대리 김__입니다. (I am Dae-ri of ___ company, Kim __.)”


More helpful articles on Korea

Check out our helpful guides on Korean translation and how to find great Korean translation service.

Understanding Korean Job Titles

Korean corporate titles can be very different from their English counterparts. Make sure you understand them before doing business in Korea.

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21 Funny Translation Errors

Translation isn’t always fun and games. Here are some times it went really wrong.

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Finding good translation resources is hard. Here are some ways to choose the correct one and get consistent quality.

The Top 15 Translation Blogs

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