International Gift Etiquette - South Korea

GIFT GIVING IN SOUTH KOREA*- Gift Giving Etiquette


  • Giving gifts to acquire favors or build relationships is a common practice in the workplace, and reciprocity is expected.

  • While your gift will demonstrate your thoughtfulness, where it was made is also of crucial importance. They will appreciate gifts from your own country or regions. Avoid items made in the underdeveloped countries, unless they are cultural icons or souvenirs.

  • Gift-giving is often practiced in a business setting. Good gifts for a first trip include office items with your company logo or something that is commemorative of your home region. Your gift should be of good quality but modestly priced.

  • When you plan to give a gift to several people within an organization, be sure to give a gift of greater value to the senior person. The gifts you present to that person's subordinates may be similar, as long as they are of lesser value than the one you give their superior. Or, you can give a gift that the whole team can enjoy.

  • A gift of money should be put in an envelope. Cash is popular for weddings, holidays [for children], birthdays, funerals, etc.

  • When visiting a family, suitable gifts include crafts from your home region, fruit, cake, chocolates, flowers, imported coffee, etc. Imported liquor and cigarettes may be given to those who like to drink and smoke.

  • Expect initial resistance to receiving a gift. This reluctance is considered good manners, so be persistent.

  • Use both hands when giving or receiving a gift. Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver, unless you are a very good friend. If so, you can ask him/her, 'Do you want me to open it?'

  • Whenever a person receives a gift, it is customary for the recipient to give another gift of similar value in return at a later time. Therefore, when you give a gift, ensure that it is compatible with the recipient's economic means because if he or she cannot reciprocate, 'loss of face' will result. Similarly, if you receive a gift that is far too extravagant and a potential bribe, send it back, citing your firm's policy not to accept a gift with a certain $ amount. You should be very polite in returning it and express your gratitude and regret for not being able to accept such generosity.

*Kim Ph.D, Eun Y.  South Korea Business Etiquette - Gift Giving.  Executive Planet.  16 Aug. 2004  <>.

Above:  The flag of South Korea












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