We have the unique pleasure to have a bird's-eye view of numerous clients' businesses in Korea. At this stage of our experience in Korea we are, typically, able to determine which companies will succeed and which companies will fail.
Companies that succeed in Korea, normally, do/have the following 7 Things:
1. Comprehensive Understanding of the Korean Market by a Neutral Local Consultant
This understanding, normally, comes from one of the few business consultants, in Korea, that are
capable of providing a decent market overview with a detailed list of potential targets and contacts within these targets. We work with a handful of consultants, since many don't have the skills necessary, but still sell market research reports that seemed to be, only, obtained through a Google search.
2. Great Initial Representative Director for the Korean Venture
The first representative director doesn't, necessarily, need to be a permanent hire. Often, when a company is, initially, growing a six month specialist to open an office is necessary, then, the specialist may bring in a permanent representative director. This is the same for winding-up a company.
3. Good Cultural Understanding of Korea
We see too many companies handle matters in a way similar to the way they handle matters in Japan and China. Japanese and Chinese are different nuts to crack, than, Koreans. Maybe Japanese and Chinese look similar to Koreans, but they definetly don't think or act in a similar manner to Koreans, thus, don't rely on other Asian experience as a guide for doing work in Korea.
4. Risk Assessment Tailored to Korea
Your business in China and Japan have different risks and compliance requirements than you will have in Korea. Thus, your in house lawyer or outside counsel should not be utilizing the same agreements, compliance system etc. as what was used in other Asian companies.
5. Full Commitment to Korea
Korea is an opportunity, but don't even think about coming into Korea if you are looking to enter on the cheap. If you don't have the resources, time, personnel and patience you will find the "opportunity" a fast closing door. Also, the home office should be fully behind the effort and should be willing to place a home office guy or local expat hire on the ground in Korea. Too many people think that opening an office and hiring a sales manager is enough-----it is not enough.
6. Comprehensive Cost Assessment
Do you know how much it will cost to hire, run an office and manage your staff in Korea? Marketing budget? Consultant budget? Contingency budget?
7. Make a Concerted Effort to Avoid the: Top 10 Mistakes of Companies Doing Business in Korea
Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.
Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the only non-Korean to have worked as an attorney for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.