South Korea: Values & Perceptions                            

The values listed below are commonly held by many South Koreans:

  • Importance of family
  • Hierarchy (respect for elders and seniors)
  • Patriarchy (male-dominated society)
  • Personal space (important to keep an arm’s length distance from people you don’t know well)
  • Generous with gift-giving
  • Group harmony
  • Polite and well-mannered
  • Kibun (pride, face, mood, feelings, or state of mind)
  • Nunchi (the ability to read one’s kibun)
  • Humility and modesty
  • Relationships
  • Face


Kibun is important to maintain a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere—even if that means telling a “white lie.”


Nunchi is the ability to determine another person's kibun by observation. Since social harmony is so important, being able to judge another person's state of mind is important to maintain the person's kibun. Nunchi is accomplished by watching body language and listening to the tone of voice as well as what is being said.

Humility and Modesty   

This cultural concept advocates thoughtful, courteous, polite and refined behavior. It is important to demonstrate humility and modesty—as bragging is viewed with suspicion.                                                        


A network of elaborate relationships promoting trust and cooperation and for centuries was the main way of accomplishing everyday tasks. Establishing a sincere, supportive relationship based on mutual respect is a fundamental aspect of Korean culture. Loyalty to family and friends is very important in the Korean culture.


An important issue that should be considered when interacting with Koreans is the concept of “face.” Face is a mark of personal pride and forms the basis of an individual's reputation and social status. In the Korean culture “saving face,” “losing face” and “giving face” are vital for successful relationships. Causing someone to loose face through public humiliation or inappropriate allocation of respect to individuals within the organization can seriously damage relationships. On the other hand, praising someone in moderation is a form of “giving face” and can earn respect, loyalty and aid relationships. In schools, it is rare for a student to brag about obtaining the highest grade in the class because that would cause the other students to loose face and would not demonstrate humility and modestly!

Do you hold any of the values noted above?

Which values do you think might be the most similar to your new country?

Which values are the most different?