Everything Korea, November 9 Episode: Mentoring Korea Expatriates


It’s common for Korean overseas business to embed Korean expatriates in their local operations. Their functions and responsibilities vary with each company, but frequently an expat’s role is liaison between Korea and the local subsidiary.  

For westerners unfamiliar with the Korean model, an expat’s responsibilities usually translate into the Korean required to sign off on all departmental decisions—trivial to substantial. This can be a huge challenge when newly assigned expats have limited background in or knowledge of the host country’s operations and market.

They do however know the mother company procedures well. They have been successful at their past assignments. And, they often were assigned to the headquarters’ overseas support teams, have traveled extensively to subsidiaries, and were educated or experienced life outside Korea. However, like western teams, their experiences and skills can vary.

Once overseas, workload can strong impact an expats’ performance.  Cognitively, they recognize localization is needed but, especially if under pressure to perform and hit goals, may defer to their former Korean HQ procedures and cultural norms.

What I strongly suggest is American management mentor new expats.  Here are my suggestions.

  • Mentoring Koreans is building on the relationship.
  • Express genuine willingness to support. Tell them that you care.
  • Ask, and listen to whatever they want to talk about.  
  • Then respond anecdotally if possible.  In many cases, share what other successful expats have done well in the past.


In Korea most team members have a Mentor within their company, in fact that’s the role of a Senior.  Much of the mentoring happened when they go out to diner with alcohol drinks.  Knowing it may be difficult to share with the boss their challenges, Mentors use the effects of drinking to get their teams to open up and talk.  

Would you like to schedule a time to discuss mentoring?  

To facilitate and with my rather demanding workload, Stacey, my personal assistant at stacey@koreabcw.com can schedule us for a time.

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