• Max Dietl

Healthy and efficient working environment wanted! China or South Korea?



According to a good South Korean friend whose father worked in China and South Korea, there are some crucial differences between the working environment in these two countries. In this article, the main differences are summarized. In advance, I want to point out that all these statements are subjective and cannot be generalized.

For sure, the most eye-catching aspect at any company is working time. In South Korea, it is normal to work five days a week, whereas in China it is often (!) the case people would also work on weekends, depending on the workload.

What could be the reason?

One aspect of Chinese corporate mentality is that the company belongs to all employees and shall, therefore, operate in discussion and agreement with each other. Whereas, South Korean companies have developed a solid hierarchy system. In South Korean corporate culture, the top-down structure is the main principle. For example, South Koreans highly value company dinner after work, which is not common in China. That means that people also spend time with colleagues and talk about job-specific topics after work which relativizes the aspect of working “just” five days a week.

Another interesting aspect is the efficiency. Due to the weaker hierarchy focus in China, it is much easier for Chinese to require the general necessities for work, e.g. collecting materials and data or to speak one’s opinion at work. That makes it easier for them to reach their performance targets at work. But South Korean employees are not necessarily less efficient because of the organization and hierarchy. Due to the strong hierarchy, a higher-up person will ask for many different solutions. This, in turn, motivates operatives to go one step further in developing solutions and reaching higher targets than in other working environments.

To sum up the above, finding the right working environment depends on the person – according to the arguments, there are people who deal better with certain hierarchy systems, leaders, or other organizational structures than others. That means, personality and behavior also play a key role in the working environment.


“Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one.”

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