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From the Boardroom to the Banquet: Unveiling the Power of Hoesik in Korean Corporate Culture

In many countries, coworkers meet for dinner or drinks after work. In South Korea, that phenomenon is so usual that they have a special word for it: hoesik (회식).

Transcending mere after-work gatherings, hoesik plays a vital role in shaping the social dynamics of workplaces and strengthening professional relationships.

At the core of hoesik lies the idea of creating unity and encouraging teamwork among colleagues. As the workday ends, participants step out of their formal office roles and into a more relaxed setting, setting the stage for open communication and genuine connections. This transition from the boardroom to a more relaxed setting is where the true work of hoesik begins.

Frequency and venues for hoesik gatherings can vary, with some companies organizing them on a regular basis, while others reserve them for special occasions. The chosen venue can vary from cozy restaurants serving traditional Korean cuisine to lively karaoke rooms or even outdoor barbecue spots. The diversity in settings caters to the preferences of the participants, creating an inclusive and enjoyable atmosphere for everyone involved.

A significant aspect of hoesik is the traditional drinking culture, which usually includes toasting with soju, a popular Korean distilled liquor. While alcohol consumption is common, non-drinkers need not worry, as alternative beverages are readily available. What matters most is the sense of togetherness and camaraderie shared among participants.

During hoesik, one must always keep in mind that despite the relaxed atmosphere, hierarchical workplace etiquette still holds sway. Junior employees express respect to their seniors, often pouring drinks for them as a gesture of honor. This blending of formalities with a relaxed environment reinforces the sense of harmony and unity within the group.

Apart from dining and drinking, hoesik gatherings might involve engaging activities such as games, quizzes, or karaoke. These lighthearted elements add to the convivial atmosphere, encouraging everyone to participate and relax.

Beyond the social aspect, hoesik offers valuable networking opportunities. In the Korean business culture, forging strong personal relationships can be instrumental in creating successful partnerships and collaborations. This is true for many Asian countries, as we have established in a previous article about guanxi.

In recent years, hoesik has evolved to adapt to changing societal norms and promote inclusivity. Efforts are being made to accommodate non-drinkers and cater to diverse dietary preferences, ensuring that everyone can partake in the experience fully.

In conclusion, hoesik is more than just a social event. It is a pillar of Korean corporate culture. This tradition creates a sense of belonging, boosts teamwork, and cultivates meaningful relationships among colleagues and business associates.

By Maria Zoi Michailidou - Corporate Culture Correspondent at YNBC


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