My current employer is a global software company with offices in several continents. The company tries to maintain a culture of conviviality.

Our main communication medium is text chat in English ; every employee's legal name is displayed on our accounts.

In direct messages with co-workers from other offices (mainly software developers, such as myself), I tend to use first names when greeting them ("Hi Jo! About that code patch, ...").

However I have read that addressing someone by their first name can be rude in Korea (and probably other places too).

In direct messages, how can I greet co-workers from Korean offices without being rude, but without being too distant neither?

In company chat channels, shared with other members, what is the appropriate way to refer to a Korean co-worker: is full name appropriate?

  • 1
    How close are you from them? Also, In which country are you working (and do all of you work I'm the same country)? Answers will likely depend on a local cultural context.
    – avazula
    Sep 19, 2020 at 7:12
  • @avazula We are in offices that are in different countries, we only communicate using the chat application. We are not very close, only working on same projects occasionally.
    – wip
    Sep 19, 2020 at 15:30
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    I don't think there is any problem addressing them by first name, especially if you are in similar positions. If he is your superior then it might be considered rude, in which case just follow the standard procedure used in your company [Mr/Ms. <last name> is usually preferred]. Many Koreans who work in an international setting usually have an English name they like to be addressed by. You can use that as well.
    – user17915
    Sep 22, 2020 at 2:31
  • 1
    If you would like to join in discussions about Korean language or culture you are welcome to join korean.stackexchange.com
    – user17915
    Sep 22, 2020 at 2:31
  • 2
    There may be confusion about "first name". You have a given name and a family name, say the given name "Peter" and the family name "Parker". In English we say the given name first. In Korean and other languages, they put the family name first. So if you call him by first name, you are actually using the family name, which isn't polite. You would use the second name which is the given name. Best to ask what he prefers.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 30, 2020 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


I worked with Korean colleagues in the past also. Since we did not have an intercultural training at that time, we had the same issue that you had.

We solved the dilemma by simply asking how we should address them, and they told us. Normally, I would start discussing with them like:

Hello Jae-Woo, ...

However, you must be careful, they have a very complex social structure. What is appropriate for a person, is not appropriate for the person on the next chair.

To be on the safe side of things, ask your counterpart to tell you how you should address the other people in the project, so you do not risk to look impolite.

They will be pleased to understand that you want to show the respect they deserve. Even if they will not get mad for you not being fully "respectful", they will be happier if you are using the appropriate conventions for addressing.

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