Santa Clara University


Company Specifics

Founded: 1953
Headquarters: #4501, Trade Tower Samsung-dong Kangnam-gu Seoul, 135-729, Korea
Ownership structure: Voluntary Associations of American companies and individuals doing business in South Korea. Also, South Korean companies and individuals who operate in the United States.
Members: 2,300
Service: The American Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AMCHAM) advances the interests of American business overseas.  AMCHAMs represent the concerns and interests of the business community at the highest levels of government and business. The AMCHAM in Korea was founded with a broad mandate to encourage the development of trade and commerce between Korea and the United States. Its membership has grown to over 2,300 members and 1,000 member companies.
Customers: American businesses trying to do business in Korea.



Ms. Tami Overby, President & CEO
Mr. Kunwoo Yoo, Publication Supervisor



We met with Ms. Overby in a private dining area on the 7th floor of the Seoul Plaza Hotel restaurant.  Ms. Overby brought a team which included her Publication Supervisor and a group of interns.  The discussion focused mostly on the last decade in Korea from an economic/political perspective and its effects on the state of the current economy and government.  Topics like the IMF crisis of 1997 (a foreign exchange issue) to the recent Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Korea and the US were also discussed in detail.  Fun and interesting topics from her having the personal cell phone number of South Korea President Lee (and the leverage that comes from threatening to use it) to the exploits of the “out-of-control” and powerful media were intriguing and enjoyed by all.


Key Takeaways

Koreans put great value on their relationships 
If a relationship is established and maintained, it generally lasts a lifetime.  This applies to both personal and business relationships, as these categories blur together.  Therefore, relationship-building is a necessary first step to business success in Korea.  To this end, Ms. Overby jokingly offered her keys to success in this arena: be sincere, have a good sense of humor, and eat everything offered to you.


Question the Korean media, but ignore it at your own peril
The Korean media has been called young, unsophisticated and often irresponsible. Whether or not this criticism is fair, the Korean media wields tremendous power and should not/cannot be ignored.  South Korea's President Lee has endured low approval ratings that certainly are not helped by the image of him created by the media, which may reflect poor communication regarding his administration’s endeavors.  Western societies typically more checks and balances around the media that do not yet exist in Korea.


Koreans are great negotiators
Their success comes in large part from patience.  One successful negotiating tactic is to simply try to outlast the other side.  A negotiation with Koreans typically stretches out to the last possible minute because, if it were to close too early, the Koreans would give an external impression of not having done all necessary due diligence.  Even after signing, contracts are not the last word. There is always the possibility that one party will, ex post facto, desire to change the terms of the contract.


Posted by: J. Kim

The AmCham briefing occurred in our hotel's restaurant.


Ms. Tami Overby shared her deep understanding of Korea business and society.
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