Eye Contact – Korea

“In Korea, you don’t lock eye contact. It’s extremely rude, especially to elders–you should look down. Older people would be extremely offended. That’s a huge deal in Korea. But in America it’s rude if you don’t make eye contact or it can come off as passive. When I first came to America, the teacher noticed my lack of eye contact and told me to makes sure to make eye contact is part of key communication. Literally my English teacher asked me ‘Are you shy? You should be more confident and try to be yourself. You really have to present yourself. Your attitude has to be looking straight in the eye and being confident and expressing yourself.’ I told her in a respectful way that in Korea to respect your teacher, you never look them in the eye.”

While speaking, my informant made sure to really¬†emphasize how rude it is to make eye contact with superiors–even if they’re only a year older. Koreans place a heavy emphasis on displaying respect towards elders. Therefore, by locking eyes you are implying that you are of equal status. There is a whole science behind the implications of using eye contact in East Asia. However, for Koreans it is just a cultural practice/etiquette that they learn naturally from each other.