Initial Meetings When being introduced to a Korean person for the first time, it is custom to shake their hand and bow at the same time. The right hand is always used to shake with, while the left hand either helps the right hand or touches the right arm near the elbow. Instead of pumping the hand of the person one is meeting, most just clasp hands momentarily while bowing slightly at the waist. Verbal greeting while this is being done: An-nyung-ha-say-yoh (literally “It goes peacefully”). Among Koreans, it is very important that the left hand help in the hand shake by touching the right hand or the elbow. Using two hands when shaking hands, giving a glass of water or receiving something from another person shows respect. But don’t worry if you forget about doing this…Koreans understand that foreigners are not familiar with this concept.
Everyday Meetings After the initial meeting, the next time you meet the same person it probably will not be necessary to shake their hand again unless that person is very senior in position or age, or unless you have not seen that person for quite some time. Normally, when Koreans see one another for the first time that day, they usually bow to one another. The bow does not usually come from the waist, but rather the head and shoulders are declined forward by about 20 degrees and held for a fraction of a second before being lifted again. Your arms should remain at your side with your hands not in your pockets. The entire movement should be fluid; there is no need to hold the bowed position for any longer than a short second. Verbal greeting while this is being done: An-nyung-ha-say-yoh (literally “It goes peacefully”).
Meeting Someone of Great Age or Importance When meeting a person of great age or importance, the bow needs to be deeper, from the waist, with no handshake unless the other person offers his/hers. The arms must be tight to the sides of your body with your fingers together and palms flat against the side of the legs. The entire upper body should be declined forward by about 45 degrees, with the head bowed slightly more. The bowed position should be held for a full second or more before coming back up. If a hand is offered for a handshake, you must use both hands to shake while bowing at the same time. Verbal greeting while this is being done: An-nyung-ha-shim-ni-ka (the honorific form of “It goes peacefully”) Again, Koreans are very aware that foreigners do not greet each other the way Asians do so will not be put off if you do not bow, or if you bow incorrectly. They will not be insulted nor will they think you are being rude.