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What is saving face in Korean culture?


Saving face is a crucial aspect of Korean culture, and understanding it is essential for building relationships with Koreans. Saving face can be defined as the act of preserving one’s dignity, pride, and social status in front of others. In this article, we will explore the concept of saving face in Korean culture, its importance, and how it is practiced in various situations.

What is Saving Face?

Saving face is a vital aspect of Korean culture, and it refers to the act of maintaining one’s social status and avoiding shame or embarrassment in front of others. It is a cultural norm that governs the behavior of Koreans, and it is deeply ingrained in their daily interactions.

The Significance of Saving Face in Korean Culture

In Korean culture, saving face is essential because it signifies respect for oneself and others. Koreans believe that showing respect for others’ dignity and social status creates harmony and strengthens relationships. Maintaining one’s social status and avoiding shame or embarrassment is seen as a way of preserving the social fabric of society.

How Saving Face Works in Korean Culture

Saving face in Korean culture involves several practices that are designed to maintain one’s dignity and social status. These practices include using polite speech, avoiding confrontation, being indirect, and showing respect for authority. Koreans also place a great deal of importance on nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.

Saving Face in Business

In the business world, saving face is critical to building successful relationships with Korean partners. Business negotiations are often conducted indirectly, with an emphasis on building trust and rapport rather than making quick deals. Koreans also place a great deal of importance on hierarchy and showing respect for seniority.

Saving Face in Social Situations

Social situations such as dinner parties or gatherings with friends also require Koreans to practice saving face. They are expected to show respect to their hosts, avoid confrontations, and maintain a positive atmosphere. Koreans also place a great deal of importance on gift-giving, which is seen as a way of showing respect and building relationships.

Saving Face in Family Life

In Korean families, saving face is crucial for maintaining harmony and respect. Children are taught to show respect for their elders, and parents are expected to maintain their authority and social status. Conflicts within the family are often resolved indirectly, with an emphasis on maintaining relationships rather than winning arguments.

The Negative Consequences of Losing Face

Losing face in Korean culture can have severe consequences, including loss of respect, social status, and credibility. It can also lead to shame and embarrassment, which can be difficult to overcome. Koreans take great care to avoid losing face and will often go to great lengths to preserve their dignity.

The Role of Face-Saving in Korean Politics

Korean politics is heavily influenced by the concept of saving face. Politicians are expected to maintain their dignity and social status, and losing face can have severe consequences. Public apologies are often used as a way of saving face, and politicians will sometimes resign from their positions to avoid losing face.

The Challenges of Saving Face in a Globalized World

In today’s globalized world, Koreans are facing new challenges when it comes to saving face. Western culture places less emphasis on hierarchy and indirect communication, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. Koreans must navigate these cultural differences while still maintaining their traditional values.


Saving face is a central aspect of Korean culture, and it plays a vital role in daily interactions. Understanding the concept of saving face is essential for building successful relationships with Koreans, whether in business, social situations, or family life. By respecting Korean cultural norms and practicing face-saving, we can build strong and lasting relationships with our Korean counterparts.

What is the concept of saving face?

In Western society, the term “saving face” often refers to an individual attempting to safeguard their own interests or reputation.

What is an example of saving face?

In the first sentence, the speaker wants to provide an explanation for consistently being late to work, but they must wait until three months into their pregnancy to do so in order to maintain their reputation. In the second sentence, the speaker was able to maintain their professional image by working additional hours without pay after a coworker informed their boss that the speaker had used sick leave for a vacation.

What is the concept of face in South Korea?

The idea of “face” or kibun is important in many Asian cultures, including South Korea. In order to maintain harmony in business and personal relationships, South Koreans may avoid conflict or say what others want to hear instead of addressing issues directly, all to prevent loss of face.

Is saving face a good thing?

Saving Face is a well-made film that explores the conflict between honoring family traditions and carving out a new path for oneself. Overall, it is a good movie, although it does have some inconsistencies that prevent it from being truly great.

What is positive about saving face?

One’s face reflects their self-esteem, identity, reputation, status, pride, and dignity. Building up one’s face can lead to increased efficiency and success. The idea of “saving face” is a universally recognized concept that breaks down barriers, builds trust, and fosters long-term relationships.

What is the opposite of saving face?

The opposite of causing someone to lose face is “giving face” (no fresh breath necessary). Giving face is about shifting the spotlight away from yourself, even when you may deserve the credit.Feb 26, 2020

One of the ways to practice saving face in Korean culture is by using honorifics or formal language. In Korean, there are different words and speech patterns to show respect to people of higher social status or older age. Using the appropriate honorifics is a sign of respect and can help maintain social harmony.

Another aspect of saving face in Korean culture is avoiding direct criticism or negative feedback. Koreans may use euphemisms or indirect language to convey criticism without causing offense or embarrassment. This approach is often used in the workplace, where seniority and hierarchy are highly valued.

In some cases, Koreans may also use humor to save face in awkward situations. Self-deprecating humor, for example, can be a way of acknowledging a mistake or weakness while still maintaining one’s dignity and sense of humor. Humor can also be used to diffuse tension and maintain a positive atmosphere.

It’s important to note that saving face is not unique to Korean culture and is practiced in many other cultures around the world. However, the specific practices and values associated with saving face may differ from culture to culture. By understanding the importance of saving face in Korean culture, we can better navigate social interactions and build strong relationships with Koreans.

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