Small business license for Westerners?

Hi All,

Does anybody here know any English-speaking Korean lawyer who can assist me with advice on a few business start-up questions?  The info I’m initially looking for is regarding Westerners wanting to set up a small business in Seoul (e.g. retailing, professional services, trade- independent locksmith, plumber, etc.).

1)      Is it possible for a Westerner to obtain a business license to operate independently or, a Korean partner is needed?

2)      What would the minimum capital requirements and the time frame be to successfully start operating?

3)      Can I open whilst I do all the paperwork needed to obtain a business license?

4)      How much would it cost a 60m2 (not sure but I think it’s around 18 pyong) commercial space in a high-traffic pedestrian area monthly?

If anybody hopefully can give me some positive leads on my issue, you may contact me on:  [email protected]

All the best,


OK...the answer to your first

OK...the answer to your first question is yes.  A foreigner can operate a business on their own without the partnership of a Korean.  The laws differ a bit and as I've always said here, I'm not lawyer...but I can assure you that it is completely possible to obtain.  Rather than seeking a lawyer though, is to find someone who can translate for you and visit Seoul City Hall first and seek the counsel of an officer who specializes in the respective areas. As for your second question regarding capital, obviously it's going to be different depending on the sort of business you are attempting to establish. I do know that to become incorporated here, you will need to show 100 million won in your possession. Again, those things are going to be better answered by someone at city hall. Third, if you wish to offer your services before establishment, I guess that it would be up to you. However, if you were to be discovered by someone of authority, I'm not sure how they'd go about penalizing you. It would definitely be a tax no-no, as you would need to be legally existent before being able to report sales for tax purposes. I can tell you this. In Myoung-dong for example, I've heard of entrepreneurs needing as much as 1 billion won, or nearly 1 million USD, in hand in order to set up shop in the busiest of areas. Prices of space will vary depending on location. Also, your rent will vary depending on how much money you are willing to put up for a key deposit. Generally, if you put up a high key deposit, the monthly rent for the space will be lower. That goes for commercial and residential space here in Korea. Well, that is about all the assistance I can offer you at this point. I hope it gives you some sort of light. Good luck on your business ventures! If at all translation services are in order, please do not hesitate to contact me. That is, I offer verbal and written interpretation and translation. Take care...

Thanks 143Busan for your

Thanks 143Busan for your reply,

Would you mind emailing me on [email protected] to have your email as a reference in case I need your translation services?

I assume you're based in Busan, and from what I can see on this website rents seem lower than Seoul, is the business activity the same, it goes in proportion with the number of people and living costs?

Regards, R

No problem. My email can be

No problem. My email can be found here but just in's [email protected]. Price of property is actually one of the highest in the world in Seoul. I'm thinking top 5 or so. It is much less here.

Good Luck..

The person above answered everything so I just wanted to say good luck.

I'm a Korean-American living in Pusan and I'm in the process of opening a business

under my name as well. If you are investing more than $50,000 than you have to have

a document proving where you got the money from and report to both countries.

Other than that, it's not that difficult to get the biz license.

Good luck.



Good luck to you too!


Cheers for your good wishes and all the best to you in your business venture as well!

Pls help me clarifiy something you mentioned in your feedback. You suggest that any investment under $50K USD may make things easier to successfully be granted a tax-ID and other legal permits I may need. Is there any special incentive programme for small businesses? if so, would this also apply to foreign-owned enterprises?


Drop me a line on my email above, I'd like to ask you a few your-business-related questions.


Regards, R