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Korean Corporate Culture

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Korean corporate culture is one of the most dynamic and distinct corporate cultures in the world. With its high quality of labor and positive organizational behavior, it has contributed to the rapid development of the Korean economy. Big Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG have emerged as well-known brands in the global consumer market within a short period. Besides the strong leadership of the Korean government, the hard work and self-discipline of Korean labor are significant factors in speeding up the growth of Korean conglomerates. The poor economy of Korea after the Korean War has begun to change from the 1960s with new leadership and a new economic system. The close cooperation between the private sector and the government has been proven to be an effective strategy in developing the nation’s economy. From an agricultural country to a knowledge-based economy today, the contribution of the Korean government’s leadership, the positive work culture and the management system of Korea are equally important.

The characteristics of Korean corporate culture are influenced by several factors. The oldest influence is from Confucianism, and the recent influences are from America and Japan. Confucianism, as one of the major state philosophies in Korea, is continuously influencing the development of Korean society and culture in its values system, family relations and social stratification. Confucian values such as respect for the old, loyalty to superiors, harmonious relations and filial piety are the main values that have significantly affected Korean inter-personal relations and work culture. Many founders of big chaebols in Korea are famous for their hard work and paternalistic leadership in managing their business. Employees are treated as their own family members and in return they are expected to be willing to sacrifice personal interest for company benefit.

Besides the influence of Confucianism, Japanese and American influence on Korean corporate culture are also significant. Japanese influence on Korean corporate culture came in the early twentieth century when Korea was ruled by the Japanese from 1910-1945. The Koreans’ work behavior such as self-discipline, diligence and team spirit is very similar to the Japanese. The emergence of big business groups in Korea is also affected by the Japanese economic structure which is heavily dependent on big conglomerates. After Korea’s independence from Japanese colonization, influences of American culture on the Korean management system have begun to outweigh that of the Japanese. More and more American values on the management system were introduced and gradually penetrated the Korean corporate world. However, as an old Confucian 1society, traditional Confucian values still maintain their dominant status in Korean life and cultural practices.

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