Korea, In the Midst of Rapid Change


Special Issue of the Journal of World Business; Deadline 30 Sep 2006

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Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 09:28:18 -0400
From: Yongsun Paik <yspaik@LMU.EDU>


Deadline for submission: September 30, 2006

South Korea has been considered a model country by many other developing nations because of its economic success.  At the same time, having lived through the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Korean economy has undergone dynamic changes. While the Korean economy is striving to catch up with developed economies such as the U.S. and Japan, followers like China are quickly closing the gap and becoming a formidable competitor in the global market.
With these dynamics, change is not an option, but a required path for survival for Korean firms.  Korean chaebol, group of large conglomerates, has long been considered an engine of growth for the Korean economy.  The notion of being “too big to fail,” however, can no longer be found in Korea.  Even though the chaebol economy was considered the model in the past, we now see a mixed bag of results in today’s chaebol firms.  For example, while the Daewoo group, one of the big five chaebol groups, collapsed and failed, Samsung has become a world leader in several key manufacturing industries (Fortune, 2005).  Samsung is the world’s largest producer of memory chips and flat-panel monitors, second largest producer of DVD players, and the third largest producer of cellular phones.  Other chaebols such as Hyundai Motor Co. and LG Electronics have also emerged as one of the world’s largest producers of automobiles, air conditioners, and CD-ROM drives (Business Week, 2004).

Apart from the successful transformation of some chaebols, there has also been significant growth in entrepreneurship (Fortune, 2002). While joining chaebol firms was the most successful career choice in the past, many of the current generation are starting their own businesses, some right out of college (Economist, 2000).  The widespread use of information technology may have made Koreans more creative and risk-taking.

These dynamic changes in the Korean economy have also brought about new questions and the need for a better understanding in the following areas: 1) Why do some chaebol firms in Korea fail to exist while others become more successful than in the past? 2) Have we noticed any substantial changes in the organizational structure and corporate governance of Korean companies?  3) How do new entrepreneurial firms cooperate and compete with the established chaebol firms? 
Given the above background, this special issue is prepared to shed new lights on Korean companies and their management by addressing both the macro and micro issues that these companies face in today’s global market.  Existing research on Korean companies has mainly focused on their corporate and business strategies. Creative extension of this research line is welcome. In addition, research on their human resource management practices and leadership styles is rather sparse.  New micro angles in looking into Korean firms are also welcome.
Some topics suitable for consideration in this special issue include, but are not limited to: 

  • What are the positive and negative elements associated with the chaebol economy in gaining and sustaining competitive advantages?
  • How does the chaebol system affect a firm’s ability to generate new knowledge that helps chaebol firms in competition?
  • What factors were most critical to the success of Korean firms in the past and what are the major challenges in the new environment?
  • Are domestically competitive chaebol firms successful in the global market as well?
  • How are chaebol firms competing with follower firms from China in the international markets?
  • Do political connections help or harm chaebols during the change?
  • Do chaebol firms help or hinder entrepreneurial development?
  • Do small firms look for international opportunities because they are driven out or because they are more competitive?
  • How do entrepreneurial firms compete with chaebol firms?
  • What organizational and governance structural overhaul made it possible for companies like Samsung to become a globally competitive MNC?
  • What are the key characteristics of human resource management of successful Korean chaebols in the global market?
  • How do Korean chaebols recruit and train managers who can manage diverse workforce in overseas subsidiaries?
  • Are there any new leadership styles to which the recent success of Korean companies are attributable?

Submissions are to be made electronically to both Yongsun Paik at yspaik@lmu.edu and Seung-Hyun Lee at lee.1085@utdallas.edu.


Business Week. 2004. Hyundai gets hailed in auto quality. 4/28/04
Economist. 2000. Career path. 4/1/00
Fortune.2002. No ice? No problem! 5/27/02
Fortune. 2005. The world’s most admired companies. 3/7/05
Special issue guest co-Editors
Yongsun Paik, Loyola Marymount University,
Seung-Hyun Lee, University of Texas at Dallas

Yongsun Paik, Ph.D.
Professor of International Business & Management
Department of Management
Hilton Center for Business
Loyola Marymount University
One LMU Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Tel: (310) 338-7402
Fax: (310) 338-3000
e-mail: yspaik@lmu.edu