Join in or opt out? A normative–ethical analysis of affective ties and networks in South Korea

Horak, S. (2018). Join in or opt out? A normative–ethical analysis of affective ties and networks in South Korea. Journal of Business Ethics, 149(1), 207-220. DOI: 10.1007/s10551-016-3125-7

So far overlooked by the international business ethics literature, we introduce, characterize and normatively analyze the use of affective ties and networks in South Korea from an ethical point of view. Whereas the ethics of using Guanxi in China has been comprehensively discussed, Korean informal networks remain difficult to manage for firms in South Korea due to the absence of existing academic debate and research in this field. In this study, we concentrate mainly on the question of whether foreign firms will and can use affective ties in Korea. The informal social network forms are classified and contrasted with the conventional ethical approaches used in international business ethics (relativism, universalism, social contract theory) to assess which categories can be regarded as ethical or unethical. Finally, foreign firms are advised how to cope with and use different affective network types. Though the nature of affective ties and networks in Korea differs from that found for instance in China (Guanxi), consistent with the conclusion of prior research, we recommend particularistic analysis and decision making regarding the circumstances in which to conclude affective ties and networks and when to opt out. We conclude that foreign firms in Korea should invest in establishing Inmaek, refrain from engaging in Yonjul and support host country nationals’ Yongo ties. Moreover, it is suggested that foreign firms should find ways to monitor and manage informal ties effectively.

Affective ties, business ethics, Guanxi, informal networks, normative, South Korea, Yongo

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