The Development of Human Resource Management Across Nations
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The Development of Human Resource Management Across Nations

Unity and Diversity

Edited by Bruce E. Kaufman

This volume contains country studies of the historical development of human resource management (HRM) in seventeen different nations. The nations span all regions of the world and each chapter is written by a national expert. Primary attention is given to HRM developments in industry, but university research and teaching are also covered. Human resource management is defined broadly to include industrial relations and each chapter places the historical development of HRM in a broad political, social, and economic context.
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Chapter 13: The development of human resource management in South Korea

Young-Myon Lee


They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. Confucius Human Resources Management (HRM) in South Korea (Korea hereafter) continues to change and adapt to the demands of increasingly globalized Korean firms and to the new socio-economic pressures of today’s Korea. However, even in contemporary Korea, the practice of management and HRM continues to be strongly influenced by social and cultural norms dating back centuries. As Korea developed economically alongside other Asian nations from the 1960s onward observers began to examine the organizational features and relationships of this so-called ‘Confucian capitalism’, noting similarities and difference amongst Asian nations. Confucian principles, most notably collectivism / familism – prioritizing the needs and wants of the group and latterly the family over the needs and wants of any individual member; paternalism – the dominance of an authoritative, charismatic father figure in hierarchical organizations; and the critical role of status – the single-minded pursuit of outward symbols of position and success – play a dominant role in the expectations, orientation and experience of every Korean worker. While having many similarities with that of other Asian nations, the Confucian-influenced cultural context may well be completely foreign to those from the West, where individualism and self-determination reign. Before examining HRM, then, it is helpful to illustrate a typical worker’s experience within the Korean cultural context.

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