A Comparative Essay on South Korea Based On the Hofstede and Global Framework

Published Aug. 14, 2019, 12:14 p.m. by Moderator


 Geert Hofstede emphasizes that the boundaries of culture are a fallacy and do not exist in reality, he adds on that cultures are constructed from verbal statements and other behaviors.  Hofstede calls culture, a construct, something that has been made up. Values are also constructs. Hofstede developed a framework to measure the pressure that society exerts to an individual to dictate and inculcate values. National culture is mainly a conglomeration of diverse societies, each one of them unique and special but the dimensions are not based on their individual differences; these are termed the group level constructs.

 Applying this method has to take into consideration other factors such as national wealth, national history, individuals and any coincidental events. Hofstede cautions that this method cannot predict the future with pinpoint accuracy. Hofstede compares it to the purchase of a car. One cannot predict the model one will purchase but a comparison of the models driven by peers can give a close prediction of what model one will purchase. Hofstede defines culture as the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another (Hofstede, 2001).

The Global Nine cultural dimensions resulted from a research of 62 countries across the globe and the findings led the the team identifying nine cultural dimensions that would be the benchmark for measuring independent variables in their research. The Global nine framework consists of performance orientation, institutional collectivism, gender egalitarianism, uncertainty avoidance, in-group collectivism, future orientation, humane orientation, assertiveness and power distance. Some of these parameters are shared in the Hofstede’s framework and the same rings true for this model. Long-term orientation was renamed future orientation, to center on the worldly orientation of most people in the society. The globe nine structural model differentiates between group and society and it considers lack of masculinity as a positive value for femininity (Hofstede, 2006).

According to the research people in a society can be rated on assertiveness; greatly non – assertive (1), neither non-assertive nor assertive (4), greatly assertive (7). The basis of this paper is to discuss the culture of South Korea based on these two cultural dimensions (Grovewell, 2012). http://www.grovewell.com/pub-GLOBE-intro.html


The Hofstede Model provides scales from one to a hundred and each country like South Korea in our case has a position on each scale and index in relation with other nations. From 2005 the dimensions were revised to five empirical verifiable parameters and each country could fall anywhere within the poles. These cultural constraints were independent and occurred in any possible combination (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005). These parameters are individual versus collectivism, achievement versus nurturing, uncertainty avoidance, indulgence versus restraint, long-term orientation and power distance.

Power distance in simple terms is the power inequality that is present between higher and lower ranks or the influence of proximity to the political authority on national values. According to Hofstede framework, South Korea is a little above fifty percent liberal and the others are conservatives. This tolerant society allows divergent views to be heard and accepts that the basic fundamental rights of an individual will be respected. South Korea shows a high political distance as the respect of authority is unquestionable and follows Confucianism, which calls for total obedience of authority (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005).

Uncertainty avoidance refers to the people’s acceptance of doubt. In South Korea business associations, uncertainty is avoided at all costs. South Koreans prefer meeting in person and meetings be pre – planned to avoid any unseen or unplanned scenarios. They love being sure about their options to avoid any inconvenience. Rules and regulations are important in this society and inform the standard held by a citizen. Superiors are generally more powerful and more respected compared to their western counterparts in the same positions.  Punctuality is highly regarded and this shows that South Korea indicates high uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005).

Individual collectivism is the value individuals and groups give to themselves. People who are highly independent care about self-actualization and career success than people who are not, who tend to see success in terms of the group they belong to and will sacrifice their individual interests for the benefit of the group. Group welfare is of paramount importance than individual aspirations and so the success of one’s group is more important than individual success. South Korea can therefore be classified as a medium uncertainty avoidance culture and a low individualistic society.

Masculinity (MAS) defines gender responsibility in society. In high MAS communities, higher ranks and high salaried jobs are not meant for women whereas in low MAS organizations, women can get recognition that is more equitable in terms of position of power. In South Korea, it is more preferable to have a man in a position of power and it is more important for men to have a professional career than it is for women. There is a traditional role separation which makes South Korea a high masculine society.

The final dimension is the Confucian Work Dynamic based on Chinese cultural values, which Hofstede adopted as the Long-term orientation (LTO), the only non-western dimension. In South Korea, there is research that indicates the combination of Confucian values and modern ways of social life i.e. being brought up in an urban setting and being a Christian appears not to conflict with Confucius values and democracy in group relations. This shows that Eastern Asian traditions can be complemented with other cultures without a lot of conflict. Shame is a part of the social culture and individual indiscretions are a source of shame to the family and the society he or she resides. Persistence and thrift are encouraged and are important tenets that a South Korean is expected to uphold. Confucianism still dictates the character of the South Korean national culture (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005).

Performance orientation is the need for achievement in one’s goals or obligations to oneself. South Korea is a society that concentrates on the group; family, work group, authority and individuality is highly discouraged, one must abide by the decisions of the group without question. The eldest has the last say in one’s personal ambitions, which are largely the group’s objective. South Koreans have a strong group identity and have a low performance score of 4.5.

Human orientation is the human nature as good versus human nature as bad. South Koreans are deeply religious and practice Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shamanist and other old traditional religions.  These are the pillars of the moral code for human relationships. South Koreans are respectful of one’s choices and impudence is highly frowned upon. Bad behavior reflects on the group and individuals tend to avoid being the cause of any strife in the group. South Koreans have strict rules on decency and etiquette, which follows seniority in age or professional rank.

Future orientation is the disposition of an individual to future influences of other worldly cultures. South Koreans do not consider foreigners a threat to their national identity and economic stability. They generally accept foreigners with sympathy, as their tradition requires of a host. They have incorporated western influences such as Christianity and English taught in most of their schools as a second language. South Koreans believe that there is a future economic threat to foreigners owning some of their businesses.  South Koreans are not averse to interracial marriage. They have a positive future orientation and are able to work well with other cultures avoidance (Hofstede, 2007).

               Egalitarianism is advocacy for gender and societal parity. In South Korea, the women have very little say; the wife does what the husband says, the sister what the brother says. It is a patriarchal society, which insists on the total obedience of women to the men. In places of work, South Koreans prefer male employees holding the senior positions. Women occupy the lower cadres and this happens across all the levels of society. Men have more authority by virtue of their gender as opposed to their actual ability to lead. South Korea scores low in egalitarianism.

In conclusion, South Korea can be classified as a country where there is a strict moral code but with tightly controlled individual choices that include religious, educational, dressing and marriage preferences. South Korean citizens are successful and satisfied with their way of living.


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