Comparison of the Business Ethics Practices of Private and Public Organizations in South Korea

Choi, Tae Hee

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This study investigated differences in business ethics (BE) between members of private- and public-sector organizations in South Korea. The primary data were collected by means of a survey conducted in 2014 and 2015. Our focus was on the respondents’ perceptions regarding:

1) their responsibility toward various stakeholders,

2) ethical conflicts,

3) decisions relating to ethics,

4) the promotion of an ethical environment in their organizations,

5) unethical practices,

6) the reporting of unethical practices,

7) the evolution of ethical standards, and

8) behaviors in situations involving unethical conduct.

We found that, in most cases, respondents from the private and public sectors responded in similar ways. The most significant differences between the two groups were that, first, in making (un)ethical decisions, respondents from public organizations preferred personal ethics over institutional interests more often than those from private organizations, while the latter reported having observed unethical practices more often. Further, respondents from public organizations tended to view more optimistically the changes in ethical standards over the past ten years. When it came to reporting unethical practices, the respondents’ managerial status seems to have been a more significant factor than the private or public status of the organizations at which they were employed. Lastly, within the group of respondents from the public sector, the views of those associated with state-owned-enterprises (SOEs) tended to be distinct from those associated with other types of enterprises.

Issue Date
KDI School of Public Policy and Management
business ethics; survey; public sector; private sector; SOE; South Korea
Series Title
KDI School Working Paper 18-21
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