Dissertation Abstracts

Cross-Cultural Encounter in Israeli-Korean R&D Collaborations

Author: Lyan, Ira , irlyan@gmail.com
Department: Sociology and Anthropology
University: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Supervisor: Dr. Michal Frenkel and Prof. Gili Drori
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: cultural perceptions , international management , uneven globalization , Korean-Israeli economic relati
Areas of Research: Organization , Economy and Society , Local-Global Relations


In the increasingly competitive international markets, the strategy of expanding and crossing cultural and geographical boundaries has become a prominent feature of global business organizations. The present study examines cultural perceptions by investigating the ways in which Israeli managers imagine their Korean colleagues in R&D joint ventures.

Most cross-cultural management research focuses on economic exchanges within the Western countries, while ignoring the discourse of uneven globalization between the global core and its periphery. Even though critical studies examine East-West power relations, Israel and Korea do not neatly fall into the categories of developed and developing and the relations between them do not display a clear-cut power hierarchy. Rather, Israeli-Korean R&D joint ventures are perceived as forms of equal economic partnership by both nations for which their perspective governments provide an extensive support for collaboration.

At a micro level, however, these perceptions of partnership and the nation-state are formed through the process of imagining the “Other.” Korea functions as a mirror to Israeli managers when imagining their local culture and society in a global context, defining their identity as “Western-like versus Asian,” and the “start-up nation” versus “The Republic of Samsung.” In turn, these cultural images become important factors for Israeli firms in selecting partners, shaping group dynamics in collaborative projects, and in the ways that managers’ make decisions in the labor division. Korea and Koreans are imagined in the Israeli context not only through Israeli-Korean business interactions; they are also defined by Israeli managers in their juxtaposition of Korea with Japan, China and Singapore. In other words, cultural images produced in Israel are attributed to individual nations and Asia as a whole. Thus, this paper examines the ways in which images of Korea are produced, circulated, and perceived in comparison to other Asian nations.

For this purpose, I conducted 30 semi-structured interviews with Israeli managers about their work experience with Korean partners in R&D joint venture. The interviewees were encouraged to talk freely about their project and to give examples of intercultural interactions. After conducting qualitative data analysis, I have distinguished four narratives that define Korea and Koreans as Western-like or non-Western and as similar or different to Israelis. In classifying Korean culture into fixed categories, selecting certain features of a culture to be more salient than others, measuring the similarities and differences between cultures, and predicting less efficient and more expensive interactions between people and organizational unites from two very different cultures, Israeli managers offer a frame through which they imagine themselves and others within the context of an international encounter.

The paper demonstrates how Israeli workers’ conceptualization of their own cultures and that of the Other are shaped by: a) their underlying assumption that both Israelis and Koreans are representatives of their own national-cultural environments and, therefore, are likely to enact their cultural habitus; b) their point of references when seeking to learn more about the other’s culture is framed through juxtaposition between Western-like self and Asian-like Other.