Convergence in International Business Ethics? A Comparative Study of Ethical Philosophies, Thinking Style, and Ethical Decision-Making Between US and Korean Managers

Yongsun Paik, Jong Min Lee, Yong Suhk Pak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the relationship among ethical philosophy, thinking style, and managerial ethical decision-making. Based on the premise that business ethics is a function of culture and time, we attempt to explore two important questions as to whether the national differences in managerial ethical philosophies remain over time and whether the relationship between thinking style and ethical decision-making is consistent across different national contexts. We conducted a survey on Korean managers’ ethical decision-making and thinking style and made a cross-cultural, cross-temporal comparison with the results presented by previous studies that surveyed Korean and US managers with the same questionnaire at different points in time. Our analysis revealed that Korean managers have become more reliant on rule utilitarianism for ethical decision-making over the last two decades, which is dominantly used by US managers, corroborating our convergence hypothesis built on social contracts theory. However, as opposed to previous research, we found that managers with a balanced linear and nonlinear thinking style do not necessarily make more ethical decisions compared to those with a predominantly linear or nonlinear thinking style. This study contributes to international business ethics literature by presenting a theoretical framework that may explain the convergence of ethical philosophies employed by managers in different national contexts over time, and that the relationship between thinking style and managerial ethical decision-making may not be universal, but contingent on contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-855
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 30


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law

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