Bridging and the success of Korean firms in China
This chapter shows how diversity and an appreciation for such diversity enabled the chaebol to enter and adapt to the Chinese marketplace. Over a million ethnic Koreans who lived in China, and have nearly completely adapted to the environment there, have either returned to Korea in search of economic opportunities or have begun working for the chaebol in China. Functioning as “human brokers” bridging Korean firms and the Chinese host environment, the Korean Chinese played a crucial role in the initial stages of successful entry of the chaebol into China, helping them navigate relationships with government officials and other culturally specific hurdles. In this process, many Korean Chinese rose to high-ranking positions in chaebol bureaucracies. Building on this foundation, the Koreans themselves expanded their knowledge and social networks in China, enabling the chaebol to “ride the Chinese dragon” and benefit from its growth. This case highlights how the injection of diversity (i.e., knowledge of the Chinese context) in the form of Korean Chinese, and the acceptance of these individuals and their China-specific knowledge, helped the chaebol adapt to a difficult foreign market and thrive there.