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Journal of Business Ethics (2010) 91:485–500 DOI 10.1007/s10551-009-0095-z

The Influence of Cultural Values on Perceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility: Application of Hofstede’s Dimensions to Korean Public Relations Practitioners

Springer 2009

Yungwook Kim Soo-Yeon Kim

ABSTRACT. This study explores the relationship between Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and public rela- tions practitioners’ perceptions of corporate social respon- sibility (CSR) in South Korea. The survey on Korean public relations practitioners revealed that, although Hof- stede’s dimensions significantly affect public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR, social traditionalism values had more explanatory power than cultural dimen- sions in explaining CSR attitudes. The results suggest that practitioners’ fundamental ideas about the corporation’s role in society seem to be more important than their cultural values to understand public relations practitioners’ CSR attitudes in Korea.

KEY WORDS: corporate social responsibility, public relations, Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, social tradi- tionalism values, South Korea


In this era of global competition, most global cor- porations are conducting various social responsibility programs both domestically and internationally as the public’s expectations and activist groups’ pressure for social legitimacy become stronger than ever before. Pohl (2006) explained that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not content in and of itself, but instead represents the broad spectrum of a company’s corporate culture. The values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms of a company play a pivotal role in conducting CSR. There have been many studies investigating CSR in public relations (e.g., Boynton, 2002; Clark,

2000; Esrock and Leichty, 1998; Kim and Reber, 2008). Public responsibility is understood as a basic concept of, and is sometimes synonymous with, public relations. Grunig and Hunt (1984) noted that ‘‘public, or social, responsibility has become a major reason for an organization to have a public relations function’’ (p. 48). Frederick (2006) addressed the stakeholder approach as one of the new paradigms used to theorize: ‘‘CSR’s dominant paradigm – the stake- holder concept – has run its course and now produces few new or theoretically significant insights’’ (p. 261). Corporate citizenship is another significant term reflecting corporations’ socially responsible role, and Davenport’s (2000) rule of good corporate citizenship also emphasized stakeholder commitment as one cri- terion. Mutually beneficial relationships between the various stakeholders and the clients of public relations are the ultimate goal in public relations. CSR can be understood as one of the fundamental strategies of public relations for attaining a mutually beneficial relationship between business and society. Kim and Reber (2008) stated that public relations practitioners’ roles in CSR vary from none to sig- nificant, depending on organizations’ and individual practitioners’ values. The significant influence of values in CSR means that CSR can vary depending on different cultures and countries. For example, Boardman and Kato (2003) investigated a traditional Japanese concept, Kyosei, to understand culturally specific CSR. As another example, culture and religion are indistinguishable in the Middle East CSR model (Culture and Religion Vital to Middle East CSR model, 2007). However, little is known


Yungwook Kim and Soo-Yeon Kim

about how public relations practitioners perceive, practice, or involve themselves in the role of social responsibility from culturally different perspectives. Culture has been regarded as one of the important elements in business ethical decision-making (Sing- hapakdi et al., 1994; Su, 2006). Culture is learned within a society, and it affects the basic values in people’s everyday lives. Perceived ethical sensitivity

and actual ethical practices are closely related (Vitell

et al., 2003). Social responsibility involves the ethics

held in common, and it directly relates to the signif- icant role of practitioners in helping organizations to be more socially responsible. People from different cultures and nations must have different programs and different perceptions of the roles corporations play in terms of social responsibility. How do public relations practitioners perceive the role of CSR in a different culture? How does culture affect public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR? These questions have not been answered. This study attempted to fill the gap in the literature regarding the cultural ele- ments that influence public relations practitioners’ perceptions of social responsibility. Specifically, this study investigated the practices of CSR in South Korea, where the most dominant public relations practice is known as media relations (Jo and Kim, 2004; Shin, 2006).

Literature review

Culture and public relations practices

A stakeholder is defined as ‘‘any group or individual

who can affect or is affected by the achievement of an organization’s purpose’’ (Freeman, 1984, p. 53). An often-cited definition of public relations is ‘‘the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends’’ (Cutlip et al., 1985, p. 4). Public relations is in charge of stakeholder manage- ment for the success of organizations. Cultural differences are a key variable affecting public relations practices (Rhee, 2002; Sriramesh and White, 1992; Vasquez and Taylor, 1999). In international public relations, several studies have investigated how culture affects the nature of public

relations practices using Hofstede’s cultural dimen- sions to predict Grunig’s models of public relations practice. Grunig’s four historical models of public relations are press agentry/publicity, public infor- mation, two-way asymmetric, and two-way sym- metric models (Grunig and Hunt, 1984). The first two models are one-way models, which understand that the role of communication is only one way, from sender to receiver; the last two models are two- way models, which emphasize getting feedback from the public, acknowledging the importance of the public. Vasquez and Taylor approached Grunig’s public relations models using Hofstede’s cultural typology in the USA. Their study found a strong relationship between power distance and the one- way models, as well as collectivism and femininity with the two-way models; this significantly tied together culture and public relations models. Wu et al. (2001) showed a high correlation of the masculinity dimension with five of the models of public relations, as well as a strong correlation between collectivism and the two-way symmetrical model in Taiwanese public relations practices. Haruta and Hallahan (2003) found significant dif- ferences in crisis communications of airline crashes between Japan and the USA using Hofstede’s five dimensions of culture. While in Japan’s strong Confucian culture a public apology was desirable for the crisis, US culture did not expect a public apology due to litigation concerns. The large power distance, high uncertainty avoidance, and masculine cultural characteristics of Japan tended to place one top person as the decisive leader and spokesperson in crisis situations.

Hofstede’s cultural values

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions have been used widely to understand business practices (e.g., Christie et al., 2003; Moon and Franke 2000) and public relations practices (e.g., Rhee, 2002; Wu et al., 2001). How- ever, there have been criticisms of Hofstede’s cultural studies; for example, McSweeney (2002) criticized the data that Hofstede obtained from IBM employees, noting that it cannot represent national cultural values. Williamson (2002), however, agreed with Hofstede and rejected McSweeney’s criticism. Williamson argued that organizational cultures, combined with

Culture and CSR


country cultures, can reflect national culture, and stated that Hofstede’s model can explain ‘‘relative, not absolute, measures of cultural values’’ (p. 1,388). The Hofstede’s cultural value dimensions include individualism/collectivism, power distance, mascu- linity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long- term/short-term orientation (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). The dimension of individualism/collectivism implies the level of valuing individuals over the col- lective entity. Individualists are free from collectivistic obligations, but collectivists live in ‘‘a society in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups’’ with collectivistic bonds (Hof- stede, 2001, p. 225). Individualism/collectivism is the dimension used to differentiate Western and Eastern cultures. The USA, Australia, and Great Britain are individualistic cultures, while Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia are collectivistic cultures (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Power distance explains the level of hierarchy in a society. Large power distance denotes that power positions are vertically stratified, creating different levels of power status. Malaysia, The Phil- ippines, and Mexico are high-power-distance coun- tries (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Masculinity/ femininity refers to the role of gender in society. Masculine cultures are supposed to be ‘‘assertive, tough and focused on the material success,’’ while feminine counterparts are supposed to be ‘‘more modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life’’ (Hofstede, 2001, p. 297). Japan, Italy, and Germany have masculine culture, while Sweden, Norway, and The Netherlands have feminine cultures (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Uncertainty avoidance is a cul- ture’s level of tolerance with uncertainty. If less uncertainty can be endured, a society has more rules and standards imposed on individuals. Greece, Japan, and France have high uncertainty avoidance (Hofst- ede and Hofstede, 2005). Recently, Hofstede added long-term and short-term orientations as the fifth dimension of cultural values (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Long-term orientation implies future-oriented values while short-term orientation represents past- and present-oriented values. This dimension is also called Confucian dynamism because it reflected the results of a Chinese value survey (CVS) (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Confucian dynamism is more ori- ented to the future (e.g., perseverance and thrift),

which equates to long-term orientation (Hofstede and Bond, 1988). This fifth dimension is unique to the East Asian countries of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Many intercultural communication scholars regard South Korea as a society with high collectivism, large power distance, less tolerance of uncertainty, high masculinity, and long-term orientation (Hofstede and Bond, 1988; Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Also related to long-term orientation, Confucianism, a main philosophy among South Koreans, has been widely discussed as an essential component to Korean culture (Hofstede and Bond, 1988; Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005; Yum, 1987). Fukuyama (1995) classified Korea as a low-trust and family-oriented country under Chinese values. Cultural values among South Koreans are closely related to each other under the influence of Confucianism. However, empirical results have been far from consistent. Rhee (2002) reported that Korean public relations practitioners showed both individualistic and collectivist values at the same time. The study reports a slightly lower level of power distance than does Hofstede’s (1984) study, but still suggests the power distance level of Korean public relations practitioners to be fairly high. Also Korean public relations practi- tioners possessed both masculinity and femininity, and showed a lower level of Confucianism than in Hof- stede’s (1991) study. These results imply that Hofst- ede’s model cannot be applied to the Korean situation unilaterally. Korean people who have experienced the drastic social changes since 1980 may possess a large span of cultural variations. The Hofstede model should be interpreted with consideration of individual variations, meaning that diverse cultural characteris- tics can exist in one culture simultaneously (Martin and Nakayama, 2000).

CSR and cultural influence

Robin and Reidenbach (1987) state that business ethics ‘‘require that the organization or individual behave in accordance with the carefully thought- out rules of moral philosophy’’ (p. 45) and that


Yungwook Kim and Soo-Yeon Kim

social responsibility is ‘‘related to the social contract between business and society’’ (p. 45). Matten (2006) includes business ethics as one of the motivations to engage in CSR. Joyner and Payne (2002) note that ‘‘ethics/morality and CSR are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are interrelated and somewhat interdependent’’ (p. 301). While ethical sensitivity or business ethics do not directly mean active engagement of CSR, active CSR can be understood as one kind of ethical behavior by corporations. However, the current issue of The Economist (2008) included arguments about criticism on CSR; CSR-related activities ‘‘should be the job of elected governments, not profit-maximizing companies’’ (p. 4) and CSR is a waste of shareholders’ money. Traditionally, Friedman, a Nobel-prize-winning economist, argued that ‘‘the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits’’ (Friedman, 1970). He strongly disagreed that business has a social conscience and argued that profit maximization is the goal of business. His argument is based on organization-oriented goal achievement. Friedman’s view was ‘‘a strongly libertarian view and conse- quently portrays an individualistic and atomistic society, stressing individual not collective respon- sibilities’’ (L’Etang, 2006, p. 411). According to Mudrack (2007), high social traditionalism is in the same context as a Friedman position and rejects the desirability of business social involvement. However, Wicks (1996) argued, ‘‘Business ethics a pleonasm rather than oxymoron’’ (p. 114) by objecting to the ‘‘separation thesis,’’ which sees business and ethics separate. Public relations is rooted in this non-Friedman position in that it considers the large and various publics as its stakeholders and approaches its main goal from the relationship management perspective. Public rela- tions practitioners often view themselves as the consciences of their organizations (Judd, 1989). Hofstede’s cultural dimension studies have been widely used in many cross-cultural studies predicting business ethics. Vitell et al. (1993) developed propo- sitions relating the influence of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions on ethical decision-making. The follow- ing studies have investigated the ethical attitudes of practitioners, managers or consumers using Hofstede’s

typology of cultural dimensions in business and advertising fields. Christie et al. (2003) found a sig- nificant influence of culture on business managers’ attitudes toward business ethics and practices in India, Korea, and the USA using Hofstede’s typology. This study found that high individualism and low power distance strongly relate to high sensitivity to unethical activities. Blodgett et al.’s (2001) research with mar- keting professionals in Taiwan and the USA suggests that uncertainty avoidance positively affects ethical sensitivity toward various stakeholders, while power distance, individualism, and masculinity negatively affect it. Moon and Franke (2000) compared the cultural influences of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions on advertising practitioners’ perceptions and practices in Korea and the USA, noting that practitioners in high-uncertainty-avoidance cultures, such as Korea, had less tolerance toward the unethical treatment of suppliers and customers. A few cultural studies have examined the concept of social responsibility in the business world. Maignan (2001) conducted a survey regarding con- sumers’ readiness and evaluations about socially responsible organizations in France, Germany, and the USA. The study concluded that French and German consumers more actively support socially responsible businesses than do US consumers. Vitell et al. (2003) examined US marketers’ perceptions of the role of ethics and social responsibility using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Their study suggests that the characteristics of low power distance, high uncertainty avoidance, and high Confucian dyna- mism were positively associated with the perceived importance of ethics and social responsibility.

The public relations practice status in South Korea

Korean public relations practice is still in the pub- licity stage, the first in Grunig’s model, which emphasizes propagandistic public relations (Jo and Kim, 2004; Kim and Hon, 1998). Kim and Hon conducted a survey with Korean practitioners in 1996 and concluded that most Korean practitioners practice the press agentry and publicity model, although they aspire to practice two-way models.

Culture and CSR


This result has been confirmed by other studies (Jo and Kim, 2004; Rhee, 2002). Some studies have indicated that Confucianism, in particular, is a positive factor in excellent public relations (PR). Rhee (2002) examined Hofstede’s cultural dimensions of Korean PR practitioners and emphasized how Confucianism and collectivism play a positive role in excellent public relations practice in Korea. Berkowitza and Lee’s (2004) study concluded that the concept of Cheong – a spiritual tie that is the fundamental basis of Korean relationships – between reporters and public relations practitioners can pos- itively influence media relations. However, other studies suggest that Confucianism negatively impacts media relations. Jo and Kim (2004) conducted in-depth interviews and surveys, concluding that Korean practitioners still prefer publicity in their practice. Focusing on the topic of media relations, which is the most important public relations func- tion in Korea, they state, ‘‘Relationship-oriented media relations comes from the Confucian tradition, which may account for the confusion over ethical standards or moral guidelines expressed by many of the interviewees’’ (p. 299). Kim (2003) notes that ‘‘the Confucian tradition has deteriorated ethical idealism by discouraging visible benefits of sticking to professional ethics’’ (p. 214). There have been a few studies which investigated Korean public relations practitioners’ perceptions on ethics or CSR. Kim (2003) investigated practitio- ners’ perceptions toward individuals’ ethical ideol- ogies and found that ideology can explain the outcomes of practitioners’ ethical decision-making. According to Kim’s study, there are more idealists than relativists among Korean public relations prac- titioners, and high idealists thought that ‘‘public interest should be kept during the public relations program at all times’’ (p. 221). Shin (2006) found that Korean corporate public relations practitioners in large global companies devote their time mostly to media relations, followed by consumer relations, internal relations, and CSR. Their perception of the important aspects of public relations is a bit different from their actual practice, as media relations is considered the most important, followed by con- sumer relations, CSR, investor relations, and inter- nal relations. To summarize, CSR was perceived by practitioners to be a more valued aspect of public relations (ranking third in importance) than it actu-

ally was in practice (ranking fourth). So far, very few studies have been conducted regarding how culture affects public relations practitioners’ ethical percep- tions in Korea.

Research questions and hypotheses

According to Grunig’s model, Korean public rela- tions practice is still in the publicity stage, i.e., the first model (Jo and Kim, 2004; Kim and Hon, 1998). However, the hope for change is high, and CSR is increasingly accepted as a general practice of public relations. Rhee (2002) investigated Korean public relations practitioners’ practices as they related to cultural dimensions, concluding, ‘‘Overall, culture was found to be related to public relations practices and excellence in public relations. Except for the masculinity dimension, all cultural dimensions had statistically significant relationships with excellence index’’ (p. 176). Rhee showed the possibility that cultural dimensions could explain public relations practices in Korea. Recognizing individual differences of corporate responsibility perceptions among Korean public relations practitioners, this study focuses on practi- tioners’ cultural values and their perceptions of CSR. Williamson (2002) supported the idea of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, describing them as ‘‘manifesta- tions of national culture, rather than as direct measures of national cultures’’ (p. 1388). Hofstede’s cultural dimensions were used in this study to measure Korean practitioners’ cultural values because the goal of this study was not to point out Korean national culture itself, but to examine the relationship between cultural values and CSR perceptions among public relations professionals. Before testing the relationship between cultural values and perceptions of CSR, the study tested social traditionalism, the influence of individual preferences for corporate responsibility on the per- ceptions of CSR, by using the dichotomy of a profit- oriented Friedman and pro-CSR non-Friedman groups. This study is based on the premised similarity between Friedman and high social traditionalism, referred to herein as Friedman and non-Friedman perspectives, respectively. ‘‘Friedman groups’’ means a profit-oriented anti-CSR approach, whereas ‘‘non- Friedman groups’’ means a pro-CSR approach. Research questions were established as follows:


Yungwook Kim and Soo-Yeon Kim

RQ1: How do Korean public relations practitio- ners perceive CSR from both Friedman and non- Friedman perspectives?

What are the relationships between Hofst-


ede’s cultural values and public relations practitio- ners’ perceptions of CSR? What differences occur when social traditionalism is considered at the same time?

Among Hofstede’s five cultural values, the following two dimensions showed comparatively consistent results in the previous literature. Power distance is highly correlated with Grunig’s one-way models, the press agentry and public information models, which contain comparatively less-ethical behaviors (Vasquez and Taylor, 1999). Uncertainty avoidance positively affects people’s ethical sensitivity toward various stakeholders (Blodgett et al., 2001). Two hypotheses are proposed:

H1: Large power distance negatively affects Korean public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR.


High uncertainty avoidance positively affects Korean public relations practitioners’ percep- tions of CSR.

September 2007. The total number of initial prac- titioners was 240 and the survey was distributed to practitioners who had agreed in advance to partici- pate in the study. In total, 150 practitioners (62.5%) agreed to participate in the survey.

Survey instrument

Korean public relations practitioners’ cultural dimensions, and perceptions of social traditionalism and CSR were examined. Social traditionalism represents the so-called Friedman profit-oriented approach, and the CSR instrument asks about dif- ferent positions toward CSR through the lens of practitioners. The survey instrument is a self-admin- istered questionnaire containing primarily closed- ended questions. The survey instrument includes 28 items to measure cultural dimensions, 10 items for social traditionalism, 14 items to measure CSR, and sociodemographic items. For those measures, the re- sponse choices consist of modified Likert scales ranging from 1 (‘‘strongly disagree’’) to 7 (‘‘strongly agree’’). The final questionnaire was translated from English to Korean by one researcher and validated by the other researcher after discussing discrepancies.



Scale items of Hofstede’s dimensions

Sample selection

Korean practitioners from the public relations or external communication departments of diverse organizations and public relations firms were chosen as the study population. Since a complete sample frame for public relations practitioners does not exist in South Korea, a purposive sampling was used. Specifically, the directory of the Korea Professional Advanced Public Relations Program (KPAPR), the well-known training program for public relations practitioners, was used for sample selection. KPAPR is an educational program for experienced public relations practitioners who actively seek new trends and knowledge. Thus, the survey participants can to some extent represent the perceptions of average practitioners in Korea. The survey questionnaire was distributed and collected by the research workers and was complemented by an email survey in

The scales for measuring power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, masculinity, and Confucian dynamism in Hofstede’s dimensions were adopted from Vitell et al. (2003), which examined marketers’ perceptions of the role of ethics and social responsi- bility using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. They developed power distance scales from Hofstede’s (1984) power distance scale and Gordon’s (1976) greater conformity scale. Uncertainty avoidance scales come from Hofstede (1984), Norton (1975), Voich (1995), and Budner (1962). The individualism items are from Hofstede (1984), Triandis et al. (1988), Voich (1995), and Yamaguchi (1994). Mas- culinity items were adopted from Hofstede (1984) and Voich (1995). Confucian dynamism items were taken from the Chinese Culture Connection (1987) study and from Schwartz (1992). Other femininity and collectivism dimensions are adopted from Wu

Culture and CSR


et al.’s (2001) study, which adopted the items from Hofstede (1984) and Vasquez and Taylor (1999).

Scale items for defining attitudes towards social responsibility

To estimate practitioners’ attitudes towards corporate responsibility, this study used 10 social traditionalism measures and 14 social responsibility measures. Social traditionalism measures were revised from Mudrack (2007). Mudrack tied Friedman perspectives in with high social traditionalism because both believed that ‘‘managerial responsibilities should appropriately focus on profits and maximizing shareholder wealth, as opposed also to focusing on a broad range of stakeholders’’ (p. 51). High social traditionalism implies profit-oriented CSR espoused by Freidman. Social responsibility measures are adapted from Ryan (1986), who measured public relations practitioners’ views of CSR, which is comprised of three dimen- sions (the relationship of social responsibility to good business practice, the commitment needed to ensure that a corporation is serious about social responsi- bility, and the role of public relations practitioners in helping a corporation act responsibly). This study explored Korean practitioners’ CSR perspectives in four dimensions including the three CSR models for each dimension and a CSR model that combines all three dimensions. This approach allowed CSR atti- tudes to be analyzed from various perspectives.


The study used t-tests to compare means of the Friedman and non-Friedman groups in RQ1. For RQ2 and hypotheses, linear regressions were con- ducted to test the causal relationships proposed. Statistical significance was established at the level of 0.05. SPSS version 12 was used for data analysis.


Description of respondents

Descriptive analysis was conducted to find out demographic profiles of the sample. Among the total

of 150 respondents, 93 (62.0%) were female and 57 (38.0%) were male practitioners. Regarding age, 72 practitioners (48.0%) were in their 20s, 56 (37.3%) were in their 30s, and 22 (14.7%) were over 40; mean age for the sample was 32 years. Fifty-eight practi- tioners (38.7%) had majored in mass communications including public relations, 69 (46.0%) had studied social science, 5 (3.3%) natural science, and 17

(11.3%) other majors. There were 86 public relations specialists (57.3%), 54 managers (26.0%), 3 directors (2.0%), and 4 others (2.7%). Regarding the type of organization they worked for, 69 (46.0%) worked for a public relations agency, 54 (36.0%) for a cor- poration, 11 (7.3%) for an organization type, 9 (6.0%) for a government type, and 7 (4.7%) for others. Regarding length of work experience in public relations, 55 practitioners (37.4%) had worked for less than 2 years, 52 (35.4%) for 2–5 years, 27 (18.4%) for 5–10 years, and 13 (8.8%) for more than 10 years. Mean length of PR practice was 4 years 3 months (Table I). The cultural values of Korean public relations practitioners were measured. Both femininity (M = 6.03, SD = 0.68) and masculinity (M = 5.84, SD = 0.73) showed high scores. Uncertainty avoidance

(M = 5.61, SD = 0.83), Confucian dynamism (M =

5.56, SD = 0.79), and collectivism (M = 5.55, SD = 0.84) followed. Comparatively, power distance

(M = 3.55, SD = 0.94) and individualism (M = 3.17,

SD = 0.95) showed lower scores. These results reflect differentaspects ofculturalvalues among Koreanpublic relations practitioners compared even with the quite recent Hofstede and Hofstede’s study (2005). These results verify the explicit variations of cultural values among Korean practitioners who do not follow Hofstede’s generalization (Table II). The level of social traditionalism among Korean practitioners was estimated. Among ten items, the statement, ‘‘Profits should be the key gauge of how well a firm is fulfilling its social role,’’ ranked the highest (M = 4.30, SD = 1.65), but was still at a neutral level. Practitioners disagreed the most with the statement, ‘‘Firms do not have to actively search for new ways to use their excess resources to improve society’’ (M = 2.30, SD = 1.02). Overall, Korean practitioners seemed to disagree with Friedman’s point of view by emphasizing diverse CSR roles for improving society (Table III).


Yungwook Kim and Soo-Yeon Kim


Frequencies of gender, age, major, title, organization type, and length of PR practice

Frequency (%)

Gender Female

93 (62.0)

Male Age

57 (38.0)


72 (48.0)


56 (37.3)

Over 40

22 (14.7)

Major Social science

69 (46.0)

Mass communications including PR

58 (38.7)

Natural science

5 (3.3)

Other majors

17 (11.3)

Title PR specialist

86 (57.3)


54 (26.0)


3 (2.0)

Other titles

4 (2.7)

Organization type PR agency

69 (46.0)


54 (36.0)


11 (7.3)


9 (6.0)

Other organizations

7 (4.7)

Length of PR practice Less than 2 years

55 (37.4)

2–5 years

52 (35.4)

5–10 years

27 (18.4)

More than 10 years

13 (8.8)


Means and standard deviations for Hofstede’s dimen- sions




Femininity Masculinity Uncertainty avoidance Confucian dynamism Collectivism Power distance Individualism















Likert-type items were scored from 1 to 7, with 7 being most positive.

Construction of measures

Although scale validity was borrowed from previous studies (Mudrack, 2007; Ryan, 1986; Vitell et al., 2003), the reliability test was conducted again for various scales. Cronbach’s alphas for Hofstede’s cultural dimensions were as follows: power distance 0.72, uncertainty avoidance 0.70, individualism 0.59, collectivism 0.71, masculinity 0.60, femininity 0.84, and Confucian dynamism 0.70. Cronbach’s alphas for the four different CSR models were as follows: good business model 0.78, commitment model 0.56, PR role model 0.70, and total CSR mean model 0.79. Cronbach’s alpha for social tra- ditionalism was 0.65. Scales that have Cronbach’s alpha above 0.70 are considered to have adequate internal reliability (Nunnally, 1994). However, John and Benet-Martinez (2000) note that ‘‘an alpha of 0.70 is not a benchmark every scale must pass’’ (p. 346) but rather a guide. Therefore, even though alphas for the scales of individualism, masculinity, commitment model, and social traditionalism were less than 0.70, they were included in the analysis.

Perceptions of CSR from the Friedman and non-Friedman groups

Differences between the Friedman and non-Fried- man groups based on social traditionalism were investigated to see how the differences of social tra- ditionalism influence public relations practitioners’ perceptions towards CSR (RQ1). The Friedman and non-Friedman groups were divided according to social traditionalism mean scores. The upper 40% of individuals were defined as a Friedman group, and the lower 40% as a non-Friedman group. The middle 20% were deleted for analysis. Even though most practitioners preferred the non-Friedman approach, the analysis was conducted to see whether the degree of preference influenced perceptions of CSR. Thus the Friedman and non-Friedman groups actually represent the low- and high-CSR groups. The group differences between the Friedman (M = 4.94, SD = 0.50) and non-Friedman (M = 5.58, SD = 0.60) groups were significant (t = 6.43, p < 0.01). For the relationship of social responsi- bility to good business practices, the Friedman (M = 5.43, SD = 0.76) and non-Friedman (M =6.17,

Culture and CSR



Means and standard deviations for social traditionalism




Firms do not have to actively search for new ways to use their excess resources to improve society a We would be better off if companies simply tried to maximize their own profits subject to legal constraints Decisions concerning social issues are the province of governmental policy makers, not







of corporate executives Profits should be the key gauge of how well a firm is fulfilling its social role 4.30 Most actions taken by firms to improve society will not ultimately help shareholders a 2.58



The business of business is business, not social activism Profits and actions in the social sphere generally do not mix





The benefits to firms of socially responsible actions are often not underemphasized a 3.20


Corporate executives who declare that they will take socially responsible actions are guilty of assuming that they know what’s best for society It is enough for firms merely to meet minimum legal constraints. Active social involvement and concerned use of excess resources are not needed a





Likert-type items were scored from 1 to 7, with 7 being most positive. a Items were partly restated for the proper valence with other items in this table.

SD = 0.75) groups showed a statistically significant difference (t = 4.43, p < 0.01). Also for the role of public relations practitioners in helping a corporation act responsibly, the Friedman (M =5.58, SD = 0.61) and non-Friedman (M = 6.39, SD = 0.72) groups indicated a significant difference (t = 6.79, p < 0.01). However, no group difference was found on the commitment needed to ensure that a corporation is serious about social responsibility. Overall, the results indicated that the non-Friedman group showed more positive attitudes about the issues of socially respon- sible activities than the Friedman group (Table IV).

Relationships between Hofstede’s cultural values, CSR models, and social traditionalism

Before conducting the regression analysis, the corre- lation coefficients between seven Hofstede’s dimen- sions, four CSR models, and the social traditionalism mean were checked. Individualism was correlated negatively with CSR models, while uncertainty avoidance, collectivism, masculinity, femininity, and Confucian dynamism were correlated positively with CSR. In CSR attitudes, positive correlations were found between four different CSR models. Social


Mean estimates of Friedman and non-Friedman groups


M (for Friedman)

M (for non-Friedman)


Good business Commitment PR role Total CSR mean














Yungwook Kim and Soo-Yeon Kim

traditionalism correlated negatively with most Hof- stede’s values and all four CSR models (Table V). A linear regression analysis was conducted to examine the relationship between public relations practitioners’ Hofstede’s cultural values and percep- tions of CSR (RQ2). Only significant results were reported. In the CSR good business practice model, Hofstede’s dimensions affected practitioners’ per- ceptions of CSR at the 0.01 level [F(7,141) = 7.49, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.27. In this model, collec- tivism (t = 3.34, p < 0.01) and Confucianism (t = 2.07, p < 0.05) significantly affected CSR. In the CSR commitment model, Hofstede’s dimen- sions affected practitioners’ perceptions of CSR at the 0.01 level [F(7,141) = 3.10, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.13. In this model, individualism negatively affected CSR attitudes (t = -2.47, p < 0.05). In the CSR PR role model, Hofstede’s dimensions affected CSR perceptions at the 0.01 level [F(7,141) = 10.68, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.35. Power distance negatively affected CSR attitudes (t = -2.56, p < 0.05), and uncertainty avoidance (t = 2.54, p < 0.05), collec- tivism (t = 2.77, p < 0.01), and Confucianism (t = 3.37, p < 0.01) positively affected CSR atti- tudes. In the total CSR mean model, Hofstede’s dimensions affected practitioners’ perceptions of CSR at the 0.01 level [F(7,141) = 11.11, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.36. Uncertainty avoidance (t = 2.18, p < 0.05), collectivism (t = 2.83, p < 0.01), and Confu- cianism (t = 3.51, p < 0.01) affected CSR attitudes positively. All four models predicting practitioners’ CSR attitudes with Hofstede’s dimensions were sig- nificant. Collectivism, Confucianism, and uncertainty avoidance positively affected CSR attitudes, although individualism and power distance negatively affected CSR attitudes (Table VI). Social traditionalism was added into a linear regression analysis. Only the significant variables are reported in Table VII. In the CSR good business model, Hofstede’s dimensions with social tradition- alism affected CSR attitudes at the 0.01 level [F(8,140) = 10.00, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.36. Collectivism affected CSR attitudes positively (t = 2.53, p < 0.05) and social traditionalism affected CSR attitudes negatively (t = -4.51, p < 0.01). In the CSR commitment model, Hofstede’s dimen- sions with social traditionalism affected CSR per- ceptions at the 0.01 level [F(8,140) = 3.00, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.15. Individualism affected

CSR attitudes negatively (t = -2.71, p < 0.01). In the CSR PR role model, Hofstede’s dimensions with social traditionalism affected CSR attitudes at the 0.01 level [F(8,138) = 13.60, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.44. Uncertainty avoidance (t = 2.26, p < 0.05) and Confucianism (t = 2.89, p < 0.01) affected CSR attitudes positively, and social tradi- tionalism affected CSR attitudes negatively (t = -4.74, p < 0.01). In the total CSR mean model, Hofstede’s dimensions with social traditionalism af- fected CSR attitudes at the 0.01 level [F(8,138) = 14.20, p < 0.01] and R 2 was 0.45. Therefore, except for the CSR commitment model, social traditionalism negatively affected CSR attitudes significantly. The results indicate that social tradi- tionalism has more explanatory power than do cultural value variables. The negative influence of the Friedman perspective precedes cultural values.

Hypothesis testing for causal relationships

H1 asks whether large power distance negatively affects Korean public relations practitioners’ per- ceptions of CSR. H1 was not supported. Only in the PR role model did power distance significantly affect Korean public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR. Other models, including the total CSR model, did not show any significant influence. H2 tests whether high uncertainty avoidance positively affects Korea public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR. H2 was supported. In a total CSR model as well as in a PR role model predicting public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR, uncertainty avoidance positively affected Korean public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR.

Conclusions and discussion

This study mainly explored the relationship between public relations practitioners’ Hofstede’s cultural values and perceptions of CSR in South Korea. Korean public relations practitioners exhibited high femininity, high masculinity, high Confucian dyna- mism, high uncertainty avoidance, and high collec- tivism, though they showed low power distance and low individualism in Hofstede’s cultural values. In

0.351** -0.195* -0.225** -0.012 0.452** -0.342**

0.324** -0.276**

0.518** -0.346**

0.797** -0.475**

0.880** -0.522**


0.672** -0.174*







Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients for Hofstede’s dimensions, CSR models, and social traditionalism








-0.238** -0.146























-0.241** -0.205*











-0.236** -0.186*




0.198* -0.108


**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed).

*Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed).



– 0.153



1. Hofstede power distance 2. Hofstede uncertainty avoidance 3. Hofstede individualism 4. Hofstede collectivism 5. Hofstede masculinity 6. Hofstede femininity 7. Hofstede Confucian dynamism 8. Good business 9. Commitment

PR role Total CSR mean Social traditionalism mean

n = 150.




Culture and CSR



Yungwook Kim and Soo-Yeon Kim


Regression for the Hofstede’s dimensions and CSR models



B (SE)




1. CSR: Good business Collectivism Confucianism












= 7.494, p = 0.000, R 2 = 0.27

2. CSR: Commitment Individualism







= 3.104, p = 0.004, R 2 = 0.134

3. CSR: PR role Power distance






Uncertainty avoidance Collectivism Confucianism

















= 10.68, p = 0.000, R 2 = 0.350

4. Total CSR means


Uncertainty avoidance Collectivism Confucianism
















F = 11.112, p = 0.000, R 2 = 0.359


Regression for the Hofstede’s dimensions, social traditionalism, and CSR models



B (SE)




1. CSR: Good business Collectivism






Social traditionalism







= 9.995, p = 0.000, R 2 = 0.364

2. CSR: Commitment Individualism







= 3.003, p = 0.004, R 2 = 0.146

3. CSR: PR role Uncertainty avoidance Confucianism Social traditionalism


















= 13.600, p = 0.000, R 2 = 0.441


4. Total CSR means








Social traditionalism






F = 14.197, p = 0.000, R 2 = 0.451

Hofstede and Hofstede (2005), Korea ranked low in uncertainty avoidance, and in Rhee’s study (2002) Korean public relations practitioners showed both individualistic and collectivist values at the same

time, and a slightly lower level of power distance than in Hofstede’s (1984) study, but still at a fairly high level. In this sense, Hofstede’s cultural dimen- sions in this study showed different and more varied

Culture and CSR


cultural values than in previous studies. Different cultural value outcomes reflect dynamic social changes currently underway in Korean society (Kim et al., 2008). Also, several studies have criticized the unilateral categorization of one culture (Martin and Nakayama, 2000; Merkin, 2005). This study dem- onstrates flexible application of cultural values, even though traditional values such as collectivism and Confucianism still play pivotal roles in Korean society. Korean public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR were estimated by a social traditionalism measure using the terms Friedman and non-Fried- man. Overall, Korean practitioners’ CSR perceptions were quite positive, even from the Friedman group, who keep to a profit-maximization approach. Four dimensions of CSR attitudes were also tested respectively as dependent variables. The three dimensions measure the relationship of social responsibility to good business practice, the commit- ment needed to ensure that a corporation is serious about social responsibility, and the role of public relations practitioners in helping a corporation act responsibly. Also, a total CSR mean model was tested that combined all three of the dimensions mentioned above. Except for the commitment model, the non- Friedman group showed significantly more positive attitudes towards CSR than did the Friedman group in the other three models. Therefore, this shows that there is a clear difference in Korean public relations practitioners’ CSR perceptions according to their original understanding about the role of business. Hofstede’s cultural values were significantly related to public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR in Korea. Each of the four CSR models showed that Hofstede’s cultural values significantly explained practitioners’ CSR perceptions. Among the seven dimensions of Hofstede’s cultural values, collectivism, Confucianism, and uncertainty avoidance consis- tently showed a positive relationship with CSR atti- tudes, while individualism and power distance partly showed negative relationships with CSR perception. Collectivism and Confucian dynamism emphasize collectivistic and societal values, in contrast to indi- vidualism. Uncertainty avoidance stresses risk-free and ‘‘desired formal rules and regulations to ensure certainty and stability’’ (Vitell et al., 2003, p. 74). CSR-related activities seem to be interpreted by public relations practitioners as one means to guar-

antee the success of both the organization and society at the same time. Confucianism and collectivism are still deeply rooted in Korean society and high uncer- tainty avoidance is also a key Korean cultural value. In this sense, traditional Korean cultural values are in harmony with the CSR philosophy, and this generally supports the great potential for Korean public relations practices to engage in CSR that is not incongruent with their cultural values. Korean public relations practitioners showed low power distance, and power distance did not signifi- cantly affect their perceptions of CSR, though it was partly negatively affected. Rhee (2002) found that power distance negatively correlated with ethical and symmetrical communication of Korean public relations practitioners. In the meantime, the degree of power distance is changing from high to low, varies from one person to another, and cannot explain public relations practitioners’ perception of CSR. When comparing social traditionalism with Hof- stede’s cultural values, social traditionalism explained public relations practitioners’ CSR attitudes more significantly than did Hofstede’s dimensions. Even though cultural values are important enough to influence public relations practitioners’ individual perceptions of CSR, practitioners’ fundamental ideas about the corporation’s role in society seem to be more important than their cultural values. The results confirmed that the enlarged meaning of social responsibility overcoming profit orientation is becoming a norm among Korean public relations practitioners. This study attempted to understand Korean public relations practitioners’ perceptions on CSR from the multidimensional perspectives of cultural values and social traditionalism. Hofstede’s cultural values affect public relations practitioners’ perceptions of CSR. However, the cultural values were not identical to those in Hofstede’s original study about general Korean public in 1984 as well as in other previous studies about Korean public relations practitioners (e.g., Rhee, 2002). Also, the study results suggest that different cultural values have hierarchical effects on the perceptions of CSR. Even though Hofstede’s cultural values have some explanatory power regarding Korean public relations practitioners’ perceptions toward CSR, it should be emphasized that individual differences coexist with common


Yungwook Kim and Soo-Yeon Kim

cultural values. Not only the culture in one country but also individual differences should be intertwined to understand the whole picture. In this sense, negative attitudes toward social traditionalism may create the momentum to diversify CSR activities in Korea.

Limitations and directions for future study

There are limitations to this study. First of all, the seemingly significant limitation to this study is that its sample frame was a purposive sampling from the directory of the KPAPR. In that sense, the results of this study are hard to generalize to the practices of all Korean public relations practitioners. However, the KPAPR group is one of the most well-known training programs for public relations practitioners, and the participants of the survey can to some extent represent the perceptions of average practitioners in Korea. The overrepresentation of females in their 20s could bias the results of this study. Even though it is true that young female public relations practi- tioners dominate the industry, they do not have the power to decide and engage in CSR programs, which are decided mainly by the dominant coalition role. Future studies should ask practitioners who actually run CSR programs to compare descriptive and normative perceptions. Acknowledging the significance of cultural differences in international public relations, future studies can evaluate and compare public relations practitioners’ CSR per- ceptions in various countries and cultures. Those future studies would also attempt to find if there are any consistent cultural or individual values to emphasize CSR in public relations.


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Yungwook Kim School of Communication, Ewha Womans University, Seoul 120-750, South Korea E-mail: kimyw@ewha.ac.kr

Soo-Yeon Kim College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, U.S.A. E-mail: skim1020@ufl.edu

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