Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Surname Discrimination: Implications for Korean University Professors

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Surname Discrimination: Implications for Korean University Professors

Article excerpt


For decades, academics have been testing a host of different characteristics to identify their impact on the labor market and other areas of social competition. These characteristics have included a range of influencers stretching from sex, race, self-perceived productivity enhancers and even beauty (i.e. Walcutt et. al., 2011; Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004; Wood et al., 1993). One relatively recent characteristic to be tested is the effect that surnames have on areas such as employment, trust, and compensation. In some studies, surnames have had little effect on behaviors, whereas in other research, the results have displayed potentially discriminatory results.

By definition, surname discrimination is a condition where individuals with the same economic or cognitive characteristics receive higher wages, evaluations or opportunities, and whose differences are systematically correlated with the surname of an individual (Jurajda & Munich, 2007; Arai & Thoursie, 2006; Wood et al., 1993). Based on the above research, there are differing opinions of the impacts of surnames on various labor markets. This alone helps justify the need to more fully explore the causes, dynamics and overall existence of this phenomenon. However, this need is further compounded when applied to a high contextual Confucianistic society, as found in Korea, where there is a continuing drive to modernize governmental regulations and the labor markets to better ensure fair and transparent HR practices (Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor, 2010).

To accomplish these goals, researchers have tried to better define the scope of surname discrimination by applying it to an entire spectrum of studies using surnames to estimate or justify wages, identify work productivity and trustworthiness and even show the impact on the tenure of university professors (Ahmed, 2010; Frandsen & Nicolansen, 2010; Efthyvoulou, 2008; van Pragg and van Pragg, 2007; Einav & Yaviv, 2006; Aria &Thoursie, 2006; Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004; Gordon et al., 1974, Zuckerman, 1968;). The research results have been less than conclusive, but many studies have determined that surnames can have some degree of influence. As it relates to the current study, this research will be conducted with the goal of identifying the existence of surname discrimination in the context of Korean university professor employment, quantifying the impact of surname initials on academic employability and providing some explanation of the results by statistically analyzing data from four top Korean universities.

This study will contribute to the overall body of knowledge by covering surname discrimination from a university context and assist in supporting the impact of surname initials as related to academic authorship on professor employment. In addition to further fleshing out the existence and role of surname discrimination in Korea, the findings can also help university and governmental policy makers validate their efforts in the modernization of fair and equitable HR practices. Additionally, unlike the current research, no past studies have examined the surname discrimination phenomenon from a cultural standpoint, especially as it relates to Confucianism-based cultures, as culture may infer significant reasons for any surname discriminatory tendencies identified. Lastly, no other studies have been conducted involving Asian countries, and especially none that have cultures that are highly Confucianistic, such as Korea. By closely investigating the effects, these gaps in the literature should be more thoroughly covered.

Organized into four sections, this paper begins by identifying theories related to surname discrimination. The following section relates to data collection, hypotheses, and the statistical approach used by the researchers. The collected data is then subjected to a comprehensive analysis to explain the results and implications. …

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