Emotional Intelligence: Korean Nunchi across Borders and Identities in Multinational Corporations and the Private Sphere in the Twenty- First Century

Steffen Kromer

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This research takes a case study of a particular population, German businesspeople working in German multinational corporations (MNCs) in Seoul, and examines nunchi (emotional intelligence), an important non –Western organizational phenomenon, and the role of symbols of identity in the recontextualisation process of adopting nunchi into strategic self-presentations. Firstly, I will briefly give the background of my study, first defining and exploring concepts relating to identity and nunchi, working across borders and identities and the way in which identity is expressed, to set the stage for later examination. In particular, I will examine the function of performative identity and presentation of self in everyday life (Goffman 1956) models for analysing identity in transnational settings.
This study concentrates on the connections between nunchi and identity of German transnational businesspeople, which is eventually enriched by Hochschild’s (1983) depiction of emotion work and Brannen’s (2004) theory of recontextualisation. One of the key contributions is the introduction and vitalisation of the non-Western concept of nunchi, which loosely translates to emotional intelligence in international business studies.
This study is based on approximately 145 hours of interviews of 27 formal and 31 informal interviews, which were undertaken between Feburary 2014 and March 2015. Follow up interviews were conducted between July 2015 and November 2015.
This study will consequently be a unique source for both scholars and practitioners, as its ethnographic approach provides enlightening new insights contributing towards an improved understanding of nunchi and identities in MNCs. In contributing a challenge to peculiar perspectives by taking a non-Western concept and exploring its relevance, this study is unique in its findings. The findings imply that nunchi is not a fixed object but a strategic tool, which allows transnational businesspeople to promote their individual, drives, which leads on to new forms of self-presentation tailored to transnational business. This thesis is therefore based on an ethnographic study, which stresses the complexion and complexity of nunchi and identity in transnational business settings.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Moore, Fiona, Supervisor
  • Lam, Alice, Advisor
Award date1 May 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017

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