A mixed-methods study on employees’ perception of Kkondaes in the South Korean education sector

  • Hae Jin Jang

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


    Kkondaes are condescending individuals who expect others to adhere to their opinions. In this study, Kkondaes' behaviour represents a stigmatised attitude that varies along a continuum, which can be more pronounced in certain individuals. Many previous studies have found that Kkondaes demotivate people around them and intervene in the harmonious working environment in South Korea. Fortunately, because of a range of economic and social changes, the spotlight has been shone on the workplace behaviours of Kkondaes. These changes brought opportunities for employees and organisations to acknowledge the behaviours of Kkondaes and the issues around them. However, despite many societal attempts to reduce the impact of Kkondaes’ behaviour, people with Kkondae tendencies are still prevalent in Korean society. This may be due to the fact that the Korean educational sector exhibits a high-power distance orientation with a significant power imbalance. These circumstances create extreme inequality of power distribution, leading to improper work allocations or unfair work instructions for contracted employees, non-tenure teachers and inexperienced full-time teachers. Nevertheless, limited research is done to explain what (if any) role power distance plays in moderating the relationship between Kkondaes and outcomes (i.e., job satisfaction and work stress). Given a scarcity of conceptual understanding of Kkondaes, a mixed-method study was conducted to explore individuals’ experiences of Kkondaes and their behaviour. Hofstede’s Power Distance Theory was utilised as the overarching theory for both Study 1 & 2, and the Generation Cohort Theory as a necessary steppingstone to support Hofstede’s Power Distance Theory. Study 1 explored participants' experiences of Kkondaes and their behaviour in the South Korean educational field through an interview with different generational cohorts using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA): Generation X (born 1965 to 1979), Generation Y (born 1980 to 1994), and Generation Z (born 1995 to 2009). The findings of Study 1 indicate that individuals who embrace a high power distance ideology generally have more positive experiences with Kkondaes as they were more accepting of following those with power than individuals with lower power distance orientation. The interesting findings in Study 1 have given reasoning to conduct following Study 2, which focuses more on the moderating role of power distance. Consequently, Study 2 examined how power distance as a moderator influenced the relationship between Kkondaes and outcome (i.e., job satisfaction and work stress). Study 2 also demonstrated that participants with higher power distance orientation were more tolerant of Kkondaes’ behaviour compared to participants with lower power distance orientation. As a result, both studies provided significant evidence of the importance of power distance (i.e., Study 1) and its moderating effect concerning the Kkondaes and outcomes (i.e., Study 2). In conclusion, organisations and leaders should acknowledge the importance of promoting a workplace that embraces a lower power distance culture to mitigate the adverse effects of Kkondae behaviours on employees.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJennifer M.I. Loh (Supervisor) & Sarvjeet Kaur Chatrath (Supervisor)

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