Generation X: Americans and Koreans Evaluate the

Importance of Education and Occupation

 

Gregory Turner, College of Charleston

Mark Mitchell, Univ. of South Carolina Spartanburg

Barbara Hastings, Univ. of South Carolina Spartanburg
Sheila Mitchell, Univ. of South Carolina Spartanburg

 

 

ABSTRACT

 

  Cultural convergence continues to transform the marketplace as borrowing among cultures accelerates.  It is valuable to evaluate groups of residents of different nations to identify generational similarities and/or differences.  This work presents the results of a pilot study comparing Generation X in the United States and South Koreans who fit the age requirements for membership (borne between 1961-1981).  The focal points for the study include: education, occupation, and financial wealth. The areas of agreement and disagreement are identified, results interpreted, and implications for marketers explored.

 

INTRODUCTION

               Much has been written about Generation X and the challenges they present.  Analysis of previous research, the bulk of which appears piece-meal in general business and trade publications, reveals some alarming contradictions (Mitchell and Orwig 1998).  Marketers find this consumer group to be highly individualistic and diverse -- ethnically, culturally, and attitudinally (Ritchie 1995). 

               Cultural convergence continues to occur throughout the world as technological advances makes physical distances easier to span and cross-cultural norms more quickly diffused (Czinkota and Ronkainan 1998).  Indeed, telecommunications technology, broadcast technology, inexpensive long-distance travel, and other innovations make cultural borrowing more likely.  Given the continued globalization of markets, the convergence of cultures, the speed of communications and diffusion of consumerism throughout the world, it is of value to compare generations of Americans with their counterparts from other nations.

Since the early 1950s, the U.S. and South Korea have been inextricably linked, thanks to the Korean War.  (Such a statement may be valid of the relationship between the U.S. and communist North Korea.)   The U.S. has maintained a military presence in Korea (approximately 50,000 strong) to ensure peace in the region.  As such, American young people have (knowingly or unknowingly) helped to diffuse the American culture throughout the region.  Further, many Korean students elect to study in the United States, particularly at the graduate level.  These two factors, along with technological advances and the ease of inter-continental travel, have made cultural borrowing between the two nations more likely.

The Pacific Rim contains 56% of the world's population.  Further, the region accounted for approximately 33% of global income in 1997.  Newly industrialized economies such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are expected to continue their histories of strong economic growth fueled by foreign investment and export-driven industrial development (Keegan and Green 2000).  For this reason, an examination of possible generational similarities/differences between these two cultures is particularly timely.

               The purpose of this work is to present a pilot study of the generational similarities and differences between the American generation known as “Generation X” and South Koreans who fit the age profile for group membership.  Three areas of focus are presented: (1) Education, (2) Occupation, (3) Financial Wealth.  First, background on Generation X in the United States is presented.  Second, South Korean culture is examined to determine the probable similarities and differences in the cultures of these two nations.  Third, the study methodology is presented.  Finally, the results are presented and interpreted. 

 

UNDERSTANDING GENERATION X IN THE UNITED STATES

               Coming on the heels of the well-known Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964), Generation X represents over 50 million Americans born between 1965 and 1978 (Jones 1980).  Some demographers contend this period should be expanded to include 1961-1981 in order to encompass those with similar life experiences (Strauss and Howe 1991).  When using this classification system, we realize that Xers outnumber the Baby Boomers, and have done so since 1980 (Ritchie 1995).

               Generation X, borrowing the name from the title of the 1991 Douglas Coupland novel (1991), has been witness to, participants in, and the result of, a great deal of change within American society.  Xers grew up during the era of the Pill and legalized abortion, liberalized divorce, and the influx of women into the labor force.  Further, they came of age during a period of increasing diversity and the blurring of gender roles (Dunn 1992).

               This generation, the thirteenth generation since the founding of the republic (Ratan 1993), is the first generation to grow up with VCRs and video games.  Xers are very technologically savvy, having experienced the integration of personal computers into the school systems, the advent of home computing (Ratan 1993), and the growth of interactive media (Ritchie 1995).  This is the first generation to extensively experience a dual-income household (with all the advantages and disadvantages thereof).  They learned independence at day-care so they're used to being on their own.  Finally, they are more comfortable with women and minorities in leadership roles since most of their mothers worked outside the home (Murphy 1991) and they themselves are so racially diverse.

               This is the best-educated generation in United States history (as evidenced by college and university enrollments).  In fact, the enrollment of high school graduates into higher education continues to hit record numbers, a trend initiated in 1980 (the beginning year of Xer graduations) (Ritchie 1995).  Xers seem to be pursuing education for pragmatic marketplace returns rather than the intrinsic value of education.

               Resentment and rebellion are two words commonly associated with Generation X.  Busters resent being saddled with (what they believe to be) the outcomes of irresponsible behaviors by previous generations: a cumbersome national debt; America's declining global competitiveness; environmental issues; racial strife; homelessness; AIDS; and divided families (Richardson and Sago 1993).  

               Further, many Busters believe that Baby Boomers are "getting a much better deal" than their generation will receive.  This well-educated group enters the workforce at a time of great downsizing of traditional entry-level positions and limited promotional avenues for their skills (unlike generations before them).  Some analysts (particularly Baby Boomers) believe Generation X may be the first group in U.S. history unable to achieve a higher standard of living than their parents (Miller 1992).  As such, there is resentment of having opportunity seized from their grasp.

               Generation X grew up during a relatively peaceful era in U.S. history.  Their strongest impressions are of family, friends, and school.  The lack of a unifying event (such as the military actions of WWII, Korea, or Vietnam) may have stymied their evolution into a relatively homogeneous group (Richardson and Sago 1993).  Frustrated by bleak economic and career prospects, Xers have spurred a rebellion of sorts with today's workplace providing the "battleground" and Boomer managers and co-workers as the targets of their hostilities (Ratan 1993).  It is interesting to note that Fortune ran a cover story in October 1993 titled, "Generational Tension in the Office: Why Busters Hate Boomers" (Ratan 1993).

               The outgrowth of this resentment and rebellion is a rather pragmatic approach to life among Xers.  Many Xers view their role as the renovators of the American dream and values (Time 1990).  They reject accumulation of material possessions in favor of the accumulation of experiences and other intangibles -- a rich family or spiritual life, a rewarding job, the chance to assist others, and the opportunity for intellectual enrichment (Richardson and Sago 1993).  One's work is viewed as a vehicle to provide for leisure, family, lifestyle, or experiential learning (Deutschman 1992).

               Beaudoin (1998) argues that Generation Xers are serious spiritual seekers, and their popular culture proves it.  The author points out four underlying themes to the theology of this generation:

1.      All institutions are suspect – especially organized religion. As such, many in this generation have taken religion into their own hands and away from the structured institutions.

2.      Xers want to experience everything.  And, any experience may have a spiritual nature, not just those of organized religion.

3.      Suffering is a spiritual occurrence, akin to the images of a suffering Jesus.

4.      This generation embraces doubt.  Arguably, faith is about a lack of doubt in teachings.  As such, an inherent conflict is created between many Xers and organized religion and faiths.

 

In Reckless Hope, Hahn and Verhaagen (1996) argue that Xers are highly spiritual, while simultaneously highly skeptical.  In fact, Hutchcraft (1996) goes so far as to proclaim “they are spiritual seekers” as a defining statement of the X Generation.

               The more senior members of Generation X are about to enter their primary earning years.  They continue to seek leadership roles within society and an increased role in the political process, possibly as a surrogate for the perceived lack of opportunity within the workplace (Muchnick 1996).  Like generations before them, the contributions of Generation X will become more evident in the decades that follow.  It is their pragmatic approach to life and the refocusing of their value system that may, in fact, turn out to be their strongest asset.

 

 

UNDERSTANDING SOUTH KOREAN CULTURE

 

South Korea is known as one of the flying tigers of Asia for its accelerated economic development.  With a current population of approximately 46 million, South Korea has a long and storied past.  The Korean culture is very old.  Even though a major external influence was China—Chinese conquests of Korea began in 108 B.C.E. and continued intermittently until the 19th Century—Korea has adapted the language, religion, arts and social systems to meet its own particular needs.  The Korean language has borrowed its root characters from Chinese, its grammar shares with Japanese, yet the intonation is Korean. The Korean alphabet was established in 1446.  Buddhism from China was the dominant religion until French Roman Catholic missionaries introduced Christianity in 1784.  Other religious groups entered when Korea made alliances with the United States in 1882. 

The Twentieth Century has been one of upheaval and additional external intervention for Korea.  In 1910, Japan annexed the country as the result of its victories in Manchuria in its war with Russia in 1905.  The Japanese so controlled the country that in reaction to nonviolent protests, almost all signs and symbols of Korean culture or society were suppressed.  It was illegal to use the Korean language and Korean family names in public.  When Russia and the U.S. entered WWII as allies, the country was divided between them at the 38th parallel.  This action sealed the destiny for each half of the country.  In 1950, they took different paths by aligning with the political systems of their respective controlling country.  The resulting hostilities, which also involved UN forces from 19 nations and many Chinese troops, have yet to be completely resolved.

South Koreans have been much influenced by their Western allies, while retaining many vestiges of their heritage and culture.  Korea is one of the world’s most homogeneous and densely populated countries.  About 70% of the population lives in its urban areas.  This is due largely to the fact that, compared to North Korea, the land provides little in the way of flat surfaces for farming.  The establishment of an industrial economy in the 1960s and 70s provided many with the opportunity to earn more than a subsistence living. Religious affiliations among Koreans are as follows:  Buddhists – 13 million, Confucian – 7 million, Christian – 11 million, Ch’ondokyo – 3 million, and the remainder either no religious affiliation or a tie to Shamanism or other types of village affiliation.  The rate of literacy is 95%.  There are 500 institutions of higher education in the country. 

Although about one-half of the population follows eastern religions, the Confucian philosophy is particularly strong.  Confucianism subscribes to three truths: good conduct, practical wisdom, and proper social relationships.  Its guiding virtues are love, goodness, humanity, righteousness, propriety, integrity, and filial piety.  The golden rule is much like the one of Christian dogma.  This religion allows for activities which would be discouraged in Buddhism: pursuit of success, accumulation of wealth, and engagement in commerce. For a true Buddhist, the accumulation of knowledge for any other purpose than to seek enlightenment and to teach is discouraged.  For one who follows the Confucian dogma, knowledge to be used appropriately is encouraged. 

For the Generation Xers of South Korea, things are very positive.  This generation, like its American counter parts, has never known war or want.  It has seen the positive face of Japan and the emergence of a more agreeable China.  While relations with North Korea have been touchy; the greatest difficulty presented has been the immigration of thousands of North Koreans fleeing suppression and famine.  The country has experienced a sustained period of economic growth and prosperity, even though there are current signs of problems with currencies and exports.  The government has been stable for the recent past.  The standard of living has never been higher.  Western and high tech goods are readily available and can be purchased by members of the upwardly mobile middle and upper class.  The biggest shortage is housing but many of the farmers moving to the cities are not used to having much.  For the middle and upper class members, having housing is increasingly important.  However only about 40% of metropolitan Koreans own their own houses. 

For many South Koreans, the obligation to care for elderly parents is weaker than in the past.  Parents’ wishes are considered but in cases such as marriages, Xers make their own decisions unless there are serious concerns from parents.  There is no comprehensive social insurance but increasingly large corporations are providing some benefits.  The opportunity for higher education is great.  While school is compulsory only up to age twelve, both public and private middle and high schools are well attended.  Colleges and universities are located in all metropolitan areas.  The collective wisdom is that the future of the Pacific Rim is very bright.  South Korea shares such an outlook. (The above section draws heavily from (1999) Encyclopedia Britannica On-Line Edition).

 

METHODOLOGY

               This manuscript is part of a comprehensive attitudinal research study of Generation X currently underway throughout the world (but, with its impetus in the United States).  The focal areas for the pilot study reported here include: (1) Education and (2) Occupation.  A self-administered questionnaire was developed in the United States.  It consisted of a series of attitudinal statements such as,

"Your level of education determines your income."

 

A common Likert-scale was used for all questions/variables, namely:

1 = Strongly Disagree

2 = Disagree

3 = Indifferent or Neutral

4 = Agree

5 = Strongly Agree

 

 

Finally, demographic information (age, gender, level of education, and marital status) was included in the instrument to assist in a profiling of respondents.  This pre-tested and refined instrument was administered in the southeastern United States.  Later, the questionnaire was translated to Korean using a translation/de-translation procedure to assure accuracy of translation.  The questionnaire was then administered at a South Korean public university by faculty participating in a University exchange program.   

 

Sample Description

               As noted earlier, different birth year classification systems have been proposed for Generation X in the United States (1964-1978 or 1961-1981).  For this study, respondents were born between 1961 and 1981.   A total of 291 usable responses from the United States were collected.  A total of 194 usable responses from South Korea were collected.  A profile of sample respondents for each group is provided in Table One.

 

TABLE ONE

A PROFILE OF SAMPLE RESPONDENTS

 

 

 

United States

Korea

Total Responses:

 

291 (100%)

194 (100%) 

Gender:

Males

Females

142 (48.8%)

148 (50.9%)

  69 (35.6%)

103 (53.1%)

Average Birth Year of Respondents:           

 

1972-73

1972-73

Ethnicity:

Korean

Caucasian

African American

Asian American

Latin American

Native American

Other

    0 ( 0.0%)

237 (82.0%)

  29 (10.0%)

    8 (  2.7%)

    6 (  2.1%)

    5 (  1.7%)

    2 (  0.7%)

194 (100%)

 

Marital Status:  

Never Married

Married

Divorced

Missing Value

205 (70.4%)

  66 (22.7%)

  20 (  6.9%)

    0

132 (68.0%)

  23 (12.0%)

    0

  39 (20.0%)

Education Completed:

Some High School

High School

Some Technical School

Technical School

Some 2-year College

2-year College

Some 4-year College

4-year College

Some Graduate School 

Graduate School

5 (  1.7%)

33 (11.3%)

13 (  4.5%)

9 (  3.1%)

11 (  3.8%)

17 (  5.8%)

107 (36.8%)

77 (26.5%)

10 (  3.4%)

9 (  3.0%)

7 (  3.6%)

14 (  7.2%)

12 (  6.2%)

25 (12.9%)

13 (  6.7%)

40 (20.6%)

11 (  5.7%)

19 (  9.8%)

2 (  1.0%)

    9 (  3.1%)

                                                             

 

RESEARCH RESULTS

               For each question, means and standard deviations have been computed for both sample groups: Americans (n=291) and South Koreans (n=194).  Comparisons were made between these two nations to assess the degree to which the prevailing attitudes of Generation X in the United States have spread to South Korea.  A series of t-tests (means comparisons) was conducted.  The means, standard deviations, t-values, and levels of significance (p-value) for each variable are presented in Table Two.

 

TABLE TWO

 

A PRESENTATION OF RESEARCH RESULTS

 

Attitudinal Statement

U.S.A.

Mean

U.S.A.

Std. Dev.

Korea

Mean 

Korea

Std. Dev.

Statistical Comparison

Education:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

Education is a life-long process and individual responsibility.

4.548

0.691

3.974

1.109

-7.01 (p=.000)*

Furthering my education will take precedence over starting my family.

3.397

1.341

2.840

1.066

-4.79 (p=.000)*

My current level of education will be adequate to meet my career goals.

2.859

1.291

2.521

1.083

-3.00 (p=.003)*

Your level of education determines your income.

3.591

1.210

3.016

1.175

-5.14 (p=.000)*

A good education is an "insurance policy" against lay-offs and downsizings.

2.876

1.266

3.016

1.221

1.20  (p=.232)

Job-related training (i.e., mechanics, carpenters) and university training should be valued equally by society.

3.572

1.037

4.058

1.014

5.06 (p=.000)*

I expect future employers to provide training I will need to stay current in my job/career.

3.595

1.096

3.532

1.135

-0.60 (p=.551)

Occupation:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

A balance between my personal life and professional life is important to me.

4.536

0.686

4.402

0.712

-2.06 (p=.040)*

My job/career must provide a high level of self-satisfaction.

4.486

0.629

4.215

0.815

-4.11 (p=.000)*

My job/career must provide a high level of social status.

3.144

1.055

3.546

0.834

4.37 (p=.000)*

My job/career must provide high level of income.

3.857

0.859

3.696

0.806

-2.06 (p-.040)*

My job/career must provide a high degree of independence.

4.026

0.773

3.835

0.838

-3.00 (p=.003)*

A company provided comprehensive benefit package will be an important factor in my job/career decision(s).

4.217

0.863

4.051

0.855

-2.03 (p=.043)*

I expect my future employers to provide me a comprehensive benefit package (i.e., health-care, dental, vacations, retirement, and so on).

4.337

0.861

3.915

0.874

-5.10 (p=.000)*

I am willing to relocate outside my current geographic region (such as state or region) in order to realize my professional goals.

3.595

1.284

3.622

1.102

0.24 (p=.813)

Feedback and direction from managers will be important to my success.

4.072

0.874

3.668

0.966

-4.71 (p=.000)*

My generation is more willing to assume risk in order to achieve professional goals than our parents and grandparents. 

3.787

1.097

3.864

0.880

0.80 (p=.421)

My generation possesses an entrepreneurial spirit that is greater than that of our parents and grandparents.

3.385

1.149

3.727

0.909

3.41 (p=.001)*

 

Interpretation of Statistical Comparisons:

 

T-Value and p-value provided.  Let * = Significant at the 0.05 level

 

 

Similarity of Attitudes Between Americans and Koreans

               A series of 18 attitudinal statements have been evaluated comparing Americans and South Koreans who fit the demographic characteristic of Generation X (those born between 1961 and 1981).  Four variables were identified as providing for the greatest level of agreement between the two groups (i.e., no statistical difference between mean responses to the 0.05 level):

 

Attitudinal Statement

U.S.A.

Mean

U.S.A.

Std. Dev.

Korea

Mean 

Korea

Std. Dev.

Statistical Comparison

Education:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

A good education is an "insurance policy" against lay-offs and downsizings.

2.876

1.266

3.016

1.221

1.20  (p=.232)

I expect future employers to provide training I will need to stay current in my job/career.

3.595

1.096

3.532

1.135

-0.60 (p=.551)

Occupation:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

I am willing to relocate outside my current geographic region (such as state or region) in order to realize my professional goals.

3.595

1.284

3.622

1.102

0.24 (p=.813)

My generation is more willing to assume risk in order to achieve professional goals than our parents and grandparents. 

3.787

1.097

3.864

0.880

0.80 (p=.421)

 

 

The optimism of Xers in the United States and South Korea shows in these agreements.  Things have never been better economically in Korea.  Opportunities to be successful, have good things, make a positive impact and improve the community are attitudes the two groups have in common.   The altruistic outlook is modified by the desire to be comfortable and successful.  Both groups have a desire for security and individuality simultaneously.  Establishing a career, even if it requires deferring a family, is very important.  Both groups see an employer as a source of assistance for child and family care responsibilities (Rindfuss and Hirschman 1984). Both groups seem to be caught up in a revival of spiritual values.  While U.S. Xers combine spirituality with some cynicism, Koreans appear to have synthesized their traditional values with established religion much more successfully.  This may be due to their ability to rationalize between traditional religious values as expressed in Confucianism and their membership in Christian, Buddhist and new sect religious groups (Park and Cho 1994). 

 

Areas of Differences in Attitudes - Americans More Strongly Agree

 

               Eleven variables  were identified where U.S. respondents exhibited a stronger level of agreement with the statement than their South Korean counterparts:

 

Attitudinal Statement

U.S.A.

Mean

U.S.A.

Std. Dev.

Korea

Mean 

Korea

Std. Dev.

Statistical Comparison

Education:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

Education is a life-long process and individual responsibility.

4.548

0.691

3.974

1.109

-7.01 (p=.000)*

Furthering my education will take precedence over starting my family.

3.397

1.341

2.840

1.066

-4.79 (p=.000)*

My current level of education will be adequate to meet my career goals.

2.859

1.291

2.521

1.083

-3.00 (p=.003)*

Your level of education determines your income.

3.591

1.210

3.016

1.175

-5.14 (p=.000)*

Occupation:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

A balance between my personal life and professional life is important to me.

4.536

0.686

4.402

0.712

-2.06 (p=.040)*

My job/career must provide a high level of self-satisfaction.

4.486

0.629

4.215

0.815

-4.11 (p=.000)*

My job/career must provide high level of income.

3.857

0.859

3.696

0.806

-2.06 (p-.040)*

My job/career must provide a high degree of independence.

4.026

0.773

3.835

0.838

-3.00 (p=.003)*

A company provided comprehensive benefit package will be an important factor in my job/career decision(s).

4.217

0.863

4.051

0.855

-2.03 (p=.043)*

I expect my future employers to provide me a comprehensive benefit package (i.e., health-care, dental, vacations, retirement, and so on).

4.337

0.861

3.915

0.874

-5.10 (p=.000)*

Feedback and direction from managers will be important to my success.

4.072

0.874

3.668

0.966

-4.71 (p=.000)*

 

The difference in the level of optimism about future economic and financial security between the two groups may be laid at the door of the financial markets.  For the American, the financial markets have been surging since 1987.  Not in recent memory have Americans seen a really sluggish financial situation.  No wonder they are so positive about their ability to invest successfully for the long haul.

Some of the caution on the part of Koreans may be related to the "Asian Contagion" or "Asian Flu" that swept the Pacific Rim in 1997-1998. The savings rate among Koreans is one of the highest in the world, hovering around 35% (Kim 1992).  Having most of one’s eggs in a rickety basket is worrisome.   Even though South Korean banks have rebounded somewhat, the economic situation there is still shaky. Another reason for caution lies in the fact that personal possessions such as a house, furniture, and other household items are very expensive in Korea. Only when these items have been secured, can the average South Korean think about putting aside disposable income for the future. Finally, Korean attitudes about financing retirement are changing slowly.  The tradition of supporting elderly parents is waning—older Koreans are attempting to provide for themselves rather than depending on their children.  But this is difficult.  There is no government-provided retirement system.  If a parent worked the land rather than working in a factory there will be no secure retirement income (Bae and Chung 1997).

 

Areas of Differences in Attitudes - Koreans More Strongly Agree

               Three variables were identified where South Koreans exhibited a stronger level of agreement with the statement than their U.S. counterparts:

 

Attitudinal Statement

U.S.A.

Mean

U.S.A.

Std. Dev.

Korea

Mean 

Korea

Std. Dev.

Statistical Comparison

Education:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

Job-related training (i.e., mechanics, carpenters) and university training should be valued equally by society.

3.572

1.037

4.058

1.014

5.06 (p=.000)*

Occupation:

-----

-----

-----

-----

-----

My job/career must provide a high level of social status.

3.144

1.055

3.546

0.834

4.37 (p=.000)*

My generation possesses an entrepreneurial spirit that is greater than that of our parents and grandparents.

3.385

1.149

3.727

0.909

3.41 (p=.001)*

 

Explaining several of the areas of difference among these items presents a problem.  Looking at the collective versus individual nature of the two groups is one starting point.  Trusting others to make decisions, being guided by group norms, and relying on the driving spirit of the Korean business community are indicative of the

collective, eastern mentality (Kim et. al. 1994).  

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR GLOBAL BUSINESS

 

In an increasing competitive marketplace, global marketers seek to identify groups of homogeneous consumers worldwide and to focus their efforts on these pockets of demand, regardless of location.  It is not the intent of the authors to jump-start the debate of global versus localized marketing/management practices.   Rather, as noted at the outset of this manuscript, an attempt has been made to compare the attitudinal profiles of two populations: Americans and South Koreans fitting the established criteria for membership into Generation X.

The results of this pilot study indicate that there appears to be generational segment in South Korea with somewhat similar tastes, interests, needs and values (attitudes) to their counterparts in the United States.   For the global marketing/management practitioner, these similarities provide excellent opportunities with reasonable risks. This is particularly true for exporters of standardized products/services, messages and management practices as the lessons learned and the economies-of-scale gained in one country can be implemented as a unified strategy elsewhere. 

Although the U.S. Xers take pride in saying that they are not a target market, or they don’t like to be told what is trendy (Stanley 1997), the marketplace successes of brand name image-oriented products such as Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and Doc Martens cannot be denied.   There is no reason to expect that Korean Xers will react differently, especially when the Korean respondents self-reported a greater degree of social conformity in their consumer decision-making.

The indicated areas of differences between the U.S. and South Korean respondents also represent opportunities for the global business/marketer willing to implement regional strategies.  These differences provide excellent tools for segmentation not only between the two countries but also within their respective populations. Successful Western marketers have been using generational membership for some time as segmentation criteria with considerable success.   As noted by Smith and Clurman (1997), "…only by knowing how the motivations of your customers are tied to the underlying values of the generation to which they belong will you be able to tailor your products, services, and communications to their needs, interests, and desires. Applied knowledgeably, that information will provide you with a key competitive advantage.”  This strategy should prove fruitful as the competition for the South Korean consumer intensifies.

Blodgett (1999) and Cole-Gomolski (1999) identified strategies for companies to retain/recruit the highly mobile U.S. Xers, including: on-the-job training, job flexibility, less corporate / more family atmosphere, and community involvement programs.  Given the earlier stated similarities of the two groups, such knowledge could be used to design employee retention programs in South Korea.  

In closing, a note of caution is offered.  The authors are encouraged by the identification of generational similarities between American GenXers and South Koreans who fit the established criteria for membership.   However, it is unknown whether such similarities are transferable to generational comparisons between the United States and South Korea.  Further, it is unknown whether other generational groups in Korea share the views of those represented in this study.  As such, a fruitful area of research may be to measure the differences/similarities of the identified group versus the rest of the population.  Until then, readers are cautioned against the "sin of generational myopia," that is, the assumption that one generation's views are widely held by others within the same society.

 

 


REFERENCES

 

Bae, Kyuhan, and Chung, Chinsung (1997), "Cultural Values and Work Attitudes of Korean Industrial Workers in Comparison with Those of the United States and Japan,"  Work and Occupation, (February), 80-96.

 

Beaudoin, Tom (1998), Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

 

Blodgett, Mindy (1999), "Managing Generation X," IDG.NET, (April 20), 1-6.

 

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