Revisiting foreign market entry motivations: the case of Korean commercial banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study examines what motivates firms to go and remain abroad despite uncertain profit potential. In a departure from probing traditional market-seeking, profit-driven motives, the authors explore how domestically driven, sociocultural motivations may shape the foreign market entry decisions of Korean commercial banks (KCBs). The authors argue that, due to the power imbalance between KCBs and their chaebol clients within the historical and cultural contexts of their relationships, KCBs' foreign market entries may depend more on their clients' presence in these markets than on their profit potential. Design/methodology/approach: The authors focus on the foreign market entries of KCBs and their client firms. Using the data of 8 KCBs and their client firms belonging to the 60 business groups (chaebols) of Korea, the authors analyze 6,577 observations involving the dyadic relationship between a KCB and its client firm in 15 host countries from 2005 to 2014. Findings: The authors find that the number of clients' subsidiaries operating in foreign markets may increase the likelihood of KCBs entering these markets. Moreover, when KCBs earn more domestic profit from client firms, the potential Korean market in the host country is greater, and the institutional distance between the host country and Korea is smaller. Practical implications: In addition to the critical role of a bank-centered financing system in advancing a developing country and its firms, the authors’ findings suggest that firms should pay attention to the local diaspora and the institutional distance between the host and home countries in order to manage power-imbalanced relationships and make them sustainable. Originality/value: The study contributes to the literature on foreign market entry by demonstrating how the home country's sociocultural factors may worsen the power imbalance, thereby pushing firms to make seemingly irrational decisions to go and stay abroad. That is, KCBs' foreign operations may be a way of seeking relational benefits with client firms, which would serve as a source of long-term domestic market profits. The authors’ findings thus highlight the need to consider how sociocultural factors may also shape firms' decision-making in their international business.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-790
Number of pages31
JournalCross Cultural and Strategic Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


  • Foreign market entry
  • Institutional distance
  • Korean commercial bank
  • Power imbalance

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