Sunghoon Kim, PhD, Conducts Research in China
Sunghoon does a comparative analysis on subsidiaries based in China
Over the Summer 2006, I conducted a field study in China, which was supported by ILR international experience grant. The field work was a preliminary study for my dissertation that examines the work systems of foreign companies in People's Republic of China. I traveled seven industrialized cities such Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Hanzhou, Huizhou, Tianjin and Beijing and interviewed 40 individuals in companies, governmental agencies and research institutes.
To make the field work successful, I had to do good job on two important things. One was to acquire permission from my interviewees, and the second was to figure out the right transportation to the factory. To increase the likelihood of getting permission, I relied on the "known sponsor approach." Whenever possible, I used the legitimacy and credibility of another person to establish the legitimacy of myself. I realized that Cornell ILR alumni networks were very helpful for this. Many multinational companies have ILR graduates in their HR offices, and they were willing to provide support for my research. Once I got to know an HR manager in a company, he/she introduced me more people to meet in China.
The most exciting part of my field work was transportation systems in China. To meet people in their workplaces, I used all kinds of vehicles from domestic airplane to bicycle taxi. Depending on the type of transportation, I could meet Chinese people of different social status. For example, when I took a train with 'soft seat', I could chat with Chinese who was on their vacation, while I took a train with 'hard seat', I sat with a peasant who was going to sell agricultural products for daily living. Some transportation seemed to very dangerous in the eyes of foreigner. I once had to take a motorized bicycle taxi to catch my train. The driver took me to train station in just several minutes, ignoring street lanes and traffic lights. I felt that I was in the action movie.
Over the summer's trip, I was quite impressed by the dynamism of the nation. It seemed that all Chinese cities are under construction. People I met at their workplaces and streets were very optimistic about China's future. Although obvious typos made me laugh sometimes, Chinese firms were demonstrating their aspiration to be world leading companies by using English in their street advertisements. I came to believe that China will soon become one of the 'central' nations in the world as their own country name stands for.
- Sunghoon Kim