Not all expatriates are the same: non-traditional South Korean expatriates in China

Haiying Kang, Jie Shen, John Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Non-traditional expatriates, those expatriates whose assignments tend to be shorter, involve specialist work and often do not involve families relocating, have not been the subject of sustained research. What we do know about this group of expatriates has been mainly derived from research on Western multinational enterprises (MNEs). The current study explores the trend towards, and the management of, these non-traditional expatriates in South Korean MNEs operating in China. Using a qualitative case study approach involving in-depth, semi-structured interviews with expatriates and local managers, this study reveals that the use of non-traditional expatriates has been on rise in the sample MNEs and that they undertake similar roles to the long-term expatriates including control, problem-solving, management development and knowledge transfer. This shift towards non-traditional expatriation has been brought about by the decreased need for long-term assignments and the desire to gain more organizational flexibility. We conclude that such changes represent a strategic response to the longer term issues surrounding traditional expatriates such as family, career and expatriate failure. Such a shift is not without problems as the research found that there was a lack of formal recruitment and selection processes and that training for non-traditional expatriates was limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1842-1865
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2017


  • China
  • expatriate
  • non-traditional expatriate
  • short-term expatriate
  • South Korean MNEs

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