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Exploratory Study on the Applicability of the Public Service Motivation Concept to South Korea

Park, Jungho (2013) Exploratory Study on the Applicability of the Public Service Motivation Concept to South Korea. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Recently, a group of scholars has explored the possible variations in public service motivation (PSM) according to sociocultural context. Despite the theoretical consensus on the interplay between social conditions and PSM, we still lack empirical research on how PSM can be applied to distinctive sociocultural contexts across the world. Bearing these points in mind, this research examines whether the concept of PSM can be applied to South Korea. Specifically, this study examines various motivational grounds for public service manifested in occupational meanings, whether the identified dimensions can be integrated into the concept of PSM, and how such motivational characteristics can be considered as particular dimensions of PSM in South Korea. In addition, various antecedents of PSM suggested in previous literature are reexamined.
Due to the nature of these research questions, this study used a mixed-methods approach to explore whether, and in what ways, PSM could be applied to South Korean society. The two methods used were personal interviews using the grounded-theory approach, and survey data analysis, by means of structural equation modeling (i.e., measurement models) and hierarchical regression analysis.
The overall findings of this study about Korean society supported the core of the conceptual definition of PSM. However, they also provided evidence that PSM can have distinctive dimensions and different combinations of dimensions as a manifestation of social contexts (i.e., Confucian legacy, administrative tradition, shared perception of the desirable role of public servants and government). In particular, a critical aspect of Korean respondents’ motivation for public service was based on their personal interests and on their need to have a certain level of “influence” on other people and on the society, in an attempt to “contribute to the development” of social progress. These empirical results revealed variability of rational and normative aspects of PSM in the Korean contexts; however, the affective aspects – self-sacrifice and compassion— could be applied across the board. With regard to the antecedents of PSM, the role of institutionalization in organizational settings (e.g., formation of social identity, value socialization) provided evidence in support of the previously suggested theoretical arguments.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Park, Jungho
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBan, Carolyncban@pitt.eduCBAN
Committee MemberCoontz, Phyllis PCOONTZ
Committee MemberLeana, Carrie R.leana@katz.pitt.eduLEANA
Committee MemberDougherty, George W. gwdjr@pitt.eduGWDJR
Committee MemberKim, Kevin H. khkim@pitt.eduKHKIM
Date: 26 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 February 2013
Approval Date: 26 June 2013
Submission Date: 10 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 265
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: public service motivation, PSM, South Korea, grounded theory, structural equation modeling, SEM, mixed method
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2013 19:47
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:11


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