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Self-initiated expatriate adjustment: South Korean workers in Vietnam

Seok-Young Oh (Education, Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)
Kyoungjin Jang (Education, Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 December 2020

Issue publication date: 18 January 2021




The purpose of this study is to identify how young South Korean self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) have adjusted to their work and to verify the role of workplace learning activities as work adjustment processes in the relationship between work adjustment resources and outcomes.


The study adopted a mixed-method approach, beginning with a qualitative study, followed by a quantitative study.


The main findings of the qualitative study indicated two types of SIE personal characteristics (ability to embrace cultural differences and entrepreneurship), their participation in training programs and that a supportive work environment which facilitates their work adjustment. Workplace learning, which led to role clarification within their organizations, is also critical for adjustment. Based on these findings, the quantitative research study examined the effects of personal and contextual factors on workplace learning and adjustment (n = 120). The quantitative part of the study found cultural intelligence (CQ), entrepreneurship, training programs and supportive environments were positively related to sociocultural adjustment through the work adjustment process.

Research limitations/implications

As work adjustment is an important predictor of increased sociocultural adjustment among SIEs, organizations should build learning-supportive climates to promote workplace learning and seek people with appropriate characteristics for expatriation. Further studies should expand participant sample sizes to represent a wider population of SIEs.


Extant literature on SIEs mainly explored their performance and management. This study explores their adjustment processes through the perspective of workplace learning.



This study was supported by the Yonsei University Research Grant of 2020.


Oh, S.-Y. and Jang, K. (2021), "Self-initiated expatriate adjustment: South Korean workers in Vietnam", Career Development International, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 16-43.



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