What is inhwa?

Historically, ancient Korean dynasties adopted an extreme form of Confucianism, introduced by the Chinese around 108 BC, to control citizens and safeguard the government by discouraging individual thinking or acting. The Choson dynasty later formally introduced a class system and officially prescribed etiquette kingdom-wide. These mandated manners are the foundation of a circumstantial morality system. Only those citizens that followed the conduct prescribed by the Confucian government were regarded as morally upright and proper, while those neglecting to do so were regarded as immoral and socially sanctioned.

Korea is widely regarded as the most Confucian nation worldwide, an important factor when considering engaging or interacting with the Korean business world. A hierarchical structure is deeply rooted in Korea’s authoritarian and militant history. Today, Koreans still relate to each other in a class system guided and defined by particular etiquettes and customs.

When engaging with Korean people in a business context (e.g. a business venture), understanding and respecting local custom and cultural norms is directly correlated to that venture’s success.

In order to establish a positive relationship, Korean culture demands the maintenance of stable environment of kibun, which can roughly be described in terms of pride, face, mood, or state of mind. Disturbing others’ kibun, by disregarding social hierarchy, giving negative feedback, displaying emotions or openly criticising someone is considered extremely impolite, as it disrupts the harmony between people. Koreans are willing to go to great lengths to maintain their and others’ kibun. This conditional cultural reflex can have detrimental effects on business ventures, as negative information may be withheld or softened for the sake of maintaining inhwa and not disturbing the other party’s kibun. Furthermore, a violation of a business partner’s or one’s own kibun might make the development or sustaining of positive, long-lasting relationships impossible and could potentially be very costly to the business.

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Market Research + Political Risk

Many factors influence businesses but few pose as great a risk as political risk. Understanding and forecasting the political landscape and its risks should be an essential part of every business’ operations. Market Research enables management and decision makers to make informed decisions, identify opportunities and, importantly, mitigate risks.

Staying informed on political risk factors influencing and impacting your company is very time consuming. Market research streamlines this process by providing your business with insights tailored to your needs.

As political agendas are driven by market forces and informed by market research themselves, market research will give companies the most accurate and robust future prognosis.

This is an overview of major political trends, likely to affect a range of different industries.

In 2017, a number of issues have fractured the Australian political landscape, but not limited to: citizenship scandals; energy and climate crises; the continuous asylum seeker debate; increasing conflicts between moderates and conservatives; and the list goes on. These have weakened not only, the Labor Party but also the coalition and have ultimately affected the security of Malcom Turnbull’s leadership.

Energy and climate

The hope of a “lasting energy framework” after Alan Finkel’s investigation into the security and reliability of the electricity market was disappointing. Finkel’s “Blueprint for the Future”, outlined an action plan to repair the Australian electricity market by introducing a Clean Energy Target, to conform to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. This was starkly opposed by coal advocates and argued that 42% of renewable energy by 2030 was too ambitious and would put service reliability at risk. The Greens also criticised the Blueprint as a “short-term political fix”.

The government now supports the new proposal of a National Energy Guarantee (NEG), proposed by the Energy Security Board. The NEG recommends a reliability guarantee and an emissions guarantee.

The new proposal has already been criticised for renewables’ incentives being revoked and for the lack of penalties for corporate non-compliance. The details of this plan will be released in April 2018. It remains to be seen if the new proposal will withstand the challenges from different interest groups.

Asylum seekers

The decommissioning of offshore detention centres on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea and Nauru, as well as the forceful removal of the remaining asylum seekers has provoked global condemnation and affected our relationships with the rest of the world. However, the offshore asylum seeker processing topic remained one of few where the coalition was united under Turnbull.

Liberals’ ideological issues

The global phenomenon of a continuous split in the political right is very tangible in Australia. With Tony Abbot seeking to position himself as the new voice of a Liberal conservative Australia, in direct challenge to Turnbull’s leadership.

Tumultuous leadership

Last year was marked by an increasingly rebellious Coalition, with backbenchers openly defying Turnbull’s authority. An example of this breakdown saw Senator Bernadi openly defecting from the Liberals and establishing his own, the Australian Conservative Party.

With growing pressure from his own ranks, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation inspired the Nationals to publicly challenge the Turnbull government, forcing a Royal Commission into the banking sector against the Prime Minister’s will.

Things got a little heated when Turnbull recently and openly critiqued former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce for his relationship with a former employee. The following resignation by Joyce might just place more strain on a fragile Coalition relationship.

The Australian Labor Party

Whilst Labor’s strategy of “sit[ting} back and watch[ing] the Coalition self-implode” saw the party in front of the Coalition in two-party polls, Bill Shorten still personally ranked behind the Prime Minister in a two-party preferred polls.

Section 44 – “The Citizenship Debacle”

2017 saw a record number of parliamentary resignations owing to a new interpretation of Section 44, which raised questions over constitutional ineligibility of parliamentary membership due to citizenship requirements. The High Court found five MPs constitutionally ineligible, followed by two members of the government’s ministry, the Senate President and finally two cross-bench Senators. This issue of eligibility is largely unresolved, as additional referrals to the High Court have already been lodged and will roll into 2018.

Aboriginal matters

Parliamentary eligibility issues will continue to dominate Aboriginal recognition matters. The rejection of the establishment of a First Nation’s Voice, recommended by the Referendum Council, was appointed to advise on meaningful recognition of First Nation peoples on civil rights grounds.  Any progress on the recognition issue is unlikely, as no goodwill remains between stakeholder groups and the government.

Same sex marriage

In 2017 Australia became the 26th country to legalise same sex marriage, following a 61.6% vote in favour. The postal survey was conducted despite harsh critique on the plebiscite strategy, for its non-binding nature, exclusion of oversea voters, security concerns, the constitutional eligibility of the ABS to conduct a plebiscite and the government’s justification to spend AUD$122 million of taxpayer money to conduct it. Despite the overwhelming vote in favour, the matter still seems unresolved, as the balance of marriage equality and religious protection remains highly debatable.

Risk Management and Market Research

Considering the volatility of the past year, the political future seems hard to predict. Major new policies seem unlikely in the near future, though past issues seem likely to continue well into 2018.

When seeking to establish an effective risk management plan, success is highly dependent upon the identifying relevant risk factors. Market research can identify firm- and country-specific risks and distinguish between instability and/or government risk, helping you determine relevant threats effectively.

This is particularly important, as the nature of risk varies from firm to firm and is dependent on different exposures. As companies are rarely able to influence country-specific risk or even governmental risk factors, such as subtle policy changes, these can pose a great threat to businesses. Hence, it is of utmost importance to identify and effectively manage these risks. Market research can provide those insights needed to make relevant risk mitigation and management decisions, so that operations and financial performance can be better safeguarded going in to the future.

Sources: Committee for Economic Development of AustraliaInternational Risk Management InstituteStable Research.

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