Is the Senpai–Kouhai relationship common across China, Korea, and Japan?

Nan Qie1, Pei-Luen Patrick Rau1, Lin Wang2, Liang Ma1
1Department of Industrial Engineering, Tsinghua University, People’s Republic of China
2Department of Library and Information Science, Incheon National University, Republic of Korea
Cite this article:  Qie, N., Rau, P.-L. P., Wang, L., & Ma, L. (2019). Is the Senpai–Kouhai relationship common across China, Korea, and Japan? Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 47(1), e7404.

Volume 47 Issue 1 | e7404 | Published: January 2019 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.7404

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The Senpai–Kouhai relationship is a special senior–junior peer relationship in Japan. We conducted an exploratory survey of 311 Chinese, 266 Korean, and 275 Japanese participants to investigate whether or not this relationship exists in the 2 other cultures. We identified 4 factors through factor analysis to describe the Senpai–Kouhai relationship, namely, trust, supporting, hierarchy, and verbal etiquette. The survey results confirmed the presence of the Senpai–Kouhai relationship in China, where the supporting factor was most emphasized, and in Korea, where trust and verbal etiquette were the most important factors. In Japan, the core of the Senpai–Kouhai relationship was hierarchy. The results can be explained using cross-cultural theory and social exchange perspectives. Theoretical and practical implications for cross-cultural management of international institutions are discussed.

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