Article | Administrative Science Quarterly | December 2007

Contingent Political Capital and International Alliances: Evidence from South Korea

by Jordan I. Siegel

Abstract

Though prior research has suggested that a company's ties to political networks have only a positive value or no value, this study examines whether political network ties can also be a significant liability for companies. Analyzing South Korea as a representative emerging economy, I find that being tied through elite sociopolitical networks to the regime in power significantly increased the rate at which South Korean companies formed cross-border strategic alliances, but also that being tied through elite sociopolitical networks to the political enemies of the regime in power significantly decreased that rate. Results show that an unexpected change in political regime could quickly change a political liability into an asset and that network ties continued to be important determinants of cross-border alliance activity as South Korea proceeded with liberalization. The present study sheds further light on the so-called dark side of embeddedness by focusing on who is negatively targeted by having the "wrong friends" at the wrong time. Just as positive ties can lead to favor exchange and other benefits for companies, negative ties can lead companies to be the victims of discrimination, resource exclusion, and even occasional expropriation and sabotage between rival sociopolitical networks.

Keywords: political networks; sociopolitical networks; Government and Politics; Capital; Alliances; South Korea;

Citation:

Siegel, Jordan I. "Contingent Political Capital and International Alliances: Evidence from South Korea." Administrative Science Quarterly 52, no. 4 (December 2007): 621 – 666. (Though prior research has suggested that a company's ties to political networks have only a positive value or no value, this study examines whether political network ties can also be a significant liability for companies. Analyzing South Korea as a representative emerging economy, I find that being tied through elite sociopolitical networks to the regime in power significantly increased the rate at which South Korean companies formed cross-border strategic alliances, but also that being tied through elite sociopolitical networks to the political enemies of the regime in power significantly decreased that rate. Results show that an unexpected change in political regime could quickly change a political liability into an asset and that network ties continued to be important determinants of cross-border alliance activity as South Korea proceeded with liberalization. The present study sheds further light on the so-called dark side of embeddedness by focusing on who is negatively targeted by having the "wrong friends" at the wrong time. Just as positive ties can lead to favor exchange and other benefits for companies, negative ties can lead companies to be the victims of discrimination, resource exclusion, and even occasional expropriation and sabotage between rival sociopolitical networks.)