Understanding the Characteristics of the American Ethics in the Worlds of Business and Law

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Kim, Jung-Dong
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서울대학교 국제학연구소
Journal of International and Area Studies, Vol.8 No.2, pp. 87-98
Engaging in trade with the US makes familiarity with the ethical system found within its business world crucial, because it often acts as a guide for businesses and defines the scope of their behavior. However, because of the synergistic relationship between business and law in the US, gaining an understanding of this second ethical system also becomes important. The purpose here is to identify the basic differences in these two systems, and understand how they relate to each other and society.

Three stages identified here serve as a tool to explain the differences between business and legal ethics, as well as their relationship with society. The first stage involves a field that has only general areas of consensus, and allows for only statements of common principles. In the second stage, the field has achieved the formation of profession or group, allowing for the passage of a commonly applicable ethical code. The third stage involves principles in a field that are shared with society to the extent that they have been passed as law. Business ethics were found to be in the first stage, while legal ethics were found to be in the second. The areas of business and legal principles that consisted of the third stage provided interesting contrasts.

The three stages were found not to be hierarchical. Codification of business ethics into law do not always prove to be the most effective means of enforcement of the accompanying values. Nor was the organization of lawyers into a profession, with its accompanying "Model Rules", always superior to the more loosely organized business world and its ethical system. The key is to understand which category is applicable for a given field and for business, law, and society to cooperate to bring about a switch from one category to a more suitable one when necessary to maximize the protection of society.
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Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원)Dept. of International Studies (국제학과)Journal of International and Area Studies (JIAS)Journal of International and Area Studies vol.08 (2001)
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