This article analyzes the transfer of tacit knowledge between countries and continents, based on a case from the shipbuilding industry. The South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) was established in the early 1970s and had by the late 1980s become the world's leading shipbuilder. Aided by foreign loan capital, HHI acquired technology through foreign licenses and imported equipment. However, shipbuilding is about more than hardware. This article presents and analyzes another important means of knowledge transfer: the acquisition of tacit knowledge in the form of shipbuilding skills, including shipyard processes and operations. This transfer was mainly accomplished through the "import" of foreign managers and the dispatch abroad of South Korean employees. One important element, which we investigate in detail, was the Korean personnel that HHI sent in 1972 to the Scott Lithgow shipyards in Scotland to observe and learn. Based on archival sources and interviews, we detail the manner in which tacit knowledge could be transferred across language and cultural barriers.


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pp. 335-367
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