This paper is concerned with the evolution of Korean corporate environmentalism. Because Korea has experienced dramatic economy growth and faced diverse environmental issues in recent decades, it is a good place to think how the dominant environmental response of companies evolves. Using content analysis of industry journals, as well as surveys and in-depth interviews, we found that Korean companies have progressed through different eras of corporate environmentalism: the ignorance era, the compliance era and the strategic compliance era. They have been changing their environmental responsive mode from an end-of-pipe approach to a preventive one since the early-1990s. Enforced regulations, local community pressure and new knowledge and information for environmental management are the main forces of the environmental postures of Korean companies during the 1990s. In addition, we confirmed that a pollution preventive approach results in a better environmental performance than an end-of-pipe approach. Although sustainable development is far off for Korean companies, they have quickly begun to turn their attention to pollution prevention and further environmental management as they face a new competitive environment. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.