The George Washington University


11th Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium

in the Korean Humanities

Education in Korea


Saturday, October 23, 2004, 9:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m.


The George Washington University

Media and Public Affairs (MPA) Building, Room 309

805 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20052




The HMS Colloquium is supported in part by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Brady Art Gallery. Admission is free, but reservations are required. For more information and reservations, please visit or contact Dr. Young-Key Kim-Renaud, 202-994-7106, Colloquium participants are cordially invited to attend a reception of an exhibition of ancient Korean pottery immediately following the Colloquium, at 3:00 p.m., at the Brady Art Gallery on the 2nd floor of the MPA Building.





Saturday, October 23, 2004






9:30-9:50 Coffee and Pastry
9:50-10:00 Opening Remarks
Kiwon Jang, Korean Embassy
Session I Young-Key Kim-Renaud, Chair
10:00-10:40 "Korean Education: A Philosophical and Historical Perspective"
Michael J. Seth
10:40-10:50 Break
Session II Richard Grinker, Chair
10:50-11:30 "The Anxious South Korean University Student: Globalization, Human Capital, and Class"
Nancy Abelmann
11:30-11:40 Break
Session III Kirk W. Larsen, Chair
11:40-12:20 "Class Reproduction and Competing Ideologies in Korean K-12 Education"
Jae Hoon Lim
12:20-1:20 Lunch
Session IV Kirk W. Larsen, Chair
1:20-1:35 Commentary, Frederick F. Carriere
1:35-1:50 Commentary, Gregg Brazinsky
1:50-2:30 Discussion


Michael J. Seth: South Korean education faces a number of serious issues. These include: an overemphasis on examination preparation; the high cost of education especially that of private tutoring and cram schools; concerns over the creation of inequalities in opportunity as educational costs rise; overcrowded classrooms; pedagogy based on rote memorization rather than promoting individual creativity and the belief that the nation's schooling, especially at the higher education level is inadequate to meet the requirements of a modernizing nation. All of these issues are rooted in Korea's history. The society's pre-modern heritage, usually associated with Confucianism, valued education both as a means of personal self-cultivation and as a way of achieving status and power. Its Japanese colonial heritage reinforced these attitudes while its restrictive policies created a pent-up social demand for higher levels of schooling. American egalitarian and pedagogical ideas, the structure of the educational system that was created in the late 1940s and the social changes that took place in the mid and late twentieth centuries all widened the gates to the educational ladder of success. The result of this history has been the drive by students and their families to enhance or maintain social status by earning prestige degrees and the problems this has created.

Nancy Abelmann: Drawing on preliminary research on university students at a range of universities in Seoul and environs, this talk examines the ways in which today's students are managing their own human capital formation. I appreciate that changed global circumstances, including particularly amplified neo-liberalism and the global educational imperative to "internationalize, have significantly restructured what it means to be a college student and to develop" as a young person. Increasingly, youth in South Korea and elsewhere are becoming their own managers, responsible for fashioning themselves into productive and creative people who can compete in transforming global economies. In the case of South Korea, this project is compounded by important ways in which the "new generation" seeks to distinguish themselves from earlier generations of college students who were either narrowly academic or selfless student activists. Today's college students seek to become creative, experienced (in the broadest sense of that term), productive, and cosmopolitan. Although this project poses as democratic and flexible, it is not lost on students that these are demanding personal demands. This talk considers specifically how this elaborated self-managed capital formation varies according to the level of personal and college capital (i.e., SES background and college ranking). I argue that for those students at lower-tier universities, the project of personal capital formation is all the more fraught and lonely.

Jae Hoon Lim: This paper discusses the role of the Korean K-12 educational system in the reproduction process of social class during the last two decades and analyzes how current educational debates reflect a set of new challenges posed by several socio-cultural and contextual forces within and beyond the society. Based on a critical examination of existing class reproduction literature, the author first suggests an alternative hypothesis on the relationship between education and class structure in Korean society and proffers an example of one of the most recent educational debates—"school collapse/school failure" —as the evidence of the hypothesis. The author identifies four qualitatively different ideological strands presented in the debate of "school collapse/school failure" between 1999-2001 and interprets that the debate epitomizes the inevitable conflict between the surge of an instrumental view of education based on the demands of post-industrial economy, and other alternatives, more cultural or political value-oriented views on education.


Opening Remarks

Kiwon Jang is Education Counselor of the Korean Embassy in Washington, DC. He has a Ph.D. from Seoul National University and an MA from the University of London, both in education. He is a former Deputy Superintendent of the Provincial governments of Inchon and Kyonggido. Just before coming to the U.S., he served two years as the Director-General of the Higher Education Bureau in the Republic of Korea Ministry of Education.


Nancy Abelmann is associate professor of anthropology, East Asian languages and cultures, and women's studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; she is also a teaching faculty member of Asian American Studies. She has published books on social movements in contemporary South Korea (Echoes of the Past, Epics of Dissent: A South Korean Social Movement, University of California Press, 1996); and on Korean America (Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots, with John Lie, Harvard University Press, 1995). Her co-edited volume with Kathleen McHugh, South Korean Golden Age Melodrama: Gender, Genre, and Nation is in print at Wayne State University Press. Currently, she is completing The Intimate University: College and the Korean American Family, based on 4 years of transnational ethnography on the educational trajectories of Korean American public college students as they articulate with the educational histories of their immigrant parents.

Jae Hoon Lim is assistant professor at The George Washington University. She received her Ph. D in elementary education from the University of Georgia with an emphasis in qualitative research methodology. She teaches introductory and advanced qualitative research courses for graduate students in School of Education and Human Development. She has published several articles and book chapters in academic and professional journals both in South Korea and the United States. Her research interests include qualitative research, gender studies, and socio-cultural issues in education.

Michael J. Seth is assistant professor of history at James Madison University where he teaches East Asian and comparative global history. His Ph.D. is from the University of Hawaii. His research interests are in Korean social history and the problems of economic and social development. He is the author of "Education Fever: Society, Politics and the Pursuit of Schooling in South Korea" (2002).


Gregg Brazinsky is assistant professor of history and international affairs at The George Washington University. He is an expert on American diplomatic history and U.S.-Asia relations. He earned a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2002. He is completing a book on American Cold War Nation Building in South Korea.

Frederick F. Carriere was associated with the Fulbright program in Korea for fifteen years, including ten years in the capacity of executive director. He has been the vice president and executive director of The Korea Society in New York since 1994. He is a member of the coordinating group for an educational exchange program between Syracuse University and the Pyongyang-based Kim Chaek University of Technology, which is being facilitated by The Korea Society. In this capacity, he has made brief visits to Pyongyang in 2002 and 2004.


Roy Richard Grinker is professor of anthropology, international affairs, and the human sciences at GW. He received his Ph.D. in social anthropology from Harvard University in 1989 with a specialization in African studies. His publications include Houses in the Rainforest, Korea and Its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War, In the Arms of Africa, and Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History and Representation. He worked extensively on North-South Korean relations, and in 1997 he testified before the U.S. Congress on the issue of North Korean defectors' adaptation to South Korean society. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Anthropological Quarterly.

Young-Key Kim-Renaud is professor of Korean language and culture and international affairs at GW. She is past President of the International Circle of Korean Linguistics. A theoretical linguist with a broad interest in Korean humanities and Asian affairs, Kim-Renaud has published widely in the area of Korean phonology, writing system, honorifics, and general Korean cultural history.

Kirk W. Larsen is the Korea Foundation assistant professor of history and international affairs at GW. He received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. His research and teaching interests include modern Korean history, imperialism in Asia, networks, patterns, and trends of trade in Northeast Asia, and the Overseas Chinese in Korea. He is currently finishing a book on Qing imperialism in Choson Korea during the Open Port Period (1876-1910).


The HMS Colloquium in the Korean Humanities Series at GW provides a forum for academic discussion of Korean arts, history, language, literature, thought and religious systems in the context of East Asia and the world. The Colloquium series is made possible by an endowment established by the estate of Hahn Moo-Sook (1918-1993), one of Korea's most honored writers, in order to uphold her spirit of openness, curiosity, and commitment to education. This year's colloquium is sponsored by The George Washington University's Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, in cooperation with the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.


Lenore D. Miller, Director of the Brady Art Gallery, cordially invites colloquium participants to an opening reception of an exhibition of ancient Korean pottery, private collection of Lawrence Rozanski, immediately following the Colloquium, at 3:00 p.m., at the Gallery on the 2nd floor of the MPA Building. The exhibition is organized in conjunction with the 11th HMS Colloquium.

The Colloquium is open to the public free of charge. However, reservations are required. For more information, please contact: Dr. Young-Key Kim Renaud
Chair, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures
The George Washington University
Washington, DC 20052
Tel: 202-994-7106/7107, Fax: 202-994-1512