SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Seminar: Multicultural Education in Korea: Current State, Focus and Problems

Professor SeonMee Kim (SOAS / Sunchon National University)

Date: 8 May 2009Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 8 May 2009Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Faber Building Room: FG08

Type of Event: Seminar


At a time in which the interest in and the need for multicultural education in South Korea have drastically increased from previous years, this seminar will discuss the background of Korean multicultural education, the current situation related to long-term foreign residents, and education for them, the government policies, directions and strategies of multicultural education, and the problems surrounding these issues. Before starting, the concept of multicultural education will be briefly dealt with. Multicultural education begins with the notion that there are various cultural groups in the world, and each individual belong to at least one or more cultural groups at the same time. The purpose of multicultural education is to help students to enhance the values and attitudes for mutual respect for people, and to interact with others of different cultural backgrounds in more effective ways.

The arising need for multicultural education is closely related to changes in Korea's demographic structures, the increase of overseas residents and the increasingly vigorous activities of international enterprises towards South Korea. According to statistics, it is shown that there have recently been significant changes in Korean society in the number of peoples with various backgrounds such as North Korean refugees, long-term overseas residents naturalizing their nationality, international families and their children with multiple cultural backgrounds, international students, low income migrant labourers, and migrant labourers staying illegally, etc. Furthermore, South Korea is one of the countries among the OECE which shows the lowest birth rate, and is rapidly progressing towards an aging society. Although it is not yet visibly large enough in terms of the entire Korean population, this phenomena is expected to continue and it is enough to view this as a significant sign of a changing Korea for the future. Nowadays the Korean government is trying to manage this issue by intensively paying attention to establish policies and strategies dealing with social welfare, economic problems, and educational programs for those people. Looking at the aspect of Multicultural education, many programs are operating in schools and communities, such as establishing international elementary and secondary schools, bilingual and cultural programs, programs to eliminate prejudice, teacher education in order to increase multicultual competencies, establishing R & D centers in universities and communities, and so on.

Although those efforts are successfully operating and producing positive outcomes, problems still remain to be solved. Many instant actions by the Korean government were prompt and effective, but the strategies have been criticized as being superficial and fragmented rather than embracing a holistic and more fundamental approach. Also, it could not be satisfied with only the programs that are adapted from the cases of other countries, yet this is required. Now is the time to consider and provide frames of multicultural education which are suitable to the nature of Korean cultural bases which have relatively and historically placed more emphasis on homogeneity and uniformity (for example, Baedal minjok, Hangyorye) rather than experiences of diversity, differences and equality, and have respected a group identity and vertical relations among peoples rather than an individual identity and democratic relations.