SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Korean Language Education in Japan: From the Underground Heritage Language to the Mainstream “Hobby Language”

Robert Fouser
Dr Robert J. Fouser (Independent Scholar)

Date: 17 March 2017Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 17 March 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


This talk examines the evolution of Korean as a heritage language and as a foreign language in Japan from the late 19th Century to the present. The origins of the resident Korean, or zainichi, community in Japan can be traced back to the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945) and during postwar political and social upheavals. The development of postwar ethnic Korean institutions that provided heritage language instruction to Korean communities in Japan, the pro-North Korean Chongryun and the pro-South Korean Mindan, developed an extensive system of schools from kindergarten to university that provide instruction in Korean only. Drawing on the history of Korean as a foreign language education in Japan in high schools, universitites, and, from the 1990s, as a “hobby language”, Fouser concludes that the gradual assimilation of resident Koreans into Japanese society and the rise of the Korean wave, or Hallyu, as a mainstream cultural product has caused heritage language education to be subsumed into the newly popularized field of Korean as a foreign language.


Robert J. Fouser holds a B.A. in Japanese language and literature, and M.A. in applied linguistics, both from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in applied linguistics from Trinity College Dublin.  He studied Korean language intensively at Seoul National University in the 1980s.  During his time in Japan, he taught foreign language education at Kyoto University and developed the Korean language program in Kagoshima University.  From 2008 to 2014, he taught Korean as a second/foreign language education at Seoul National University.  He also is the translator of Understanding Korean Literature (1997), co-author of Hanok: The Korean House (2015), and the author of two books in Korean Mirae Simin eui jogeon[Conditions for Citizenship in the Future: A Manual of Democracy for Koreans] (2016) and Seochon Hollik [Seochon-holic] (2016). He is currently writing a book on the history of foreign language learning and teaching. He also writes regular columns for media outlets in Korea.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Korean Studies

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