Teachers’ Perspectives: Making Sense of Ethnic Nationalism, Ethnic Identity and Multicultural Education in South Korea

Young Mi Chang


Historically, ethnic nationalism has played a central role in consolidating Koreans in times of
hardship. This tendency continues today; as South Korea is transitioning from a
homogeneous ethnic society to a multi-ethnic one, schools face a new challenge to embrace
diversity. Oppressions that ethnic minority students experience are often associated with
Korean ethnic nationalism. This study examines South Korean teachers’ values and
viewpoints regarding ethnic nationalism, and how these teachers make sense of ethnic
nationalism in facing multicultural education and globalization. Participant teachers in this
study overall believed that instilling strong Korean ethnic identity and pride would not conflict
with enhancing multiculturalism, and identified various ways to accomplish these two aspects.
Some felt the former should be implemented prior to the latter, while others indicated that
concurrent integration of the two aspects would be preferable. The majority held that
emphasizing a strong Korean ethnic identity would not oppress or disadvantage minority
students. Teacher education programs for pre-service and in-service teachers should
intentionally focus on critical reflection regarding one’s group identity, as this may become a
source of prejudice and unintentional oppression of members from different groups. The
overarching goals of ethnic identity education and multicultural education should be
established within the framework of social equity. The current status of “hybrid” based ethnic
and national identity education should be challenged in that it tends to position the ethnic
identity education separately from multicultural education. The two areas need to be
integrated to embrace and affirm diversity.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ije.v7i2.7018

Copyright (c) 2015 Young Mi Chang

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