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Title:Korean identity constructions in relation to racialized differences
Author(s):Suh, Jung-Won
Director of Research:Pak, Yoon
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Pak, Yoon
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Anderson, James D.; Cope, William; Herrera, Linda
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):discourse analysis
multicultural education
Korean identity
Abstract:This research critically analyzes discourses concerning Korean identities in public and private sphere. It focuses on the development of discourses from mono-ethnic to multicultural Korean identities during 1990s-2000s. The rising discourses of multicultural diversity in Korean society can be seen as a strategic choice of Korean government and individuals alike in order to be successfully integrated into the globalization process. Strategic identity constructions do not necessarily imply a linear, progressive and teleological development or westernization. Rather, it should be viewed as a flexible and sustainable developmental strategy that a nation, such as Korea, constantly transforms and adapting itself to neoliberal globalization within its constrained and changing conditions. This view of identity constructions as part of strategic globalization is based on an investigation of discourses of mono-ethnic and multicultural Koreanness in contemporary Korean society, using Foucault’s theory of governmentality and discourse as reference of framework. Analyses of the discourses were conducted in two different levels: public and individual. Public discourses were analyzed through investigations on K-12 textbooks in the field of ethics and social studies, and included public advertisements. Individual and small group interviews were conducted in order to analyze individual level discourses on what it means to be Korean in triangulation with the public discourses. The juxtaposition of these two discursive perspectives revealed different facets of the discursive constructions of Korean identities. Seemingly contradicting discourses of mono-ethnic homogeneity and multicultural diversity as Korean identities are not mutually exclusive. Rather, public discourses from the textbooks presented mono-ethnic loyalty and multicultural diversity as one desire of Koreans: the desire to establish a rich and strong nation advancing into the global world through peaceful unification with North Korea. For global advancement, Koreans should be multicultural citizens well-versed in diversity of any kind, but for unification, Koreans should keep their ethnic loyalty. Individual discourses demonstrated their desire to become active participants in the process of globalization, while coveting for more advantages in the society through different discourses on Koreanness. Individuals strategically engaged mono-ethnic and multicultural identities according to their needs in different contexts. Korean individuals did not fully abide by the government’s molding. Yet, they endeavor to acquire necessary multicultural sophistication in order to become a successfully globalized member of the Korean society. At the same time, they covet for more advantageous place in the society by objectifying the recent immigrant population or by hierarchically labelling the different cultures associated with different groups of people. In brief, seemingly shifting discourses on Koreanness as mono-ethnic to multicultural does not represent the changing identities of Koreans. On the contrary, the shift in discourses of Korean identities imply that discursive constitution of identities are strategically utilized as means of gaining global membership in Korean society, or gaining a superior legitimacy as a Korean. Korean individuals are developing more sophisticated strategies and concepts that racialize different groups of people through their discourses surrounding identities. Korean identity constructions can thus be viewed as a strategic and context-specific choice of Koreans for the sustained development in the context of neoliberal globalization.
Issue Date:2015-02-10
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Jung-Won Suh
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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