In Pursuit of Global Education: Cultural Capital and Success in South Korea

Jarvis, Jonathan
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2015]
Over the past 20 years as South Korea has experienced rapid and intense globalization, South Koreans have increasingly looked to global education as a strategy to remain competitive. In this dissertation I use the Korean case to examine the ways in which various global educational strategies have been used to obtain global cultural and social capital. In particular I focus on the experience of studying at foreign universities and the rewards for obtaining a foreign degree in local markets. A total of seventy-five in-depth interviews were conducted with locally educated Koreans, foreign educated Koreans and various evaluators with experience and insight on foreign educated returnees. I rely especially on Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital to understand what Koreans attending foreign universities gain from this experience and how the various cultural components to studying overseas may be valued or “institutionalized” in the work place. I find that the pursuit of marketable skills in the global economy takes many forms including both local and global options. There are important differences among Koreans studying abroad as they leave at different times, for different durations and for different reasons, and with varying levels of cultural and social capital. As a comparison, I also examine the varying degrees of global cultural capital among locally educated Koreans using alternatives to studying in foreign universities. The Korean case provides insight into understanding the nature of global cultural capital. For these returnees it represents a combination of instrumental, or directly applicable human capital, and cosmopolitan experience. Global cultural capital is a long-term investment that provides Koreans with time in a global context to obtain specific skills, iii connections with foreigners and authentic global experiences. Koreans describe this difficult experience as an opportunity for independence that provides confidence in their capabilities. According to my interviews, these elements of global cultural remain beneficial in specific occupations and teams where global cultural capital is most needed. These include positions in government, research and development, and on specific global marketing, strategy and sales teams in the business sector. Outside of these specific occupations and teams, I find the general benefits of global cultural capital are declining. The Korean business field has changed in the 15 years after the IMF crisis. The supply of Koreans with foreign credentials has outpaced the demand in Korean business fields today and there are greater concerns with employee fit or integration. The competition has also intensified, as locally educated Koreans have been able to improve their global capacities through what I call global cultural capital lite. They have narrowed the gap. Finally, the process of becoming global participants through authentic global experiences provides great life satisfaction for foreign educated Koreans even if it does not easily translate to economic or occupational advantage.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2015.
Includes bibliographical references.
Global Cultural Capital, International Education, International Student Mobility, Korea, Study Abroad
Access Rights
Email if you need this content in ADA-compliant format.