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In and Out of South Korean University: New Inter-Asia Mobility Higher Education Conference

October 23, 2020 @ 6:00 pm - October 25, 2020 @ 9:00 pm


Session 1:

Presenter: Jiyeon Kang, Associate Professor, University of Iowa & Kyongah Hwang, Lecturer, Kyung Hee University

Following the South Korean government’s drive in the 1990s for globalization and deregulation of higher education, Korean universities aggressively recruited Chinese students as both symbolic and economic resources. In particular, these students became financial lifelines for Korea’s private institutions. As a result, the number of Chinese students studying at Korean universities increased 57-fold between 2000 and 2019 (from 1,200 to 68,537). In 2019, we interviewed Chinese students who chose South Korea with academic and cultural aspirations, but often found that the university and Korean students did not welcome them into their classes or communities. We argue that by “belonging otherwise,” the Chinese students do not adapt to the Korean university in the way imagined by the normative framework. Nevertheless, these students make the study-abroad space inhabitable through transnational and technological networks of belonging—to the Chinese K-pop fandom, to overlapping networks with conational students on campus and in Korea, and to the emergent networks back in China that they prepare to return to. These modalities of belonging serve as a window both to South Korea’s configuration as a host country and to Chinese students’ strategies for navigating non-elite and inter-Asian study abroad. Additionally, these findings suggests that the normative models of belonging in study abroad (multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism) must be reconsidered.

Presenter: Sujung Kim, Senior Researcher, Graduate Center, City University of New York

This study examines the internationalization of higher education in South Korea. In particular, it focuses on (1) the rationalities that the Korean government and major universities with the largest number of Asian international students employ to rationalize their efforts for recruiting international students from other Asian countries, and (2) the modalities the government and institutions use to manage Asian international students. Based on the findings from critical discourse analysis, this study further explores how to reframe the existing practices of the internationalization of higher education, which is greatly managed under market logic and/or higher education ranking criteria that have been developed by the dominant neoliberal Western states under the name of the segyehwa [globalization] of colleges and universities, toward democratic cosmopolitan citizenship both for Asian international students and Korean domestic students within inter-Asia contexts.

Presenter: Younghan Cho, Professor, Department of Korean Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies & Sueun Kim, Ph.D. Center for Koreanophone Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

This study examines the Southeast Asian students’ inter-Asia knowledge migrations with focus on their academic experiences of pursuing postgraduate degrees in Korean Studies at Korean universities. For this purpose, it focuses on their strategic choices and adjusted aspirations in choosing Korean Studies as their majors as well as mediocratic academic experiences at Korean universities. By deploying ethnographic approach, this study illuminates the variegated dimensions in the process of becoming academics in Korean Studies from sponsored students in South Korea to professors in their home countries. First, it discusses Southeast Asian students’ rationales for choosing Korea and Korean universities for their destination based on scholarship opportunities. Second, it explores their unexpected encountering, dilemma and negotiations in classrooms in Korean universities. Finally, it traces how they manage their academic careers in continuous collaboration with Korean academics, universities and government. As a way of conceptualizing their inter-Asia mobility in higher education, we suggest the term “complicit mobility”, which refers to another type of knowledge migration engendered within the intersection between Southeast Asian students’ aspiration of upgrading their life and vocational conditions and Korea’s desires of globalizing Korean Studies. (By complicit mobility, we shed light on invigorated, negotiated and collaborative experiences of Southeast Asian students as well as on Korea’s excessive nationalist motivation in Korean Studies.)

Session 2:

Presenter: Phan Le Ha, Senior Professor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa & Yabit bin Alas, Senior Assistant Professor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam

This paper examines the mobilities of students across less-known places in Asia, with a particular focus on Korean students in Brunei Darussalam. It pays attention to Korean students’ choice and justification of Brunei as their study destination despite the consistent negative media discourse and construction of Brunei Darussalam as an unpopular country. It also examines how and to what extent their actual experiences of studying and living in Brunei (re)shape their perceptions of the place. Engaged with the literature on the internationalization of higher education and student mobilities, particularly the emerging scholarship on inter-Asian student mobilities, it discusses how various established and emerging actors/players in higher education co-construct, consolidate, extend, contradict, and resist certain discourses and images largely associated with less known and less exposed places such as Brunei. The paper is informed by a qualitative case study research conducted with Korean international students currently studying in Brunei universities. The findings and argument put forth in the paper offer space for difficult questions to be addressed, interrogated and taken seriously at all levels of policy, pedagogy and curriculum of the internationalization of higher education. Likewise, they urge more critical discussion of mobilities in general and student mobilities in particular, in which social class, discrimination and prejudices associated with religions and lack of knowledge/biased knowledge play a major role.

Presenter: Sarah Jane Lipura, PhD Candidate, University of Auckland

While extant literature on international student mobility has highlighted the unprecedented growth of international students globally, the unique case of South Korea as one of the world’s largest suppliers of international students has not been widely explored beyond the context of West-bound mobility. This paper is based on a wider study foregrounded on the need to ‘decenter’ research on international education by advancing a broader and more inclusive view of study abroad that is differentiated socially and spatially as illustrated by the presence of international students in what I introduce (and develop) as the ‘fringes’. Drawing on previous interviews with degree-seeking Korean international students in India, Philippines and Fiji, it principally explores how Korean students in the ‘fringes’ bypass global structures of prestige and value and how they re-imagine, re-position and navigate themselves in and out of Korea. Through this focus, the paper not only engages and interrogates dominant discourses on ‘contra-flow’ mobility but also offers insights on the growing complexities of contemporary Korean society.

Presenter: Dohye Kim, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Duksung Women’s University

This article examines the postgraduate lives of Asian international students who studied in regional universities outside the global city of Seoul, South Korea. International student mobility has been largely conducted in the context of their moving to prestigious Anglophone universities that has tended to generate universally recognizable cultural capital necessary for career success, such as diplomas from these highly ranked global universities and fluency in English. Thus, less research has been conducted to how students’ educational credentials earned in universities outside Anglophone countries have become valuable resources for career success in the global job market. By analysing how the graduates struggle to transfer their educational assets to succeed in the job market, this article elaborates the values of the cultural capital the international students obtained outside Anglophone universities varied according to the historical and temporal contexts surrounding the alumni. Focusing on students enrolled in lower-tired universities in South Korea, this study eventually disrupts the taken-for-granted idea that international student mobility produces globally competent cultural capital.



Yabit Alas is Senior Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Director of the Language Centre, and Deputy Head of International and Comparative Education, Universiti Brunei Darussalam. His main area of expertise is Comparative Linguistics, with a focus on Austronesian Languages. Dr Yabit Alas also serves on the Malay Language Council where he has directly been involved in the planning and implementation of the Malay language in Brunei and regionally. He has published in both Malay and English. His publications have appeared in books and journals nationally and internationally.


Younghan Cho is Professor of Korean Studies in the Graduate School of International and Area Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. He has published widely on global sports, fans and celebrity, Korean Wave and East Asian pop culture, and nationalism and modernity in modern Korea and East Asian society. His recent books are The Yellow Pacific: East Asia and Multiple Modernities (2020, SNU Press, in Korean), and Global Sports Fandom in South Korea: Ethnography of Korean Major League Baseball Fans in the Online Community (2020, Palgrave Macmillan).


Phan Le Ha is Senior Professor at Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), and also Head of the International and Comparative Education Research Group at UBD, Brunei. Prior to Brunei, Prof Phan was tenured Full Professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) where she maintains her affiliation, and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. She has taught and written extensively on global/international/transnational higher education, international development and education, identity-language-culture-pedagogy, educational mobilities, English language education, and sociology of knowledge and education. Her research work has covered many contexts in Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Asia-Pacific and the Gulf regions. .


Kyongah Hwang is Instructor in the department of Journalism & Communication at KyungHee University. She specializes in multicultural and migration studies, along with media analysis. Her research interests include multicultural discourses, anti-multicultural feelings and the politics of hate as well as media representation of ethnicity and gender. Recently, she has been focusing on educational migration research.


Jiyeon Kang is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Korean Studies at the University of Iowa. Her research focuses on youth culture, social movements, and digital technologies in both South Korea and the U.S., with a specific interest in the communicative dynamics and cultural norms emerging in internet and campus communities. She is currently preparing a monograph titled New Global Civilities: Chinese Undergraduate Students in the US and South Korea.


Dohye Kim earned her PhD from the Anthropology Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her dissertation focused on South Korean retiree migrants’ small-scale business engagement in the Philippines and the ways in which the ethical demarcations of “good,” “wealthy” retirees and “bad,” “poor” entrepreneurs were shaped inside the South Korean community and created tensions among retirees. Kim is currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology at Duksung Women’s University and conducting research on international students in South Korea, mostly focusing on Southeast Asian international students.


Sujung Kim is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research addresses the critical pedagogy of higher education for the public good and educating students as critical public intellectuals. Her research and teaching interests are located at the intersection of class, race, citizenship, power, and subjectivity, and how these intersecting conditions affect vulnerable college students’ sense of institutional and social belonging and identities.


Sueun Kim is a researcher at Center for Koreanonphone Studies and lecturer at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. She holds a PhD in Korean Studies from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Her research areas include knowledge migration of Southeast Asian to South Korea, and the transnational Korean popular culture. Her recent research includes Outbound Tourism Motivated by Domestic Films: Contentsized Koreanness in Thai movies and Tourism to Korea in Contents Tourism: Mediatized Culture, Fandoms, and the International Tourism Experience.


Sarah Lipura is a PhD candidate in Asian Studies at the University of Auckland, researching on international student mobility across ‘peripheral’ spaces with a particular focus on Korean international students in atypical study destinations in Asia and the Pacific. Her research is derived from her strong interest in migrant communities and close engagement with Korean migrants in the Philippines. She has previously published in Kritika Kultura and Globalisation, Societies and Education.




Organizers: Jiyeon Kang (University of Iowa) & Younghan Cho (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies)


October 23, 2020 @ 6:00 pm
October 25, 2020 @ 9:00 pm
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NC United States


Carolina Asia Center
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The Carolina Asia Center supports diverse Asia-related events. However, CAC co-sponsorship of any talk, seminar, documentary screening, film screening, performance or celebration does not constitute endorsement of or agreement with the views presented therein. As an academic institution, we value diverse perspectives that promote dialogue and understanding.

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