The so-called English fever and the international mobility of South Korean youth are linked to the popular pursuit of English-language education in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. From the perspective of young overseas travelers, these are short-term, semistructured “international experiences” beyond mere language training, and they are widely perceived as necessary for enhancing one's value and career prospects in the competitive job market back home. Based on an in-depth study of temporary Korean residents in Vancouver, this article explores the everyday experiences and subjective transformations produced by English-language travel overseas. Drawing upon surveys, interviews, and focus groups, the authors find that temporary sojourns to English-speaking destinations such as Vancouver represent more than rational, instrumental strategies to enhance one's future employability and socioeconomic advancement. They constitute a critical evaluative terrain in which Korean youth assess and reassess their mobility strategies, life trajectories, and identities in the context of Korea's seemingly relentless pursuit of individual and national advancement in an economically and racially stratified world order. In this sense, overseas language travels operate as spaces that both reinscribe as well as destabilize existing social hierarchies along race, class, and nation.
Research Article|August 01 2015
Language Travels and Global Aspirations of Korean Youth
positions (2015) 23 (3): 565-593.
Jennifer Jihye Chun, Ju Hui Judy Han; Language Travels and Global Aspirations of Korean Youth. positions 1 August 2015; 23 (3): 565–593. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-3125913
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