“Insights on Education in South Korea as Institution and as Industry” A REFLECTION PAPER
The film begins as an undivided Korea rises from the ashes of the World War II, unshackling itself from Japanese rule in 1945. Even then, Koreans already had this thirst for knowledge, amidst the ruins and rubble of war. However, this yearning for normalcy to undertake a national education program was set back with the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. Beginning 1953 when major hostilities between the North and the South had ceased, the new nation of South Korea embarked on a 50-year journey beginning the early to mid-1950’s to where it was in year 2000. Instead of trying to determine what was in store for Korean education for the decade 2001 to 2010, for purposes of this reflection paper, the time horizon shall now be re-dated to 2011 to 2020.
Education as a Social Institution
As an undivided peninsular nation prior to the 18th century, Korea thrived as a kingdom with strong Confucian precepts. In this society, the educated individual was most respected, and in fact cornered the best jobs in the old civil service system. This age-old tradition of esteem for education was carried into the 20th century, so much so that as war ravaged the country, first in WWII and then during the Korean War, a starving Korean population would trade some of its meager resources (which was already barely enough for food) for the chance to send their children to makeshift classrooms and earn an education, though humble as it was at that time.
This became the chief mode of upward social mobility, meaning the Koreans believed in the ability of one individual’s education to totally lift him out of his current station in life. A case in point in the movie was a lady farmer scrimping on her meager earnings to be able to send her children to school, making a determined promise not to see her children end up as farmers, just like her.