English Fluency as Wind beneath My Children’s Wings: The Imagined and Practiced Value of English Language in Globalizing Korea


  • Sangmee Bak Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


English fluency, Korea, class, cultural capital


In this paper, I argue that English is an important component of “cultural capital†in contemporary Korean society. Whether for practical reasons or not, English proficiency is something an educated Korean must have. Given the perceived importance of English language in Korea, children’s early exposure to English language has become important component of mothers’ “family status production†work. [Papanek 1979] This is especially true for middle, and upper middle class families who either need to constantly affirm their class background, or have desire to climb up the social hierarchy. In this paper, I examine the significance of English proficiency in its relationship with the notions of gender, family, and class in the society. As Koreans society becoming one of the major players in the global society, English language proficiency has also become an important component of Koreans’ global identities.

Author Biography

Sangmee Bak, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


Division of International Studies


(in English)

• Bak, Sangmee, Professional Women’s Work, Family, and Kinship at a Television Station in Taipei, Taiwan, a Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1994.

• Bourdieu, Pierre, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, (translated by Richard Nice), New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984.

• Goffman, Erving, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959.

• Kim, Hisam, “Equity and Efficiency of Koreans’ English Education Investmentsâ€, KDI Policy Forum no. 245, Korea Development Institute, 2012.

• Papanek, Hanna, “Family Status Production: The ‘Work’ and ‘Non-Work of Women.†Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. vol. 4. no. 4. Pp. 775-781, 1979.

• Yang, Young-Kyun, “Education and Family in Korean Society.†The Review of Korean Studies, vol. 14. No. 1 57-87, 2011.

(in Korean)

• Nam, Taehyeon, Yeongeo Gyegeup Sahoe: Nuga Daehanmingukeul Yeongeo Gwangpunge Mola Neotneunga (English Class Society: Who Drives Koreans into English Craze?), Seoul: Oweolui Bom, 2012.

• Yang, Yongseok, Hanguk Haksaengdeumui Migukeul Jungsimeurohan Yeongeogwon Gukga Daesang Jogi Yuhak Yeongu: Teukseong, Gyeljeong Gwajeong, Hyogwareul Jungsimeuro (A Study on Korean Students’ Early Age Study Abroad in English-speaking Countries with a Focus on the US), Ph.D. Thesis: Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Graduate School of International Area Studies, 2011.




How to Cite

Bak, S. (2015). English Fluency as Wind beneath My Children’s Wings: The Imagined and Practiced Value of English Language in Globalizing Korea. Asian Journal of Education and E-Learning, 3(1). Retrieved from https://www.ajouronline.com/index.php/AJEEL/article/view/2236