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Education and Development: Why are Koreans Obsessed with Learning?

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

The Korean learning pattern during the developmental period is typified by high levels of individual educational achievements despite extreme poverty in society. At the moment, the Korean proportion of private educational spending to GDP is the largest among OECD countries. I argue that the ongoing Korean educational frenzy is a result of a traditional subculture that emphasizes social success through education and individual educational choices, made by parents on behalf of their children based on psychological mechanisms of fear and han (or emotional enmity). The benefit of education in terms of economic development and political democracy continues to reinforce parents to be obsessive about children’s education even during the post-developmental stage. Yet, it is now obvious to Korean policymakers and parents alike that educational obsession is hampering both democracy and economic development.

Affiliations: 1: Bristol Business School, University of the West of England Frenchay Campus, Bristol BS16 1QY, United Kingdom, Email:


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