stone-wall like picture


Education and Social Stratification in South Korea




283 pages, a medium octavo




April 03, 2020



Published by

University of Tokyo Press

See Book Availability at Library

Education and Social Stratification in South Korea

Japanese Page

view japanese page

This book is a translation, with additions and revisions, of my Japanese-language book, Education and Social Stratification in South Korea: An Empirical Approach to an Education-Based Meritocracy (2006, University of Tokyo Press). This revised version was published with an English-language publication grant from the University of Tokyo.
As often reported by the mass media and elsewhere, South Koreans place a great emphasis on educational background, and there is vehement competition to pass the entrance examination to the “best” universities. Meanwhile, a characteristic debate has occurred in South Korea regarding equality of educational opportunities, with these ideas sometimes incorporated within the extremely unique education system and entrance-examination system established in the country.
This book aims to help readers better understand the South Korean society where these phenomena have emerged. Social survey data and government statistical data are analyzed to answer research questions such as “What kind of socioeconomic effects are obtained in South Korea as a result of having achieved a high-level education background?” and “To what extent can one raise one’s social status via education?” South Koreans’ assumptions and shared norms are also introduced, regarding the significance of having equality of chances to achieve a high educational and social status. I have also provided considerations regarding how these issues are linked with today’s education and entrance-examination systems. By so doing, this book explores what social roles the education system plays and what characteristics the South Korean society had as a result of its enormous emphasis on education, using Japanese society as a reference of comparison.
The main part of this book deals with South Korea up through the 1990s. Major changes have occurred in South Korea since that time, when people had somewhat positive views of their system, as they believed education provided possibilities for upward social mobility. Since then, however, the system has been viewed with a keenly critical eye. Today, there is a broader consensus that parents’ socioeconomic status, rather than one’s efforts, is a major determinant of a child’s future. This is metaphorically expressed in a saying that has become wildely popular: “Were you born holding a golden spoon, or a dirty spoon?” Although such remarkable changes have occurred, these criticisms are best understood by considering that they are still based on the standard image of the ideal society formed during the period covered in this book. I believe that this book makes a significant contribution to understanding South Korean society in that it describes in detail how the prototype of South Korean society was shaped.
Compared with other countries, Japan has many similarities with South Korea, but an in-depth study can reveal distinct differences. This book, which compares and contrasts Japanese society with South Korean society, is therefore especially recommended to English language readers who wish to deepen their understanding of East Asian societies.

(Written by ARITA Shin, Professor, Institute of Social Science / 2020)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Location of the Issue
Chapter 1 Theoretical Consideration of Academic Credential and Distribution of Position/Remuneration
Chapter 2 Social Hierarchical Structure and Industrialization in South Korea
Chapter 3 School Education Systems and Selection Systems of South Korea
Chapter 4 Effect of Academic Credentials on Wage Level and Its Change
Chapter 5 Effect of Academic Credentials on Determination of Occupational Positions and Its Change: Analyzing the job engagement process of new graduates
Chapter 6 Educational Achievement, and Social Stratification / Stratification Mobility
Epilogue, Impression of Academic Credential based Society and the South Korean Society: The Academic credential effect, Education system, and Distribution issue

Try these read-alike books: