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The Effects of Multicultural Education on Elementary School Children in Korea. Hyang Eun Kim, July 15, 2015

The Effects of Multicultural Education on Elementary School Children in Korea

July 15, 2015, 12:00-2:00pm
Crosby Seminar Room, 240 Northrop

A talk by Hyang Eun Kim, Dept. of Social Welfare at Kosin University, South Korea


Download: audio, small video, original.

There has been a long history of acceptance that Korea consists of people of the same race, language and nationality – a very homogeneous society. In the past, this was regarded as a source of national pride, but nowadays days it is considered somewhat negatively as it evokes social conflict and tension. For the last two decades, Korea has witnessed an influx of new-comers, making it become much more multicultural. There has been a rising number of inter-country marriages, an influx of foreign workers, and North Korean refugees. Many of these individuals have reported that they are struggling with discrimination or the fact that the Korean citizenry is ignorant or disrespectful of their cultural backgrounds.

This study was aimed at fostering children’s capacity of multicultural acceptance and social inclusion through education. To achieve this, the study developed a 90 minute long special curricular class led by a North Korean defector. Three main learning themes were established and these were: understanding North Korea; respecting North Korean immigrants; and the issue of reunification. This was facilitated through lectures, group discussions, role playing, and Q&A. The classes were conducted at six elementary schools in Busan city and Kyungnam province of South Korea in February, 2015. There were three 4th grade (N=75) and 5th grade (N=55) classes who participated. They were asked to participate in group discussions and fill in the group worksheet evaluating the program during the last segment of the class. This study analyzed the groups’ answers to the open-ended questions about the impact of the class on the changes in their attitudes.

In the content analysis of the 17 group discussion worksheets evaluating the effects of the multicultural education class, three main themes were found: intellectual, emotional, and practical effects. The first centered on the acquisition of information on the “real” picture of North Korea, North Korean defectors and immigrants, as well as the benefits of reunification. The second aspect centered around the benefits of such a unique opportunity to have a special experience, spending time with the North Korean lecturer and enjoying activities such as playing quiz games and doing role play. The third factor focused on the issue of social inclusion of North Korean immigrants and acquiring the will for reunification of North Korea and South Korea. Based on the research outcomes, implications in the field were discussed with respect to the benefits of education and social inclusion as a means of broadening young minds acceptance of others.

hyang eun kim 2Hyang Eun Kim is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Welfare at Kosin University in Busan, South Korea. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Development from Korea University and was a 2010-11 Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Psychology, sponsored by Dr. Rich Lee. She is a Board and Executive Committee Member of the Busan YWCA North Korean Refugee Support Center and an Adviser of Adoptive Families in Busan and Kyungnam Province. Long known for her work on international adoption, her current research focus is on North Korean refugees in South Korea. She currently holds a Federal Assistance Award from the US State Department.

During her visit to the IAS, Kim was interviewed with Prof. Alex Lubet by the Bat of Minerva.

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