English as an official language in South Korea
Global English or social malady?
In largely monolingual South Korea, English has become so important that it is promoted and regarded as a major criterion in education, employment and job-performance evaluation. Recently, South Koreans have also gone so far as to debate whether to adopt English as an official language of South Korea. This article examines the status and role of English in South Korea, particularly in the context of the Official English debate. In so doing, the article critically discusses previous ideologically-based accounts of English in South Korea. By demonstrating that these accounts do not go ideologically deep enough, the article argues that education, under cover of the ideology of merit, serves as a primary mechanism of elimination that conserves the hierarchy of power relations already established in South Korean society. English has been recruited, in the guise of globalization, to exploit the meretricious ideology of merit to the advantage of the privileged classes and to the disadvantage of the other classes of the society. English in South Korea cannot be understood fully unless it is recognized that its importance has not been as much engendered by globalization as it has been resorted to as a subterfuge to conceal where the responsibility for inequality in education lies within the society.
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