South Korea’s Developmentalist Language Policies: Linguistic Territoriality in the Global Era

Reference work entry


Language has been one of the state apparatuses for the production and control of national territory. Globalization complicates linguistic territoriality as the increasing mobility of people and the ever-growing domain of the English language appear to disintegrate the exclusive links between language and space. This chapter discusses the changing relationship between the state, territory, and language in the seemingly deterritorializing world through a case study of South Korea’s linguistic institutions. South Korea is an interesting case study because the trajectory of its linguistic territoriality reveals the transition from a postcolonial protectionist ideology to a subimperial developmentalist one. The combination of the country’s anxiety about the looming linguistic extinction, the developmental state, and the 1990s’ rhetoric of globalization culminated into a state project that aims at promoting the Korean language as a global language. At the same time, the state introduced Korean language proficiency requirements into its migration policies, which disproportionately affect Asian migrants. This new language regime illustrates a postcolonial example of expansive linguistic territoriality that is not only shaped by nationalism but also a subimperial desire for a global status.


Linguistic territoriality Hegemony of English South Korea Developmentalism Global language 


  1. Abdelhay, A., Eljak, N., Mugaddam, A., & Makoni, S. (2016). Arabicisation and the Khartoum Arabic language academy. The Journal of North African Studies, 21(5), 831–856. Scholar
  2. Alliance Française. (2018). Historique. Accessed 27 May 2018.
  3. Amit, A. (2016). The Académie Française and monocentricity in a multicultural world. Language Problems and Language Planning, 40(3), 235–249. Scholar
  4. Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. Blackledge, A. (2016). Language, marriage migration and the law. International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, 23(1), 1–23. Scholar
  6. British Council. (2018). Management and structure. Available at Accessed 27 May 2018.
  7. Cho, H. (2004). Jae-oi-dongporeul daesang-euro haneun hangug-eo gyoyugjeongchaeg. Hangug-eogyoyug, 15(2), 199–232.Google Scholar
  8. Choi, Y. (2002). Nambughan gug-eo jeongchaeg byeoncheonsa. Gugmunhagnonjib, 18, 127–154.Google Scholar
  9. Chomsky, N. (2011). On language: Chomsky’s classic works language and responsibility and reflections on language in one volume. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  10. Confucius Institute Online. (2018). About us. Accessed 27 May 2018.
  11. Extra, G., Spotti, M. van Avermaet, P. (2009). Language testing, migration and citizenship: Cross-national perspectives on integration regimes. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  12. Gutekunst, M. (2015). Language as a new instrument of border control: The regulation of marriage migration from Morocco to Germany. Journal of North African Studies, 20(4), 540–552. Scholar
  13. Han, J. (2000). Hangug-eo bogeub-ui hyeonhwanggwa bowan bang-an. In 21-seji-ui Gug-eojeongchaeg (pp. 129–177). Seoul: National Institute of the Korean Language.Google Scholar
  14. Hobsbawm, E. (1992). Nations and nationalism since 1780: Programme, myth, reality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Jeju Provincial Government. (2014). Jeju Global Education City. Jeju: Jeju Provincial Government.Google Scholar
  16. Jeong, D. (2011). Cia-Cia Ma-Eul-Ui Hangeul Haggyo. Seoul: Seohae.Google Scholar
  17. Jeong, H. (2017). Globalizing a rural past: The conjunction of international development aid and south Korea’s dictatorial legacy. Geoforum, 86, 160–168. Scholar
  18. Jeong, S. (2018). Bang-eon-ui balgyeon. Seoul: Changbi.Google Scholar
  19. Jeong, H. (forthcoming). Transnational marriage migration as spatio-temporal fix in Pohang’s post-industrial urban development. In J. Song, & L. Hae (Eds.), On the Margins of Urban South Korea: Core Location as Method. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  20. Kim, G.-j. (2005). Donghwawa jeohang-ui gi-eog. Hangugminjog-undongsayeongu, 45, 123–159.Google Scholar
  21. Kim, H. M. (2006). Gugjegyeolhon-ui jeonjigujeog Gender jeongchihag. Gyeongjewasahoe, 70, 10–37.Google Scholar
  22. Kim, C. (2017). Hangug-eo neungryeogsiheom 20-nyeon. Hangug-eogyoyug, 28(3), 1–24.Google Scholar
  23. Kim, J., et al. (1995). Hangug-eo-ui segyehwa bang-an. Ijung-eon-eohag, 12(1), 477–487.Google Scholar
  24. King Sejong Institute Foundation. (2017). Sejonghagdang. Accessed 27 May 2018.
  25. Kohn, H. (1944). The idea of nationalism: A study in its origins and background. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  26. Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies. (2013). Silyongseoro ilgneun joseon. Seoul: Geulhang-ari.Google Scholar
  27. Laranjo, R. O. (2017). Politics of language in ‘Korean style multiculturalism’: Utilization of Filipino language in Korean language textbooks for marriage migrants. Plaridel, 14(1), 53–70.Google Scholar
  28. Lee, K.-M. (1999). 21-seji-wa gug-eohag. Gug-eogugmunhag, 125, 1–23.Google Scholar
  29. Lee, J.-K. (2010). Service economies: Militarism, sex work, and migrant labor in South Korea. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  30. Lee, H. (2012). Political economy of cross-border marriage: Economic development and social reproduction in Korea. Feminist Economics, 18(2), 177–200. Scholar
  31. Lee, M. (2016). EPS-TOPIK-e daehan bipanjeog gochal. Munhwawayunghab, 38(5), 461–486.Google Scholar
  32. Lee, J., Han, M. W., & McKerrow, R. O. (2010). English or perish: How contemporary South Korea received, accommodated, and internalized English and American modernity. Language and Intercultural Communication, 10(4), 337–357. Scholar
  33. McNamara, T. (2009). Australia: The dictation test redux? Language Assessment Quarterly, 6(1), 106–111. Scholar
  34. Miguel, E. (2004). Tribe or nation? Nation building and public goods in Kenya versus Tanzania. World Politics, 56(3), 327–362. Scholar
  35. Ministry of Culture. (1988). Notification No 88-2. “Pyojun-eo sajeong wonchig”. Seoul: Ministry of Culture.Google Scholar
  36. Ministry of Culture. (2007). Gug-eobaljeong gibongyehoig. Seoul: Ministry of Culture.Google Scholar
  37. Ministry of Education. (2017). “Jae-oi hangughaggyo hyeonhwang” and “Jae-oi hanguggyoyugwon hyeonhwang”. Sejong: Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
  38. Ministry of Justice. (2017). 2016 migration statistics yearbook. Gwacheon: Ministry of Justice.Google Scholar
  39. National Institute of the Korean Language. (2007). Sejonghagdang seollib mit unyeong-ui gyeongjejeog hyogwa bunseog. Seoul: National Institute of the Korean Language.Google Scholar
  40. National Institute of the Korean Language. (2011). Gugribgug-eowon 20-nyeonsa. Seoul: National Institute of the Korean Language.Google Scholar
  41. Oh, Y. (forthcoming). Seeing the development of Jeju global education city from the margins. In J. Song, & L. Hae (Eds.), Situating urban Korea: Core locations and Asia as method in knowledge production. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  42. Overseas Koreans Foundation. (2017). Jae-oidongpo gyoyuggigwan hyeonhwang. Seoul: Overseas Koreans Foundation.Google Scholar
  43. Park, C. (2014). Gug-eosa-ui saero-un ihae. Ihwa-eomunnonjib, 32, 171–214.Google Scholar
  44. Piller, I., & Cho, J. (2015). Neoliberalism as language policy. In T. Ricento (Ed.), Language policy and political economy: English in a global context (pp. 162–186). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Piller, I., & Lising, L. (2014). Language, employment, and settlement: Temporary meat workers in Australia. Multilingua: Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, 33(1), 35–59. Scholar
  46. Pirie, I. (2008). The Korean developmental state: From dirigisme to neo-liberalism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Polanco, G., & Zell, S. (2017). English as a border-drawing matter: Language and the regulation of migrant service worker mobility in international labor markets. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 18(1), 267–289. Scholar
  48. Sack, R. D. (1983). Human territoriality: A theory. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 73(1), 55–74. Scholar
  49. Seong, G. (1996). Hangug-eo-ui segyejeog bogeub-eul wihan eon-eojeongchaeg. Ijung-eon-eohag, 13(1), 159–180.Google Scholar
  50. Shim, D., & Park, J. S.-Y. (2008). The language politics of ‘English fever’ in South Korea. Korea Journal, 48(2), 136–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shin, H. (2016). Language ‘skills’ and the neoliberal English education industry. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 37(5), 509–522. Scholar
  52. Shohamy, E. (2001). The power of tests: A critical perspective on the uses of language tests. London: Pearson Education Limited.Google Scholar
  53. Song, H.-Y. (2013). Marxist critiques of the developmental state and the fetishism of national development. Antipode, 45(5), 1254–1276. Scholar
  54. Tinsley, M. (2015). Proclaiming independence: Language and national identity in Sekou Toure’s Guinea. Postcolonial Studies, 18(3), 237–256. Scholar
  55. Wong, J. (2011). Betting on biotech: Innovation and the limits of Asia’s developmental state. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yang, C., et al. (2018). Revising the language map of Korea. In S. D. Brunn & R. Kehrein (Eds.), Handbook of the changing world language map. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  57. Yeung, H. W.-c. (2014). Governing the market in a globalizing era: Developmental states, global production networks and inter-firm dynamics in East Asia. Review of International Political Economy, 21(1), 70–101. Scholar
  58. Yuk, J. (2016). Interrogating the uses of culture in the politics of diversity: A case from South Korea. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 22(4), 516–533. Scholar
  59. Zentz, L. (2014). ‘Love’ the local, ‘Use’ the national, ‘Study’ the foreign: Shifting Javanese language ecologies in (post-)modernity, postcoloniality, and globalization. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 24(3), 339–359. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental and Life SciencesUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

Personalised recommendations