Globalization, Economic Capital and Higher Education in South Korea
For industrialized and industrializing nations, neoliberalism has been a powerful force, transcending borders as an ideology by defining and defending policy and shaping trade and markets around the world. While the economic growth in a number of nations espousing economic liberalization has been staggering, so too has been the problematic bi-product of economic and consequently social inequality. Neo-liberalism’s paradox is that the possibility if increasing economic growth and efficiency by way of increased output, open trade, and flexible employment also includes the potential for introducing level of inequality that did not previously exist. More so, these drastic changes in the levels of inequality have very real consequences for the members of society and are especially challenging for workers in the middle class, where in the past governments used to control unequal distribution of wealth with protectionist policies. The neo-liberalism paradox intensifies as it calls for a reduction in domestic protectionist policies and opening of markets to the global economy, which then hits the middle class the hardest by polarizing those with and without economic resources and thus intensifying the struggle to maintain class position. This has led to massive mobilization of all available resources to obtain training and education associated with occupational stability, reward, and fulfillment. Education remained the single most important factor affecting social mobility in the 1990s. With the exception of the military, whose top echelons were educated at the Korea Military Academy, the postwar elites of South Korea shared one characteristic: they were graduates of the most prestigious universities. There was a well-defined hierarchy of such schools, starting with Seoul National University at the top and followed by Yonsei University and Korea University. Ehwa Woman’s University was the top institution for women.