Academic journal article Asian Perspective

South Korean National Pride: Determinants, Changes, and Suggestions*

Academic journal article Asian Perspective

South Korean National Pride: Determinants, Changes, and Suggestions*

Article excerpt

This study looks at how proud South Koreans are of their nation's achievements, how strongly South Koreans feel their country is superior to other countries, what factors are important to explain differences in national pride, and how important perceptions on social trust and current political and economic situations are in determining Koreans' level of national pride. The data for this study comes from the Korean General Social Survey (KGSS) of 2003. Age, education, family income, and evaluations of social trust and current political and economic situations are examined as major determinants of national pride. The study finds that South Koreans exhibit greater national pride in their achievement in sports, history, and science and technology than in politics and social welfare systems. Moreover, South Koreans who are younger, better educated, or have higher family income tend to be less proud of their country and are less likely to have strong sentiments of national superiority or allegiance to the nation.

Key words: Korea, national identity, nationalism

Introduction: Korean Nationhood

In the era of informatization and globalization, has the significance of the nation-state, nationhood, and national identity been weakening or strengthening? This study examines the meaning of "nation-state" to South Koreans, who live in one of the most rapidly changing countries in the world.

The concepts of ethnicity, nation, and nationalism have had a very special meaning for most South Koreans since the period of Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula.1 During the cold-war era, the Korean peninsula stood on the edge of conflict between liberalism and communism. The authoritarian regimes of the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea) fortified and exploited ethnic nationalism to increase their legitimacy and to mobilize the South Korean people against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea).2 However, a strong social movement toward political democratization led to the demise of the military regime in South Korea in 1987 and the election of the country's first civilian president in 1992. South Korea exhibited further political development in the presidential election of 1997 with the horizontal transfer of political power to the opposition party. The Kim Dae Jung government introduced the so-called "sunshine policy," which attempted to maintain a cooperative relationship with North Korea and ease tensions between the two Koreas. This political orientation let the South Korean people to enjoy a little more ideological freedom than before.3 In addition to the political change, South Korea has become ethnically far more heterogeneous over the last two decades because of the influx of foreign workers and brides. Due to these factors, the state has had more difficulty trying to impose its ethnocentric interpretation of nationhood upon its citizens.4

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 exposed the weakness of the South Korean economy. This had a somewhat deflating effect on South Koreans' national pride, which was based upon the nation's unprecedented economic development during the 1980s and 1990s. In trying to overcome the crisis, South Korea had to accept international "rules of the game" and has since experienced accelerated globalization and internationalization.5

Moreover, South Korea's hosting of international sports events such as the 1988 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup soccer tournament exposed more South Koreans to foreigners and foreign cultures, and influenced many to broaden their perspective of the world. The number of South Korean overseas travelers has drastically increased every year since the liberalization of overseas tours in 1989. At the same time, a great number of East Asian and Southeast Asian workers have entered South Korea since 1988-the Korean Immigration Service's current estimate is over 400,000 persons.6 Since the mid-1990s the number of immigrants from China and Southeast Asian countries who have married Koreans has rapidly increased. …

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