English as border crossing

English as border crossing: longing/belonging in the South Korean experience

Joseph Sung-Yul Park

[a pre-publication version of a chapter in Vaughan Rapatahana and Pauline Bunce (eds.), English Language as Hydra: Its impacts on Non-English Language Cultures, 208-220. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 2012.]


South Korea is well known for its heated pursuit of English that unfolds on all levels of society, often called the “English frenzy” (yeongeo yeolpung). Despite the country’s well-established monolingualism in Korean and the fact that English was not the language of the colonizer, significant investments are made in English language learning. The government continuously proposes revisions to the national curricula for English language education, introducing more English into the classroom and bringing in native-speaker English teachers to teach in Korean schools. Regional governments compete to build “English villages,” where students may practice English by being immersed in a simulated English-speaking community. Corporations demand that their employees have significant competence in English, and white-collar workers spend time and money honing their English language skills so that they can stay relevant to the workplace. Parents go to great lengths to give their children a head start in their English language learning, and invest in a wide range of strategies, ranging from English-language DVDs to expensive English-only kindergartens to study abroad in English-speaking countries. Such efforts have led commentators to remark that Korea is a “Republic of English” (Gim and Gim, 2007) where “English is the national religion” (Demick, 2002). (See Park, 2009 for a more detailed discussion.)

Phillipson’s discussion of linguistic imperialism (1992) is clearly relevant to the Korean case. The hegemony and military presence of the US, neoliberal ideologies of globalization, privileges of the English-speaking elite, and discourses of native-speakerhood that are intertwined with images of race and ethnicity—all of this contribute to an overarching structure that conditions the enormous influence of English in Korean society. In discussing these issues, however, I want to explore how such broader structural conditions are reflected and reproduced in Koreans’ psychological experience. In doing so, I hope to translate Phillipson’s insights onto a more personal level, which, I believe, actually sophisticates their political implications. By understanding how mundane, personal experiences are colored through forces of linguistic imperialism, we can more fully understand their roots in everyday life, obtaining a more complete picture of the specific processes by which the power of the English language comes into being.

The starting point for my discussion is how the Korean English frenzy is driven by a deep sense of anxiety. In Korea, one can often find complaints that Koreans’ English language skills are woefully inadequate, and that this lamentable incompetence is holding back the nation from participating in the global economy and enjoying its fruits. Such complaints are not only promulgated by media pundits, but also widely shared among the entire population. It is common for foreigners to hear Koreans apologizing for their English, saying their English is not good, even among those who had significant years of English language learning. Koreans refer to their own English as Konglish (Korean English), a pejorative term that implies incorrect, absurd, broken English that is not really English at all (Park, 2008). When Koreans claim such incompetence, they do not simply note that they do not speak the language because it is not their own (as they would for any other foreign language), but frame that incompetence in terms of embarrassment: they ought to be speaking good English, and seriously would like to, but shamefully, they cannot—a manifestation of an ideology I called self-deprecation elsewhere (Park, 2009). In this sense, the Korean English frenzy is not just an effort to secure English due to its pragmatic utility, but a manifestation of a pervasive anxiety which presses Koreans to pursue English by any means at whatever cost.

In this chapter, I adopt the notion of border crossing to make sense of this anxiety. The notion of the border has been discussed extensively in various fields including anthropology, cultural studies, and postcolonial studies, as migration, displacement, and transnationalism become central experiences in the modern world. While the most influential of these works, such as that of Homi Bhabha (1994), recognize the border as a site of hybridity that contests and subverts the imposing gaze of colonialism and modernity, here I rely more on perspectives that understand border crossing as a site of pain and anxiety (Walkerdine, 2006). Crossing the border is an experience fraught with tension, uneasiness, and sadness, because one can never be completely at home with the place beyond the border, yet cannot fully return to the place one has left behind, and as a result, is left occupying an ever transient space that spans the border. I consider border crossing as a useful metaphor for understanding Koreans’ relationship with English, as it highlights the material nature of this anxiety—how it is historically rooted in Korea’s experiences of modernity, in which the encounter with the West played a significant role; and how it is something bodily experienced by Koreans, not simply an ideological but a psychological reaction, lived and performed through everyday life.

One characteristic of borders is that they are binary, an absolute line that differentiates Self and Other, despite the fact that they rarely correspond to “natural” boundaries that exist independently of discourse—and in this sense they are brutal. In postcolonial studies, borders are seen as Manichean (Fanon, 1965; JanMohamed, 1985), a dualism that projects extreme oppositions of value, as in white/black, good/evil, civilized/savage, superior/inferior, and so on. The border thus violently redraws the world of the colonized into compartmentalized, hierarchical spaces, erasing the complexity of relations that cannot be accommodated by such oppositions. This is what makes the border a site of anxiety, for our life world does not stop at boundaries stipulated by the border, yet the border is set up in a way that crossing over is constantly problematized. The colonized is led to desire the world beyond the border, which is represented as the ideal world under the Manichaean order—yet is precluded from being a part of that world, always seen as the “native.” Instead, the border invokes a sense of guilt in the colonized who desires the world of the colonizer, for he or she is made to be seen as abandoning the “homeland” that supposedly defines his or her existence. As a result, the colonized is caught in the borderland—that between longing and belonging, between identity and alterity, between loyalty and betrayal—constantly wandering between the world they desire yet cannot be a part of, and the home they left behind yet cannot let go of.

On a more fundamental level, the anxiety of border crossing is inherent to modernity, at the center of which stands the coherent, unitary Self, created by the Cartesian separation between the interior and exterior. As Valerie Walkerdine suggests, “all subjects exist at a border” (2006:11). Working class women who left their community for a middle class life, manual workers who are forced to take up new skills in the name of “flexibility” and “resilience” while their traditional community of support disintegrates—these are examples that Walkerdine offers as people who are made to live a life on the border, suffering from pain, loss, and anxiety. Be it colonialism as a manifestation of the capitalist World System, geographical and social segregation of classes, or neoliberal obliteration of community and solidarity, what is central in each case is the border imposed by the ideology of the modern subject, and the anxiety of being caught across that border.

The pain and anxiety of the border is all too familiar to Koreans, who live with the world’s most heavily guarded, yet arguably most arbitrary border in modern history—the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea, with hundreds of thousands of families split by the division. The modern Korean experience is also haunted by many other, interrelated manifestations of the border. In this chapter I suggest that, in Korea, English is one of those manifestations. It is a language that represents the glorified West, enticing Koreans to cross over to its world; but at the same time, it is an authorized language which does not admit Koreans as members of its world, via a linguicism that constructs unequal divisions of identity on the basis of language (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1988; Phillipson, 1992). While to know English is to enter another world, dominant ideologies of English, originating from Western, racialized understandings of linguistic ownership and transplanted through Korean encounters with the West, problematize and illegitimize such acts of border crossing. And this problem is exacerbated by the fact that issues of class, power, and privilege are deeply implicated in drawing of the border of English. The resulting impenetrability and rigidity of the border thus fills Koreans’ experience of English with feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and inferiority. By tracing the historical context and psychological effect of Koreans’ anxiety about English, I discuss below in more detail how the border figures in the question of English in South Korea.


I want to begin my discussion with one specific case—my own, because it is one of the things that first made me think of the question of English in terms of the border. My life actually began with border crossing. My parents were Korean students studying in the US, where they met and got married. With the completion of my father’s doctoral studies, my parents returned to Korea in the early 1970s with my sisters and me, all of whom were born in the US. Once I came to Korea, I never crossed its border again until more than twenty years later, when I would return to the US as a graduate student like my parents once were. Nonetheless, my family continued to live inside the culture of the US. We consumed things like peanut butter and Spam (rare commodities at that time), we had our meals on a plate (instead of having rice in a bowl, the Korean way), and even owned a color TV set (even though the only available broadcasts were black-and-white)—all material traces of the life we once had in the West, preserved and maintained through the support of my father’s position as a researcher at a government institute and later as a university professor.

But the most salient vestige of our life abroad was language: the way English permeated our daily routines. While the language we spoke was mostly Korean, English still took a large part of our language use, with ample uses of codemixing. Literacy in English was also a major presence; there was always a recent issue of Time, Newsweek, or Stars and Stripes (the newspaper of the US military) lying around the house, in addition to many books in English. For my sisters and me, we also had the indelible marker of an American accent. Even when the distinction offered by our material goods faded away (Spam and color TV sets quickly became commonplace) English stood by our side like a faithful friend, testifying to our difference from other Koreans.

I didn’t speak English like kids my age growing up in the US, and I still needed to learn English when I entered middle school (the stage where Koreans my age were first introduced to English). But my familiarity with English allowed me to learn it much more easily and quickly than my classmates. While they were busy memorizing rules of grammar, I was able to notice what was wrong with a sentence and how to correct it; while they were struggling to make sense of an English text printed in our books, I was able to grasp what it meant; and while other students tried hard to imitate the sound of native speakers recorded on cassette tapes, I knew exactly where to place my tongue to pronounce the word the way the American did. All of this was certainly an advantage in school; Korean language, mathematics, and English were the three major subjects of study, and English was mostly a breeze for me, while for my classmates how to study English was a mystery.

But English meant not just a boost in school grades. It also was a door to another world. AFKN (American Forces Korean Network), a free-to-air television and radio broadcast of the US Armed Forces for their military personnel stationed in Korea, was a gold mine. While anyone with a TV set could watch it, I don’t know of many Korean households who regularly watched it like we did. As a child I used to watch the lineup of Saturday morning cartoons with my sisters, and shows like Sesame Street and The Electric Company on weekdays. With the exception of the occasional Japanese anime shows featuring giant robots, nothing on Korean television was more enjoyable and more satisfying. Then, when I became a teenager I discovered the world of pop music. Songs in English were definitely cooler than gayo, or Korean popular songs—actually, pop music had to be in English; it simply wasn’t conceivable to me at that time that one could express the same sentiments and sensibilities, the rhythms and beats in a language other than English. While Korean radio stations heavily played Western pop music, again I preferred to access the latest hits through the weekly show American Top 40 on AFKN. Keeping track of the newest hit songs and writing down their lyrics was the peak of my week. English was the single most important thing that made all this possible for me; it was a key that allowed me to understand and appreciate this whole new cultural scene that lied beyond Korea and which other Koreans could only take a peek at through the muddied window of Korean monolingualism and local culture. English was a precious asset that I would not trade in for anything else.

But at the same time, English was also a great source of anxiety and tension. When my friends learned that I was born in the US, the first thing they would say was, “can you speak English?” Though uncomfortable with the attention, I would say a word or two in my American English, and they would burst out in laughter and amazement, mimicking my pronunciation. After the same thing happened a few times, I decided it would be wise to not reveal my transnational provenance. English was a great distance between other kids and me. It symbolically accentuated all the ways in which I was different from others, the foreign culture of my home, the benefits I enjoyed by coming from the US, the way I enjoyed things others didn’t even know existed. English was a constant reminder of how I lived in a different world, unable to fully cross back to the world of my friends, where I also wanted to be. I didn’t want them to see me as different, yet any utterance in English or the mere mention of the fact that I had been abroad would immediately set me apart.

As I grew older I came to realize that there are deeper historical roots to my anxiety. I learned about the complex role of the US in Korean society—how it divided up the country into two in its imperialist contest with the Soviet Union, leading to the intraethnic bloodshed and destruction of the Korean War; how it endorsed the series of military dictatorships that ruled South Korea for decades so that it could maintain its influence in the geopolitically crucial Far East; how it mistreated its faithful ally through the unequal military agreements it established with the Korean government; and so on. As I learned about these things, I realized having English carried serious implications of being a traitor who takes pride in siding with the Powerful Other and looks down upon his own kind. I hadn’t read Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, but it would have been all familiar to me, because the colonized who desired to be the colonizer by speaking the colonizer’s language, whom Fanon was talking about, was me. I thereby learned that desiring and celebrating English in Korea comes with a price: the price of anxiety, tension, and guilt.

To me, then, to have English—to know English, to speak English, to feel close to English—was to live in a liminal space; that between Korean and English, Korea and the West, between identity and alterity, between loyalty and betrayal, and between longing and belonging, never quite being rooted in one or the other, ambivalent about where I should stand, feeling lost and unable to decide to where I should belong. By being born into English, I was born straddling the border that did not allow crossing over; I was anxious and fragmented, wanting to desire and celebrate what English promised to bring me, but held back by the guilt and shame that threatened my sense of belonging.


Even though my specific experience differs in many ways from an average Korean’s, I believe my complex feeling towards English has much in common with Koreans’ anxiety about English. If my feelings were rooted not so much in transnational movement per se, but in the boundaries of class, consumption, and culture that were invoked by English, then it would also make sense to think of all Koreans, even those who have never crossed the geographical boundary of Korea, as also living across a border, for such boundaries were central to Korea’s modern experience. Though I fully acknowledge and do not mean to downplay my own classed position, here I intend to point out that in either case, it is the brutality of the modern border that defines us in a way that contradicts our own complex and multiple sense of beingness.

When Korea opened its door to the West in 1882 by signing a forced treaty with the US, ending its isolation policy that gave it the name “the hermit kingdom,” Western technologies, practices, beliefs, and ideas swarmed the Korean people, exposing them to a whole new world. When Korea emerged from Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945), the US military occupied the southern half of the peninsula, beginning decades of powerful US influence on Korean politics, economy, and culture. Nadia Kim (2008) describes how such imperial encounters and their cultural manifestations—such as educational institutions built by US missionaries or Hollywood movies—established an idealized image of the benevolent, abundant, and advanced West and instilled in the Korean populace a desire for the US that still persists, though in uneasy coexistence with anti-American sentiment. Neocolonial discourse worked in terms of a relational and binary opposition; as the US was constructed as powerful, advanced, and beautiful (the Korean name for the US is miguk, literally “beautiful country”), Koreans were understood in its mirror image—weak, backwards, and inferior. Such contrasts have their roots in US discourse during Korea’s colonial and post-war period, which depicted Koreans as dirty, deceiving, and ugly, and these Orientalist views of Koreans were internalized by Koreans themselves through an acknowledgement of the inferiority of Korean aesthetics, ethics, and social organization. “South Koreans, then, have been made to feel inferior not just by virtue of their reliance on a superior US military, but by the racial ideologies of the military itself” (Kim, 2008:54; emphasis in original).

This is not to say that Koreanness was a coherent, essential identity that collapsed into a schizophrenic condition only with contact with the West. Korea always had its own internal divisions of region and social class, and Koreans have always crossed borders, having existed as part of a cosmopolitan civilization centered in China for centuries (Seth, 2006); thus it is not the experience of the border that was new. But Korea’s late 19th century and early 20th century encounters with the West served as a crucible for modernist ideas of “nationhood” as the country was “forcibly incorporated into a nation-state system dominated by Western imperial powers” (Em, 1999:339; see also Schmid, 2002). This period gave birth to a nationalist historiography that “invented” the Korean tradition and origin, giving Koreans a new way of articulating their own identity in distinction to foreign Others, an intensified form of reflexivity, and thus a means for engaging in anti-colonial struggle. But it also provided them with a framework for naturalizing the dualist image of the East and West and internalizing the Manichaean opposition of values that supports colonial and imperial discourses of power—in which the border, essential to the modern conception of the nation, denies forms of hybridity and interpenetration.

In this process, English served a key role. On the one hand, English was a powerful mechanism for instilling and internalizing a desire for the western Other (Pennycook, 1998). As Fanon said, “to speak a language is to take on a world, a culture” (1967:38). Particularly since the days of the US military occupation (1945-1948), English has been a language of power, and to speak English was to access all the positive things that the US represented in Korea. Intellectuals educated in the US, for example, secured important positions in the newly established South Korean government, leading many people to treat English as crucial for social advancement. But on the other hand, assimilation through English was also made impossible by dominant global ideologies of English which define the “native speaker” not purely in terms of linguistic abilities but in terms of race and national origin (Widdowson, 1994; Brutt-Griffler and Samimy, 2001; Leung, Harris, and Rampton, 1997; Holliday, 2005; Park and Wee, 2009). Prevalent US media depictions of Asian Americans and Asian nationals as speakers of broken, accented, incomprehensible English were circulated in Korean society through circulation of media products and movement of people between the two countries (Lo and Chi, 2009). This forced Koreans to accept that their English will only be a mimicry, never a legitimate language and forever subject to evaluation by the “native speaker”—despite the fact that significant amount of hybridity and interpenetration between Korean and English has existed since Korea’s independence and even more so today (Park, 2008). By reinforcing and naturalizing social, racial, and national difference, English thus imposed impervious modern borders of identity, trapping Koreans under a feeling of inferiority and anxiety.

This anxiety is “real” in a bodily sense. A striking example is the feeling of junuk that often characterizes Koreans’ attitude towards English. The term junuk refers to a feeling of inadequacy, as in when one stands before a powerful figure and feels completely helpless and feeble, subsumed by a strong sense of inferiority. While any structure of power and hierarchy may subject a person to junuk, encounters with English, particularly interactions with native speakers of English, are commonly talked about as contexts that heighten this helpless sense of inadequacy. Koreans’ talk about English is full of jokes, tales, complaints, and assertions about how they become petrified upon encountering an English-speaking foreigner (Park, 2009), how they feel ashamed of their lack of English skills as they struggle to find words to express their thoughts, and how they wish they would overcome their yeongeo ulleongjeung (‘English nausea’)—the debilitating fear and anxiety of speaking English. Indeed, it is this junuk that makes English a national obsession; the desperate want to escape from this inferiority leads Koreans to pursue English at all costs. Even speakers who have reasonable competence in English are subject to this feeling. Literary critic and scholar of English literature, Yun Jigwan, speaks of this in the following way (translated from Korean):

The fact that I am an expert in the English language does not mean that I am immune to this wave of mass hysteria [of the English frenzy]. I am not free to look at this commotion from a distance and click my tongue at it. If English is not one’s mother tongue, mastering some English will neither let one escape from the domination of English nor make the internalized inferiority complex about English go away forever. […] Even so-called English language specialists undoubtedly suffer from junuk about English, though it may be manifest in a different form.

Because of my job as an English literary scholar, I occasionally visit the US. Whenever I lecture at an American university or attend an academic conference, the problem of English constantly follows me and bothers me like an evil spirit, clinging to some part of my brain. In front of those who possess the marbles of English as their own and who can freely play with those marbles anyway they want, I feel the awkward self-consciousness of a country teacher who must reluctantly demonstrate his puny skills with the marbles. At the same time, this junuk sometimes turns into anger and lament, as I remember I have my own set of marbles that I can handle all too well. (Yun, 2001:111-112)

Inferiority complex, awkwardness, anger and lament—Yun’s account highlights the psychological reality and complexity of the anxiety Koreans feel towards English. It is instructive that Yun interprets this anxiety from a postcolonial perspective, locating his frustration within the relations of power in which academic authority of the West demands knowledge to be represented and exchanged in its own terms, in the language of English; after all, the title of his essay translates as “English, colonialism of my heart.” Yun’s essay is in fact written as part of a debate with novelist Bok Geoil, who argued that English should be made an official language of Korea in order to boost Koreans’ competence in English (see Park, 2009 for details). This segment is thus a call to problematize the hegemony of English by critiquing its process of internalization, which Yun seeks to expose by confessing his own anxiety about English. But his confession also reveals that the greatest source of his frustration seems to lie in his belief that English will never become his own language, that he will never be recognized as a native speaker, for pure linguistic competence, no matter how advanced, does not make the language one’s “mother tongue” (mogukeo). Elsewhere in the same essay, Yun also states, “if English is not your mother tongue, your English language skills will always be limited, always inferior to those of a native speaker” (p.121), criticizing false hopes (of people such as Bok) that greater investments in English language learning will give Koreans equal status to native speakers.

From a sociolinguistic perspective, this statement may seem problematic, for it does not acknowledge the multiple ways in which ownership of English may be defined or the local creativity that contests a center-based model of linguistic legitimacy (Park and Wee, 2009). That is, rather than contesting notions such as “mother tongue” or “native speaker,” Yun treats them as essential categories, proposing a resistance that works around them instead. But here I am not interested in criticizing Yun’s perspective; instead I want to show how his statement illustrates the importance of the border in the generation of anxiety about English. For Yun, his source of frustration is nothing other than the impenetrable boundaries of identity, according to which Koreans are, by definition, illegitimate speakers of English who will always be subordinate to the authority of “native speakers.” The sense of inferiority and inadequacy that oppresses the Korean emanates not from the English-speaking Western individual, but from the sheer monumentality of the border that separates the Korean from that Westerner, denying all possibility of Koreans’ creative and transformative appropriation of English. The border makes any Korean attempt at using English unnatural, and thus awkward, alien, and anxious—even though Koreans live in a world where English is a common presence, where hybridity and border crossing are unavoidable. It is this contradiction that overwhelms the Korean with a feeling of junuk, as they are cast as inferior people who linger along the border hoping for a chance to cross over to the other side to which (they are told) they do not belong.


If anxiety about English leads to Korea’s frantic quest for English, what effect does this pursuit have? The Korean English frenzy has been going on for more than a decade, coinciding with Korea’s national project of globalization that started in the mid 1990s, and this has given rise to a generation of Koreans who have experienced a very different kind of exposure to English compared to their parents’ generation. For example, jogi yuhak, or early study abroad, in which pre-university students are sent to study in English speaking countries, has emerged as an important strategy for inculcating “native English” in the child (Park and Bae, 2009; Song, 2010). The popularity of jogi yuhak among middle class households has now resulted in a contingent of transnational youths who feel much more comfortable in interacting with English speakers in cross-cultural context than their parents’ generation. They speak fluent English, if not in an accent indistinguishable from “native speakers,” and are able to freely express their thoughts without being constrained by the anxiety that paralyze older Koreans. If new forms of transnationalism have led to this change, does this mean that the feeling of junuk will someday no longer bother Korean speakers of English? As globalization makes border crossing increasingly mundane and trivial, will English cease to carry the meaning of a border that splits the Korean psyche and infuses the experience of speaking it with tension and anxiety? Will all Koreans, one day, finally be free from the burden of English?

Whether this will be the case will have to be seen. But the discussion above suggests that the question is not really about whether Koreans will be able to acquire “native” accents or not. If imperfect mastery of accent were the primary issue, the anxiety of border crossing should be irrelevant to Korean migrants to the US, who, by the second generation, usually speak with little discernible deviation from mainstream American English. Yet, English means a tension between longing and belonging to Korean Americans as well. Under the racialized social order of the US, Korean Americans (along with other Asian Americans) are seen as “forever foreigners” (Tuan, 1998): always invisible in the space of citizenship, never recognized as “Americans,” and denied of their belongingness in mainstream US society, evidenced by the perennial question, “where are you from?” Linguistically, Korean Americans are also subject to stereotypes circulated by the mainstream US society which view them as speakers of English with a foreign accent—of “Yellow English” (Lo and Reyes, 2009). In this sense, Korean Americans still live on the borderland, always working towards assimilation, but always seen as “not quite.” The real issue, then, is not so much opportunities for acquiring the right kind of accent and competence, but the discourses of power which impose boundaries upon the world, and the tension that this brings about in the subject caught inbetween.

The real challenge thus lies in how Koreans can contest the distinctions of identity that instill borders in their mind. Increased transnationalism may not necessarily trivialize border crossing, but in fact may reinforce the ideologies that support oppositions of identity, particularly if that transnationalism is exploited and commodified for the purpose of gaining greater material benefits. Through jogi yuhak, for example, the student is supposed to be better prepared for the neoliberal job market, securing better chances of success through the competence and fluency in English gained abroad, which is commonly understood as acquisition of a “native” accent of English. As such strategies of linguistic investment conform to the dominant order of the global linguistic market, in which “native” English accents of the West are considered more valuable than “non-native” ones, it does little to contest that order, and in fact may be seen as reproducing it. Of course, things do not always have to be this way. The border, after all, is not only a site of anxiety and pain, but may be a locus for contestation and resistance. Thus in some contexts, jogi yuhak students, who often have greater transnational connections and international experience than local native speakers in their destination of study, may look down upon them as “backward” (Shin, 2012), and take pride in their own ability to move flexibly across different accents or norms of English, constructing themselves as true cosmopolitans (Kang, 2012). But it is also important to remember that jogi yuhak is a phenomenon constrained by class relations, in which accessibility is restricted to those who can afford it financially. This means the global hierarchy of power and legitimacy, which obtains between the native-English-speaking West and non-native Koreans, may be reproduced domestically in terms of class, as the wealthy comes to be praised for the competence in English they have acquired through their study abroad. In this case, the potential of border crossing to contest dominant ideologies is lost, as an opposition based on racial, national boundaries is simply replaced with a class-based one.

While I acknowledge the subversive potential of border crossing, I feel skeptical that the oppressive ideologies of identity which trigger anxieties about English can be thrown off so easily. My reason for this is the sheer weight of the burden: this anxiety is simply too heavy to be lifted from our shoulders without serious reflexive work, strenuous critical analysis, and commitment to combat all forms of inequality that threaten to reintroduce borders that objectify Koreans. Through this chapter I have tried to illustrate the actuality of this anxiety and the extent to which it permeates Koreans’ psyche. By speaking of that experience in terms of border crossing, I hope that we Koreans will be able to creatively rework the border and use it to emancipate ourselves from the neocolonial relations of power that give rise to such anxiety. But in order to do so, I believe it is important first to understand fully the nature of this anxiety by taking a more reflexive stance. It needs to be dwelled upon, relived, and put into historical perspective, so that we can truly come to a position where we can contest the borders of schizophrenic pain. The anxiety of English is not something from which we can just move on.


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