South Korea Brings in Foreign Professors by the Thousands­—at a Cost


This is a good, surface-level look at the issue. I like that it’s not just foreign professor’s whining about Korean academia. I too often hear these complaints. Not that there aren’t things to complain about, but it’s often overdone.

Many of these faculty have come to Korea because employment terms are better than what they can get in their home countries. As they say in the article, pay here is comparable to that in the States for starting professors and for established, tenured professors, it might even be better in some majors.

Many faculty, particularly in the field of English Education and related areas, don’t even have doctorates, which means that they likely wouldn’t be able to find any full-time work at universities in the States. With this in mind, a contract, or even tenure-track positions in Korea are quite tempting.

That being said, Korean universities have a lot of work to do to make their international faculty feel more welcome and part of the university community. At the minimum, there should be a dedicated “foreigner wrangler”. Someone to help translate, linguistically and culturally, is essential not only to acclimate a foreign professor to his/her surroundings, but to simply make them a better, more productive faculty member.

I’m a firm believer that Korean language classes should be mandatory for foreign faculty. This should be part of their contract and can be (though not necessarily so) provided by the university. Putting faculty together in these classes is a great way to build a sense of community and to build support networks that might not otherwise grow.

Lastly, I have to state that foreign faculty are beneficial to Korean universities and vice-versa. One of the commenters on the article provides a great justification of the friction experienced by faculty and Korean hosts. The process of globalization is a process of friction between different expectations, habits, and beliefs. This friction slowly wears away at the differences, resulting in the acceptance of some differences and the rejection of others. It is this process that is taking place at most Korean universities now and will continue for the foreseeable future.

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