Shamanism in Korea

Mudang - 무당

In my short blogging career, I’m well aware that I’ve written about subjects that have also been covered elsewhere, and I’ve also written about topics that receive at least some attention in the media or just general discussions, among both Koreans and non-Koreans. But for this post I thought I’d discuss something that is barely even recognised any more, and that is Korean shamanism. This is a subject that has little enough written about it in academic circles, let alone the blogosphere. Yet here I am, and I’m willing to give it a go, as it’s a subject I’ve put a fair amount of time into learning about, and I find it absolutely fascinating. As a brief aside, unlike my previous article on Confucianism in the contemporary education system, I won’t include academic references in this post, but if anyone would like a list, please just let me know!

So, Korean shamanism… where to begin? Well, with its origins seems the most logical place. Korean shamanism dates to before recorded history on the Peninsula, and developed over time, and with the people who practiced it. Korean shamanism was brought to Korea from Siberia, along with the first inhabitants of the Peninsula. In fact, it is still quite easy to see the connection between the shamanism of Korea and the shamanism of Siberia in modern times. One simply has to look at how the shamans themselves dress in the two areas. For example, the headdresses worn by shamans of both areas are remarkably similar. The connection is even more pronounced if we glance back to the Silla kingdom, where it is believed that the kings acted as national shamans.

Siberian shaman dress & Silla crownSiberian shaman’s dress & Silla crown

In this image we can clearly see the forms of trees and shapes representative of animalistic spirits common to both items of headgear. The crown on the right is a well known piece, found in a tomb in Kyŏngju and belonging to a king of Silla. The gold and decoration on the crown shows the king’s exalted status, and arguably that of shamanism at the time, and its form reveals that the king did in fact act as a shaman of a tradition connected to Paleo-Siberian shamanism. The logical progression of course it that for the original inhabitants of the Korean peninsula, shamanism was their religion and system of belief, and so it arrived in Korea with them from Siberia.

So that’s where it came from, and how it got to Korea. But what, exactly, is it? Korean shamanism is variously described as superstition, a religion or more than a religion, depending on from whose perspective one views it. The perception of shamanism in Korea has also changed over time, at various points being state-sponsored then at other times actively persecuted by the ruling classes. The form of shamanism practised in Korea today has been designated ‘superstition’ largely due to its age. Korean shamanism is based on the fundamental principle that every natural object has a spirit.

Mountain Mist

Prior to the formation of the Koryŏ dynasty in 918 AD, shamanism flourished in the Three Kingdoms of Korea. As mentioned previously, the Silla Kingdom makes a particularly insightful study of ancient shamanistic practices. It provides a clear indicator of the importance of shamanistic beliefs, rituals and other practices on all levels of Korean society at the time. The best examples of this are the gold crowns that have been excavated from the burial mounds and tombs of Silla kings. The structure of these elaborate crowns clearly depicts trees, antlers and other facets of nature, all of which are items of great importance to the spiritual ideas of shamanism in Korea. These crowns also evoke the simpler but very similar designs of headdresses worn by shamans in what is now Siberia, so the connection between the two is quite clear. Furthermore, as we can see to this day similar headdresses used by shamans in Korea, the theory has been proposed that Silla kings took the role of a state shaman, an intermediary with the spirits on behalf of their people. Thus the entire Silla state would have been based around the principle ideas of shamanism, and in practice it seems the state was also ran a system which, on a large scale, incorporated shamanistic ritual.

Although the history of the Koryŏ dynasty, the Koryŏ-sa contains more accounts of shamanism than in any of the histories of previous eras, there is also a notable ambiguous attitude towards shamanism. It is clear that shamanism remained an important part of life and the belief system of the masses, but the bureaucracy were almost as a whole actively against maintaining shamanistic practices, and we can see a similar situation in some ways today, but I’ll look at this a bit later. In the Koryŏ-sa it is documented that the literati submitted memorials to the king outlining abuses perpetrated by shamans and even suggested policies to diminish their influence (this comes from here). At one point the literati were so successful in this that they managed to have the shamans driven from the capital and their rites were banned.

Although the bureaucratic officials seemed to have had some success at reducing the influence of shamanism, the Koryŏ-sa also makes it clear that the ruling families of Koryŏ, like the common people, still utilised the services of shamans to aid their ruling of the state. The Koryŏ-sa contains references to more than twenty occasions when kings gathered shamans to pray for rain. Shamans also seemed to prosper thanks to the royal family in times of need. On the other hand, there are also a few examples of members of the royal court being charged with using shamanic black magic to influence dynastic selection. During this period, although shamanism clearly remained important to Korean society, it never enjoyed the same state patronage that Buddhism did, coming to prominence in Korea during the Koryŏ period and becoming the state religion. However, successful shamans could still become moderately rich, and those who avoided the purges by the bureaucracy could sometimes hold considerable unofficial power within the region in which they operated.

The Chosŏn dynasty of Korea saw an even more drastic transition in the status of the shaman. In rural life the beliefs and practices of shamanism held firm, although the state in its entirety attempted to aggressively suppress it. There are very few official accounts of shamnism from this period, and none favourable. The state officials of Chosŏn would encourage the studying of Neo-Confucian principles and ideas to try and discourage the general populace from indulging their apparent “fascination” with shamanism, Buddhism, and Taoist ideas.

This also brings into the analysis another important factor, and that is the fact that there were many philosophical and religious beliefs in Korea throughout its history. In order to survive, these different beliefs obviously either had to struggle against one another, or they had to absorb aspects of the others, and in turn have aspects of themselves absorbed in order to exist alongside each other. In looking at the Chosŏn period, which became arguably the most Confucian state the world has yet seen, clearly the greatest conflict with shamanism came from the Confucian literati. This is not due simply to a difference in ideology and practice, but instead is due to the humanistic nature of Confucianism. Confucianism requires everyone within the society to obey by the rules of the state, created by man, and implemented by man. There is a strict hierarchy, with the worthy scholars at the top, and everyone defers to those above. Shamanism does not partake of this ideology, as it is based on a belief that every natural object has a spirit, and man should live in accordance with nature and the spirits. Therefore it’s not the rules of any man, scholar or not, that a believer in shamanism would follow. Confucian rulers require utter control and awareness of all that occurs within their state. Shamanism is one thing that could never be controlled in this way, and by its nature it falls outside the sphere of possible Confucian influence.

Buddhist Temple

Buddhism, on the other hand, is the best example of a religious belief and philosophy that entered Korea later than shamanism, yet neither notably struggled against it nor tried to remove it. Instead, in order for Buddhism to gain acceptance among the non-political classes it had to absorb some of the aspects of their native beliefs, and find a way to exist alongside these beliefs. And with the rising popularity of Buddhism, shamanism had to do the same to avoid dying out. This continued to the present day, where one can now find in the centre of Seoul, within Korea’s shamanic  centre, self-described Buddhist temples where the monks offer guidance on how to make offerings to the spirits of shamanism. This part of Seoul is truly unique and quite incredible, and I’ll discuss it below.

There are two methods for a person to become a shaman in Korea, which remains the same to this day as it always has. The first is by inheritance. Although this is rare, presumably due to shamans generally not marrying, when it does occur the child would almost always be trained as a shaman. The other way, which is the usual method, is to first suffer from an inexplicable disease which only disappears when the inflicted becomes a shaman. This is believed to be a calling by the spirits to be a shaman. The shamans who inherited their position are not thought to have supernatural powers, and thus cannot tell fortunes or act as an intermediary with the spirit world. Their main role is to perform basic rites. Most Korean shamans, however, are believed to have supernatural powers to heal, and act as an intermediary between the human world and the spirit world. This belief that a shaman has some form of supernatural power would have given the shaman considerable power in traditional rural village life especially, and they would have been both a healing woman or man as well as a spiritual guide, to the point of being the voice of the spirits.

춤추는 무당

A village mudang (shaman)

Every shaman in Korea would have had various items of spiritual and ceremonial importance that would be used when performing the kut, or shaman ritual. The most obvious of these is clearly the clothes they wear. Shaman clothes are generally bright in colour, often strongly featuring the colours that are used in East Asia to identify the five cardinal directions, which all have a representative great spirit. These colours are blue, the colour of the eastern direction and dragon spirit; red, the colour of the south and the tortoise spirit; white for the west and the spirit of the tiger; black for the north and the crow, and yellow for the centre. These symbolic clothes are supplemented by a fan and bells, which the shaman waves with each hand during the kut, which are used to beckon favourable spirits and repel evil ones. Shamans also often use swords or long decorative knives as a way of warding off evil spirits and negative energies.


During a kut, the shaman’s soul is believed to leave their body, and they enter a trance-like state. During this time the shaman communicates directly with the spirits, while offerings of food and drink are made. All the while the shaman’s performance is accompanied by music, usually played by people who requested the kut, and the shaman will dance and sing throughout. Eventually the shaman will reveal the spirits’ intentions to the living. Most kuts contain twelve acts, and the shaman will change their clothes before each, and will communicate and be possessed by different spirits each act. Some kuts facilitate a confrontation of sorts between the living and the spirits of the deceased. During this type of kut, firstly angry spirits will be appeased, then the dead may air their grievances, and finally the living will do the same.

Korean shamanism has developed kuts for many different purposes. The first type of kut every shaman participates in is the ceremony of shaman initiation, which is in two parts, before and after the shaman receives their training. The most important kuts performed in Korean shamanism are rites to heal sickness, leading the dead into the afterlife, and praying to the spirits for a good harvest, as traditionally these all relate to events which would have affected an entire community, considering that traditionally a community would most commonly have been an agricultural or fishing village. Aside from these, two other kuts that a local shaman would regularly perform were kuts to ward off misfortune and to exorcise evil spirits and harmful energy.

Shamanism in Korea has undergone few changes in its long history, and its resilience as a system of belief is testament both to its adaptability when needed, but also to its importance to the people of Korea, despite any other influences opposed to it. However, during the Chosŏn dynasty and also notably under the presidency of Park Chung-Hee, shamanism was officially branded as merely a superstition with some cultural value, and this remains the view of the majority of Koreans today. Many Koreans, especially younger Koreans, refer to their native shamanism using the umbrella term “superstition.” Even more telling than this, however, is that these same Koreans also use the English word “superstition” when talking about shamanism with non-Koreans. This is a rather abstract word, and it seems to me that the only reason they choose to refer to shamanism as superstition is because they’ve been taught to portray it that way. This corresponds with the attitude of such political leaders as Park Chung-Hee, as well as with the near universal desire among Koreans not to appear backwards to people of other nations. Therefore it appears as though at some indeterminable point a group of people – probably school teachers – were instructed that everyone should be encouraged to explain traditional shamanism as superstition to non-Koreans. there are of course precedents in Korea for people to try and portray Korea in the way that they believe will be best accepted by non-Koreans.

If you’ve managed to get this far, firstly well done. Secondly, you may be surprised, but it is actually still possible to find forms of shamanism today that have remained almost completely unchanged. Firstly, rural villages often still have a local shaman, and although the local residents may not all have the belief in the practice that they would have had in previous times, kuts are still performed, and believers and practitioners can still be found. However it must be noted here that many kuts performed in Korea today are done so more as a cultural demonstration than for the perceived spiritual benefit they may bring. One extremely important exception to this is, as noted above, to be found in the centre of Seoul. On the slopes of Inwang Mountain – meaning the Benevolent King Mountain – there is a small village of traditional style low-rise houses and numerous small temples and shrines. The mountain has two rocky peaks, one of which resembles a man wearing kingly robes – the Benevolent King, and the other a tiger.

인왕산인왕산 – Inwangsan. The left peak is the Benevolent King, facing left and sitting down, and his tiger can be seen to the right. Source.

InwangsanOct04-022-742x417Here you can clearly see the Benevloent King or Sansin spirit, wearing what appears to be a crown.

The natural form of this mountain, with its stone Benevolent King and his tiger, has led shamanic believers to believe that it is in fact the great spirit of Korean mountains, Sansin, who is rising up from the mountain into the human world. It is this reasoning that makes this the most important spiritual site in Korea to believers in shamanism. Below these rocks in the village the temples claim to be Buddhist, yet belong to no Buddhist order, and have little to do with the way of the Buddha, and much to do with ways to serve the spirits. This village is also home to numerous shamans, shrines and other areas where they perform kuts that are requested by ordinary people who believe in the benefits these rites bring. People of all walks of life in Korea come to this place to pray, make offerings to the spirits and to request kuts. It is not uncommon to find businessmen and women coming in small groups with offerings of food and drink and playing the music during a kut. It is here that one can truly see how shamanism in Korea has worn the pressures of the ages to survive into the present and beyond. Believers in shamansism gravitate to this place from all over, and it is clear to anyone who visits that traditional shamanism, with a history as long as that of the Korean people, still permeates through this society, perhaps weaker in influence than before, and certainly less conspicuous, but it is certainly still there, both physically and within the people themselves.

sanshinSanshin, the Mountain Spirit, with his pet tiger



422206794_0b6adb39f2Kuts being performed at Inwangsan



The Contemporary Korean Education System and Confucianism

Before I begin this post proper, I’d just like to give a quick bit of background information as to its genesis. I wrote the original form of this piece as an essay, trying to explain how much the contemporary education system in Korea is still influenced by traditional Confucian concepts and values, and how much is now derived from ‘modern’ ‘western’ theory and practice. I’ve obviously modified the essay from its original form to what you see here, but I apologise for its length, and if I haven’t edited it very well; it’s the first time I’ve attempted to do this! I can’t provide links for every point I make as one would do with citations in an academic piece, but I will provide a shortened list of references at the end for anyone who wants to do some further reading on the topic.


I have to start with briefly mentioning Korea’s long and deep history of Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism and Confucian values. For half a millennium, the entire country was structured according to the fundamental Confucian principles for government, society and family as well as the role of the individual within these units during the Chosŏn dynasty, from 1392 until 1910. The effect of this on the subconscious of the Korean people was profound, and even today Korea is considered to be the most Confucian nation of the world, more so even than China.


The Dosan Seowon traditional Confucian academy founded by Toegye Yi Hwang (W5000 note)

The Dosan Seowon traditional Confucian academy founded by Toegye Yi Hwang (W5000 note)



When one understands this, it becomes clear that even today, many facets of Korean society and government – and of course family life – are in line with Confucian principles and methods, simply in a more updated form to function in the Twenty-first Century. The educational system is no different. Education was a vital and fundamental part of the Confucian ideal for a state. In fact, in a Confucian state scholars were the most highly respected class of people. To achieve success in the civil service examinations in these countries, one had to first spend a great amount of time in rigorous study and ‘self-cultivation,’ a popular theme in Confucian thought. As this was the path to a bright future, one can see how a culture of respect for education, and admiration for the educated came about in Korea. This was the subconscious attitude that was present – and in many respects still is – when South Korea’s present educational system was formed.

However, it is naturally a difficult task to ask whether the influence of a man who lived around two and a half millennia ago can be conclusively proven to exist in the educational system of Korea today. Bearing this in mind, then, what I will now try to investigate is whether any concepts or principles introduced or attributed to Confucian philosophy can be seen and identified within this educational system today.

Structurally, the Korean educational system is very rigid and closed. It takes the form of a vertical hierarchy, as any institution would in a Confucian-influenced setting. This said, in name and very superficially the Korean system is actually modelled on the American system. The similarity is, however, very superficial, with the American system being much more decentralised and open. Furthermore, the interpersonal relationships within the two systems are very different, as well as methods of teaching and studying, although this will be discussed in more detail below. At the head of the Korean system is the Ministry of Education, whose main function is policy making and evaluation. Therefore this body governs the behaviour of all institutions in the country. This type of vertical structuring is very reminiscent of Confucian ministries, and the effect is thereby echoed within the educational institutions themselves.

A typical school or higher education institution in South Korea will have a similar vertical hierarchy, usually with a single male at the very top. Typical educators in Korea consider that this role requires an authoritarian leader, according to J. Lee (2001). Such authoritarian leadership means that there is little discourse between the staff of the institutions regarding policies or important matters. The figurehead will typically only require his staff to obey and respect him for the perceived smooth running of the institution. These administrators also, as I’m sure any English teachers in Korea will testify, encourage their subordinates to “devote” themselves to their institution, and by extension its head.

Lee also explains the hierarchy in more detail, saying

… sitting positions are usually based on rank determined by status, age, and gender.”

Such a system is clearly not derived from ‘modern’ or ‘western’ concepts, and just as clearly demonstrates a Confucian style hierarchical body.

As mentioned above, the highest level administrators of Korean schools and educational institutes are typically authoritarian men. This again reflects the feeling of male superiority found in Confucian texts and traditions. But it is not just in the case of the highest administrators where this is seen within the educational system in South Korea. In fact, it appears that it is prevalent on all levels.

The OECD reveals that in 1999 in South Korea from a total of 354 higher education institutes employing 55718 teaching staff, 8505 were women, and 47213 were men. Moreover, J. Lee states

female faculty members are generally discriminated or disadvantaged in personnel or school administration by the majority of male administrators.”

As Confucianism has always been favourable towards men, it can be assumed that it is more likely that men will transmit Confucian sentiments onto others. Thus, this analysis clearly leads one to consider that most Koreans, whilst perhaps not openly indoctrinated in Confucian philosophy any more, are surrounded by a system run entirely according to a Confucian modus operandi, and so it is highly likely that such attitudes will be transmitted at the very least in part.



Another fundamental concept of Confucian thought is that of filial piety and respect for elders. Sung explains that;

In the traditional Confucian notion, the aged are people who must be respected. Filial piety inherently entails a ‘respect-the-old’ ideology.”

Typically, the concept of filial piety in Confucian thinking refers most specifically to the respect a child has for their parents, and the care they show for them. Accompanying this, however, is the idea that similar respect and displays of respect must be shown to all who are elder. Thus we begin to see the reason behind the aforementioned complex seating arrangements in a school staff room, for example. Younger members of staff will demonstrate the required respect by referring to elder members of staff using honourific titles. This pattern is also carried over into the relationships between teachers and pupils. The teachers also expect unquestioning obedience from their students. Within the classroom, the teacher takes on the role of the parent in a two-layer hierarchy, and the students are effectively in the role of children. Pupils are expected to show gratitude to their teachers. Independent discussion and thought around the topic are discouraged, with almost all lessons being conducted by rote learning in Korea (Again, some of you will surely know most this already). This is a distinct contrast to the western approach, and also further amplifies the effects of a Confucian hierarchy within the classroom, whereby the students do only as instructed, viewing the teacher as an infallible figure.

Evidently, the contemporary Korean education system does indeed reflect many traditional Confucian concepts. Of course, Korea has undergone many drastic upheavals and changes since it was officially run as a Confucian state, such as the colonization by Japan, the Korean War, military authoritarian rule, the switch to full democracy and the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. Events such as these have had a marked effect on the culture of Korea and on its people. One thing some scholars refer to is that in South Korea now there is a sweeping trend towards materialism and cornucopian trends (OECD, 2000, 48; Chua, 2000, 15).

This is naturally far-removed from the Confucian ideals traditionally held. On the other hand, fashion and other materialistic pursuits are typically followed en masse by young Koreans, perhaps even more so than in some Western nations. This example of the many acting as one within the country is a feature of a Confucian state. It is my view, therefore, that such following of trends en masse is in reality a development of a Confucian element as a result of some of the events in Korea’s modern history, and is not a complete deviation from Confucian traditions.  The OECD states that

higher education merely becomes a tool for socio-economic enhancement.”

That is to say, in contemporary South Korea, the clear love of and desire for education is not always out of respect for education itself, but rather because education is seen as the easiest path to material gain.

There are other examples of traditional Confucian concepts that have also been distorted as a result of the rapid developments in Korean history. In the same way that the aforementioned factor does not fall squarely into the traditional Confucian respect for education, but is rather a distortion of this feature, the authoritarian style of leader within educational institutes also does not always converge precisely with the traditional Confucian ideal leader. J. Lee explains that the traditional Confucian-influenced ruler is one who shows benevolence towards those lower in the hierarchy than themselves, and commands respect by dint of being morally righteous and virtuous.


The Confucian leader must be the most suitable to lead, and do so with compassion, and according to a strict moral code. In this way, it is natural that a leader earns their authority. Leaders within the Korean educational system also command great authority, demand respect, and operate in a highly authoritarian way, whilst also refraining from opening channels of discourse with other staff or students regarding important issues and policy.

The issue here is that contemporary leaders of South Korean educational institutions maintain a Confucian style strict top-down hierarchy and operate in a very authoritarian manner, yet do not always show the benevolence or reciprocated morality that should be required in a traditional Confucian archetypal structure. Clearly this, too, is an example of not a reflection of traditional Confucian concepts, but rather a refraction of them. Moreover, the absolute dominance of rote learning within Korean education now means that there is less time than ever for teachers to encourage positive moral values, something that was traditionally of fundamental importance within Confucian philosophy.

In answer to the titular question, then, it is evident that certain traditional Confucian concepts and values are reflected in the contemporary educational system of South Korea. Prominent among these are a strict hierarchy, seen both in the structuring of the educational system itself and also within each educational institute. As has been seen, this hierarchy is based on the traditional Confucian concepts of the superiority of age and the dominance of men. Devotion to the group to which one belongs is also stressed, as is a certain “educational adoration.” The students do not look to question the actions of their teachers or the subject matter of their classes, compounded by rote learning that submerges more ‘western’ trends towards individual thought and opinion.

These Confucian elements are not only reflected in the contemporary educational system but are in actual fact enforced and encouraged. On the other hand, others are being eroded, replaced or augmented by what may be referred to as ‘western’ or ‘modern’ concepts. It could be said that using education for material gain falls into this category, as the rise in materialistic views in South Korea is often attributed to Westernization (Chua, 2000). The South Korean government also operates a policy whereby all are supposed to have equal and fair access to education. While in practice this has been proven not to be the case – with students studying in certain locations or certain subjects being discriminated when they want to advance into higher education and employment – it is a concept that was not held by the traditional Confucian thinker (Kwak, 2004, 15). In fact, the hagwon, or private tutoring institute, rose to popularity as the general population viewed the traditional Confucian schools as too elitist. So while this is not necessarily an imported western concept, it is also historically not aligned with the traditional Confucian system.

In structural terms, the South Korean education system is based on the American one, although in practice it is more centralized and in correspondence with the traditional Confucian model for any such public ministry or system. The value and role of universities in Korea is also outwardly similar, but in reality somewhat different.

In South Korea, being a university graduate is considered a requisite for a successful life, whereas a more western view would be that anyone can achieve success, despite not attaining at the highest level in all areas – such as standard education. However, study and teaching methods at university in Korea show little difference with those prior to higher education, and this is one of the contributing factors to the relatively low international opinion of Korean universities (Jambor, 2009). Rote learning remains abundant, and little prestige is placed on developing as an individual – both a Confucian and ‘western’ ideal – or on what the student actually does while at university. In the case of South Korea, the achievement is all in attending the ‘right university,’ something which is decided by a single exam at the end of high school. In contrast, western nations tend to place the highest amount of significance on a person’s most recent and highest level qualification – such as a degree. In Korea the examination at the end of high school fulfills this role, with the function of the universities being in name and to more clearly mark out class distinctions.

Looking at this issue as a whole it is incontrovertible that the contemporary Korean educational system reflects some Confucian concepts, but this is to be expected considering that the society as a whole is similarly influenced by Confucianism. What is more useful from an analytical point of view is that other Confucian concepts seem to have been altered slightly in arriving at the modern South Korean system, despite outwardly appearing to be quintessential Confucianism in practice.

An example of this would be the role of leaders of schools, and teachers, whose authority is to be taken unquestioningly, regardless of their moral aptitude for their roles, which was something originally stressed within Confucianism. Another would be a prevailing respect and profound desire for education, yet no longer for education’s sake, but rather for material gain. Finally, some few traditional Confucian concepts, like the cultivation of the self in regards to the student, seem to have disappeared from the Korean educational system entirely, replaced by rote learning and studying to the exclusion of all else until one has completed the university entrance examination. It is my view that certain ‘western’ concepts, such as universal education – primarily a concept of Comenius, often regarded as the founder of modern education – are of great benefit to the Korean educational system, whereas the effect of an increasingly materialistic society on the perceived function of education and the monetary outlay of parents to provide it for their children despite a lack of benefits aside from examination success have a distinctly negative impact.



This list contains all references made in the text. Also, all facts and figures and the like came from these sources below. I know there’s a lot, but it’s really only for anyone wanting to get to the very bottom of this issue.

Bray, Mark (2007), The Shadow Education System: Private Tutoring and its Implications for Planners, UNESCO: International Institute for Educational Planning.

 Chua, Beng Huat (2000), Consumption in Asia: Lifestyles and Identities, Routledge

 Deuchler, Martina (1992), The Confucian transformation of Korea: a study of society and ideology, Harvard University Asia Center.

 Jambor, Paul (2009), “Why South Korean Universities Have Low International Rankings”, Journal of Academic Leadership: The Online Journal 7(1): available at:

 Kwak, Byong-Sun (2004), “Struggle against Private Lessons in Korean Education Context”, available at:

 Lee, Jeong-Kyu (2000), “The Administrative Structure and Systems of Korean Higher Education”, OECD Journal of the Programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education 12(1): 43-51. – I would recommend this as the best source for anyone wanting to get a grasp of the basics of the the Korean education system in practice.

 Lee, Jeong-Kyu (2001), “Confucian Thought Affecting Leadership And Organizational Culture Of Korean Higher Education”, Radical Pedagogy 3(1).

 Lee, Sunhwa & Brinton, Mary C. (1996), “Elite Education and Social Capital: The Case of South Korea”, Sociology of Education 69(3): 177-192.

 Li, Defeng (1998), “”It’s Always More Difficult Than You Plan and Imagine”: Teachers’ Perceived Difficulties in Introducing the Communicative Approach in South Korea”, TESOL Quarterly 32(4): 677-703.

 Park, Insook Han & Cho, Lee-Jay (1995), “Confucianism and the Korean Family”, Journal of Comparative Family Studies 26: available at:

 Republic of Korea Ministry of Education Science and Technology website, available at:

 Robertson, Paul (2002), “The Pervading Influence of Neo- Confucianism on the Korean Education System”, Asian EFL Journal 4(2): available at:

 Rozman, Gilbert (2002), “Can Confucianism Survive in an Age of Universalism and Globalization?”, Pacific Affairs 75(1): 11-37.

 Sorensen, Clark W. (1994), “Success and Education in South Korea”, Comparative Education Review 38(1): 10-35.

Sung, Kyu-taik (1995), “Measures and Dimensions of Filial Piety in Korea”, The Gentologist 35(2): 240-247.