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Beyond Multiculturalism, Toward Interculturalism: Educating Citizens in Changing South Korea


There has been a considerable amount of debates on whether the paradigm shift from multiculturalism to interculturalism is legitimate. While the two terms are sometimes interchangeably used, many scholars have articulated the differences between the two approaches. Arguably, interculturalism, as compared to multiculturalism, pursues further integration via constant mutual interactions between different groups even to the point where the boundaries of the groups become significantly blurred.

However, there is a serious blind spot in the ongoing debate. The debate between the two paradigms only revolves around North American and some European countries. This paper intends to highlight the following two points: First, the legitimacy of a paradigm cannot be rightly judged when we only focus on a portion of the world; there is a need to examine underrepresented parts of the world as well. Second, the problem of multiculturalism versus interculturalism should be understood in the light of a specific social context of a nation. It is a problem of "better fit" rather than an absolute superiority of one paradigm over the other.

With this in mind, the current study brings in the case of South Korean multiculturalism, which has clearly been underrepresented in the discourse. South Korea, in which multiculturalism emerged in a relatively recent period owing to the accelerated globalization and increasing immigration, provides a new way of looking at the multiculturalism versus interculturalism debate. The author suggests that interculturalism is a more suiting approach to the South Korean context, while leaving the room for future studies to address an actual application of interculturalism in South Korea. Definitions of multiculturalism and interculturalism, multiculturalism in South Korea, and the potentiality of interculturalism as an alternative to multiculturalism in South Korea are discussed.

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