South not only limited to professional adults

South Korea’s rapid economic
advancement, due to urbanization, industrialization, and the transformation of
its population demographics have affected the society by creating social evils.

Meanwhile, some of the values and practices of Confucianism seem to still
remain prevalent along with their strong nationalist views. The top-down
approach that is notorious amongst Korean corporate structures can be compared
to a military force. (businesskorea.co.kr, 2014) South Korea is famous for its
tradition of social hierarchies, especially in the workplace. This is not only
limited to professional adults in the workforce, but also applies to students
as well. Additionally, gender and education are also influential factors that
affect this country. Through the Structuralist Perspective, it is understood
that there are social structures that shape how individuals think and act. It
tries to provide an explanation for why society essentially functions the way
it does by focusing on the specific relationships between societal
institutions. This juxtaposes the social hierarchies in South Korea as the
inequality its citizens face continues through the pre-established ways of
thinking and acting. As a Korean-American and a woman who is seeking in the
process of obtaining a college degree, this current issue sparked my interest.

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I am interested in understanding the cultural and social hierarchical
similarities and differences I would experience if I were to work abroad.

            While the professional work environments in
South Korea are quite similar to the United States, there are also unexpected
dissimilarities. Hierarchy and authority are commonly seen in both countries’
workforce, as the struggle for power is constant. While the United States also
follows a similar form of hierarchy and authority, it isn’t nearly as strict as
it is in Korea. Throughout the hundreds of years, the Confucianism values and
traditions are still a part of society’s ideologies. The top-down approach is
practiced even during the employee training period as “managers employed so
many techniques to maintain the hierarchical structure of the company and took
substantial efforts to inscribe acquiescence.” (Janelli & Yim, 1993, p.171)
According to Janelli and Yim (1993) and their finding from (Brandt, 1971), the
practice of lineages in South Korea acknowledges the understanding of hierarchy
and authority based on generation, age, and genealogical position.

The competitive character of
the Korean work culture can also be understood regarding one’s level of
achieved education once in the workforce. Savada and Shaw (1990) state, that
the men and women with middle-school or secondary-school education are often treated
poorly and talked down to as those at the top have the “cultural sophistication
and technical expertise.” Especially due to the status sensitive nature of the
Korean language, addressing coworkers with disrespectful and belittling words
amplifies the impact. The issue of workplace bullying can be implied as the long work hours
and hierarchical work environment contribute to the problem. There is
also the blatant matter with gender inequality within workspaces. Women, younger
employees, and contract workers are the most likely to be vulnerable to
workplace harassment.

The importance of education
is one of the continual dynamics that connect traditional and contemporary
Korea, it is like an unspoken rule that without a college degree getting a job
would be difficult. Attaining achievement from top tier educational backgrounds
seems to be the only way for social advancement. However, the burden of the
middle class is that the significantly low wages make it essentially impossible
to give their children the college education they need. Thus, making it
unlikely that their children’s future will differ from their own, causing the
inequality and dissatisfaction among the people to continue. (Savada &
Shaw, 1990)

The term
“old school ties” is becoming increasingly crucial for social advancement
amongst Korea’s extremely competitive workforce. Even with a higher-education
degree, graduating from an elite university bestows advantages as Lee and
Brinton’s (1996) study found that:

“Private
social capital does not tend to lead to the best jobs. Rather, the probability
of being matched with a top employer is higher through direct application and
is enhanced at prestigious universities through the schools’ provision of
introductions to employer. The close relationships among family background,
human capital, and university prestige mean that a highly select group of South
Korean men acquire the best jobs.” (p.177)

            However, the study above only took a sample
of Korean males, while educational inequality has changed over the years, an
individual’s educational opportunity is supplementary to their gender,
socio-economic background, and family structure. (Park, 2009)

In the past, learning the
English language was viewed as a luxury. But now, its growing
impact on Korean culture has prompted it to become “a major criterion
in education, employment and job-performance evaluation” (Song, 2011) so much
to the extent to debate whether to adopt it as an official language. The
symbolic value of the English language is both an indicator of cosmopolitan
South Korea and also stands as a divergence between the different classes.

(Abelmann & Park, 2004) On the other hand, Song (2011) also challenges the
real intentions of the English language in South Korea, and whether it benefits
South Korea’s globalization expectations or using it as a scapegoat to dismiss
responsibility for the inequality in the educational system.

            The Structuralist Perspective is the view that there are objective
social structures which shape how individuals think and act. The social
structures are objectives, which appear outside of