Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - The Birth of ‘The Credentialist Republic’: Relocation of Top High Schools and Spatialisation of Credentialism in 1970-80s Seoul

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Chinar, First Floor

This presentation examines the historical origin and characteristics of Korean society as a ‘Credential Society’ since the 1970s. Even before the developmental state regime, there were prestigious universities and secondary schools in South Korea, however, it was the state-led ‘modernization’ project that transformed the Korean society into a very powerful 'Credential Society' when the Fordist mass production was introduced in the 1970s. There has been an increase in the social need for intermediate management jobs that control unskilled work, and the demand for specialized knowledge and skills has increased steadily due to rapid industrial transformation. Cities with industrial facilities have emerged as new opportunities, and rural populations have flocked to the cities to take advantage of them. However, the social and economic transition cannot fully explain the transforming genealogy of the credentialism in South Korea.


Therefore, this presentation explores the state-led spatial project concerning educational institutions. The government moved the major high schools in Gangbuk to Gangnam where development process was underway. This relocation had an unexpected effect that the prestigious capital of the top high schools combined with the development of Gangnam area causing a creation of ‘School District No. 8’, which in turn, facilitated the migration of white-collar professional workers to Gangnam. In this context, this presentation analyses how the 'Credential Society' in Korea was closely linked with the process of spatial diffusion of credential capital.  

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