English fever: Educational policies in globalised Korea, 1981–2018

Tae Hee CHOI

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13 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the relationship between education policy and the trajectory of English fever in Korea. English fever refers to a fervent desire to become proficient in English at almost any cost. English fever started with governments’ globalisation efforts in the 1980s and further intensified in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Drawing on policy enactment theory and analysing policy documents, this paper shows how English fever, once having taken root in Korean society, defied all policy measures to tackle it. The English language having a close relationship with social equity, these policies pursued an additional aim of increasing educational equity for students from low-income families. Their impact, however, proved minimal, partly due to educational stakeholders’ resistance. In order to relieve pressure on students, presidents Pak Geun-hye and Mun Jae-in tried to decrease the strong emphasis on English in curricula during the last decade. Copyright © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)670-686
JournalHistory of Education
Issue number4
Early online dateFeb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2023


Choi, T.-H. (2023). English fever: Educational policies in globalised Korea, 1981–2018. History of Education, 52(4), 670-686. https://doi.org/10.1080/0046760X.2020.1858192


  • English fever
  • Education fever
  • Education policy
  • Equity
  • Globalisation
  • South Korea


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