Frontline agents of globalization?: European and American teachers in Korean government schools, 1883-1910


Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The ‘opening’ of Korea to foreign intercourse in the 1880s entailed reforms that also affected the educational sector. Two schools that specialised in teaching English to state officials were established in the 1880s, whereas the reform movement of the mid-1890s saw the formal establishment of an education system with a normal school, a high school and several foreign language schools. Each of these institutions was headed by a foreign teacher. In total ten Western teachers worked for Korean government schools until Korea was annexed by the Japanese Empire in 1910. Based on a variety of published and unpublished sources, this paper presents a collective biography of these teachers. It analyses their background, training, recruitment process, as well as life and work in Korea. Through the teachers’ reporting in pedagogical journals on contemporary and historical aspects of Korean education, they became key intermediaries between their home country and Korea. The teachers’ participation in international politics will also be approached, as some of them supported the Korean independence movement whereas other actively fostered Japanese imperial designs. In this way the paper hopes to make a contribution to a social history of globalization during the high time of imperialism around 1900.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


collective biography
independence movement
reform movement
International Politics
social history
foreign language
education system


Dittrich, K. (2016, April). Frontline agents of globalization?: European and American teachers in Korean government schools, 1883-1910. Paper presented at the Comparative Education Society of Hong Kong (CESHK) Annual Conference 2016: Learning to Live Together & Comparative Education, and Third Across-Strait Four Region Forum on Comparative Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China.


  • History of education
  • Korea
  • Foreign teachers