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English as a global language?: Naturalization of English through intellectual habitus in Korean academia

Jinhyun Cho EMAIL logo


The global expansion of English-medium lectures (EMLs) in higher education has predominantly been approached in the context of globalization characterized by neoliberalism. While the spread of EMLs has been viewed as an outcome of institutional pursuit of global competitiveness and internationalization, ongoing global approaches risk overlooking local elements critical for the ascendance of English in specific local contexts. This paper seeks to balance the scholarly inquiry into EMLs by offering a local historical perspective, with the higher education sector of South Korea as a key site of investigation. A focus is placed on the intellectual habitus of Korean higher education which the paper argues has served as a fertile ground for EMLs to take hold. Within the context of the global centre-periphery binary, the article specifically examines how the binary relationship has been internalized in Korean higher education through local historicity in which the U.S. has metaphorically been established as the centre. The superior-inferior binary divisions between the U.S. and Korea have contributed to the construction of the local intellectual habitus marked by the domination of American educated elite groups and the emergence of English as the language of the centre. In conclusion, the paper challenges the normative claim of English as a global language by illustrating EMLs in Korea as a historical-structural construct resulting from the interplays between the global and local power inequalities.

Corresponding author: Jinhyun Cho, Linguistics, Macquarie University, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia, E-mail:


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Received: 2021-08-04
Accepted: 2022-04-04
Published Online: 2022-08-31
Published in Print: 2022-09-27

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