English, gatekeeping, and Mandarin: the future of language learning in South Korea

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9 Citations (Scopus)


While South Korea’s ‘English fever’ has long been the focus of popular and scholarly interest, Chinese has been increasing in popularity in South Korea, concomitant with the rise of China in the global economy. It has even been suggested that Chinese might in the future challenge the dominance of English in South Korea. Drawing on a wide range of government, popular and scholarly discourse, supported by interviews, this article considers the conditions under which Chinese might challenge English in South Korea. Specifically, this article pushes back against the idea that English fever is a result of international forces (globalization) alone, and makes the case that in order to supplant English in South Korea, Chinese would have to usurp the important intranational (domestic) functions of gatekeeping/credentialing that English plays within Korean society at present. The paper concludes by suggesting that Chinese may be more likely to be learned in addition to English rather than replacing English.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-735
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number5
Early online dateJul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • EFL
  • elite bilingualism
  • English in Korea
  • language testing
  • linguistic imperialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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