2009 Student-Faculty Fellows: University Of Evansville
The Dynamics of the Changing U.S. Image in South Korea:
A Study of South Korean College Students. Perceptions of the U.S.
Mentor: Young-Choul Kim
Students: Kelly Cyr, Maria Gahan, Marissa Mitchell
Negative attitudes toward the United States by foreign countries around the world are arguably at an all time high, and these sentiments are often a reflection of its foreign policies, dominance in world politics, and economic globalization. Although South Korea has traditionally been regarded as a supporter of America.s foreign policy decisions, a broad range of critical attitudes and actions toward the U.S. have been emerging especially among younger generations of South Koreans. In a effort to better understand South Korea.s views and perceptions of America, this research group visited nine different Korean universities during the summer of 2009 to conduct interviews with and surveys of college students designed ascertain the opinions of students on a variety of issues, including: Korean unification, the continued presence of U.S. troops in South Korea, U.S. foreign trade policies, U.S.-North Korean relations, American culture and society, study abroad in the U.S., and English education.
Although visiting nine different universities and administering our questionnaire to more than 700 students in three weeks was a challenging schedule, we completed this field research successfully. We discovered that most Korean college students are interested in the U.S. and enjoy American culture such as American movies, music, television dramas, fashion, and sports. Although they have critical attitudes toward U.S. foreign policies, including the Iraq war, the majority of Korean college students have a positive perception of the U.S. and have an optimistic view about the future of the U.S. in the 21st century.
I travelled to South Korea with two classmates and our faculty advisor to conduct research on the causes of rising anti-Americanism among South Korean college students. The whole experience was unlike anything I had ever encountered. During this process, we were able to meet a wide variety of people with vastly different views. After surveying college students, we often were given thirty minutes to an hour to ask and answer questions from the students. During these times, I felt like my teammates and I were cultural ambassadors. Sometimes students were polite and reserved, and sometimes the interaction was more challenging. I left these discussions feeling more and more confident that I was equipped to handle tough questions and more enthusiastic about pursuing a career in international education. My world views have been broadened by this experience. I felt welcomed and confident in a place that at first glance seemed so foreign.
Upon reflecting about my past research experience in Korea, I realize how greatly the experience has impacted my world views, my professional skills, and my future career goals. I had never before participated in an extensive research study, nor had I learned much about research techniques or the method of surveying. We met with students and professors at nine universities. This experience helped me develop a strong personal tie to South Korean culture and people, and helped me realize that international studies is my life passion.
Through our field research, we investigated and analyzed anti-Americanism among college students in South Korea. I focused primarily on economic and political issues, including the Free Trade Agreement, U.S. beef imports, and the impact of the Obama presidency. We conducted surveys and conversed directly with students individually and in groups. Even though Korea is a fairly homogenous nation, the Korean students we met had opinions and perceptions of their own nation and the world around them that were quite varied. Some students came up to us to talk and practice their English and told us how much they love America. Others shared their resentment of being forced to learn English or openly criticized U.S. foreign policy. Some considered themselves anti-American, even though they also acknowledged a desire to live in or visit the United States and expressed a love for American music and pop culture. Once this research experience was over, I had the opportunity to travel to Shanghai for a two-month internship with an American-based marketing company. Once there, I was able to involve myself in several projects involved with South Korea, which is one of this company’s largest markets.