Naturalization of Competence and the Neoliberal Subject: Success Stories of English Language Learning in the Korean Conservative Press

Authors

  • Joseph Sung-Yul Park

    Corresponding author
    1. NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE
      Department of English Language and Literature
      National University of Singapore
      AS5, 7 Arts Link
      Singapore 117570
      ellpjs@nus.edu.sg
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Department of English Language and Literature
National University of Singapore
AS5, 7 Arts Link
Singapore 117570
ellpjs@nus.edu.sg

Abstract

This article analyzes “success stories” of English language learning in the Korean conservative press as tales of neoliberal personhood, locating the stories within South Korea's neoliberal transformation and its concomitant “English frenzy.” In these texts, the semiotic process of leveling—the simultaneous work of erasure and highlighting—naturalizes the successful learner's competence in English by grounding that competence in the subjective, human qualities of the speaker. By obscuring class-based constraints on access to English that determine the structure of the Korean linguistic market, this process ultimately rationalizes and justifies the neoliberal logic of human capital development. [English, South Korea, language ideology, competence, neoliberalism, media]

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