Inclusive Education in Korea: Policy, Practice, and Challenges


  • Note: This article is drawn from one of a series of invited addresses presented at the Asia-Pacific IASIDD 3rd Regional Conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 22–24, 2013. Yong Wook Kim is a professor in the Department of Special Education at Daegu University in Korea.

Correspondence: Yong Wook Kim, Department of Special Education, Daegu University, Jillyang, Gyeongsan, Gyeongbuk 712-714, Korea. Tel: +82 53 850 4179; E-mail:


Even though the Korean experience with special education in the public education system is limited, inclusive education for special education needs (SEN) students has been at the center of attention at the national policy level since the mid-1990s. Since then, Korean educators and administrators have put an emphasis on the revision and regulation of special education policies, guaranteeing the rights of SEN students to learn, and fostering the quality of teachers to strengthen inclusive education. These efforts have led to progress supporting inclusive education. However, there is still much to be achieved. The author examined the current practices and policies of inclusive education and the challenges to implementing successful inclusive education in Korea and found that what is needed is to transform the existing climate of the schools from being competition-driven to being more cooperative and human-centered. We need strong leadership from principals and administrators. The Korean process also needs to implement disability awareness programs at the national level in order to improve social perceptions. There is a need for closer collaboration and a stronger partnerships between regular and special education teachers. Teachers need to adopt a positive attitude and perception toward SEN students, and to achieve this, there is a need to provide preservice and in-service education to promote among teachers the notions inherent to inclusive education. The challenges are long standing complicated issues with respect to the practice of inclusion in Korea. Many of these challenges at times appear almost impossible to resolve. However, every year, more SEN students want to participate in inclusive education and both regular and special education teachers, together with administrators and parents, believe inclusive education is a worthwhile ideal for the education of SEN students.