Road to school: Primary school participation in Korea, 1911-1960

Dae Hyung Woo, Howard Kahm

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article situates South Korea's economic success in the latter part of the 20th Century within the framework of the emergence of universal primary education. In particular, it examines the history of primary school enrollment in Korea from the onset of Japanese colonial rule in 1910 until the emergence of universal primary school education in the early 1960s. A high enrollment rate was unusual for countries that had an annual income similar to South Korea, which was about one hundred u.s. dollars per person in 1960. Although income was a factor in shaping the access of Koreans to primary education, especially in the colonial era, the authors conclude that it was only one and not the most important factor that determined this process. Other important issues that the article assesses are the Japanese colonial legacy, children's access to schools, Korea's Confucian legacy, industrialization, and land reform. Of these factors, the authors argue, the colonial legacy had a mixed impact on access to primary schools, while land reform played a significant role in influencing the movement toward universal primary education in the Republic of Korea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-208
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of American-East Asian Relations
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2017.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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