Skip to:

Diversity and Tolerance in Korea and Asia


"One World, One Dream" opening ceremony presentation at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
Photo credit: 


Senior Fellow
  • Professor, Sociology
Rennie J. Moon
Yonsei University

A new research collaborative examines diversity issues and challenges in Korea and greater Asia. In both ethnically diverse and homogenous societies in the region, labor migration, the foreign bride phenomenon, and international students—have together contributed to shifting demographics, a greater sense of diversity, and the need to explore better ways to foster effective social cohesion.

Despite these changes, broader social integration of ethnic minorities has not yet occurred and cultural diversity policies are only in their initial stages of development. A diverse social fabric can enhance the value and performance of an organization, but an organization must create policy frameworks to instill positive interaction.

This research project seeks to investigate diversity programs and policies of universities and corporations and their impact on innovation and creativity. Project investigators also seek to stimulate much-needed conversation about the value of diversity in Korea and across Asia, and highlight what embracing diversity can mean and do for society. 

Gi-Wook Shin and Rennie Moon (a Stanford graduate now teaching at Yonsei University in Korea) examine why universities in Korea champion internationalization and aggressively recruit foreign students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, yet resist pursuing a normative agenda that values and respects diversity. Shin and Moon have written an article that demonstrates a disjuncture exists among three indicators of diversity (structural, educational, and interpersonal), explaining this as an instance of Korea’s continued attempts to selectively adopt elements of globalization while maintaining traditional values and underscoring Korea’s historical legacy of ethnic identity as an important underlying factor.

Shin and Moon have also coauthored a paper entitled “Embracing Diversity in Higher Education: Comparing Discourses in the US, Europe, and Asia.” The article pursues an inter-regional comparison, examining the rise and development of discourses of inclusion in the West and their implications for Asia. Both papers are expected to be published in 2015.

Future research projects will place these findings on Korea within a comparative context, comparing similar data on representative Asian universities in countries undergoing similar trends in internationalization (Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan). Other future research plans include a project exploring changing perceptions of what constitutes a “minority” and a “good citizen” in South Korean society, providing an empirical basis for exploring debates on the interaction of citizenship, nationalism and diversity.

Events related to the research project:  

The Internationalization of Korean Higher Education: Achievements, Challenges, and Future Directions

Are East Asian Universities Really Serious About Internationalization?

Articles related to the research project:  

Stanford scholar underscores diversity, global education goals (APARC/Korea Program News; May 18, 2015)

South Korean universities remain challenging places for foreign students and faculty (; May 20, 2015)