Research Article

English Language Teachers in South Korea: Issues of Whiteness and Native-speakerness


  • Takako Kawabata Department of Linguistics, SOAS University of London, London, United Kingdom


This paper examines the status and identity of teachers of English as a foreign language in South Korea. In many parts of the world, English is taught as a second, foreign, or additional language. The status of native and non-native English-speaking teachers is debated often. However, the dichotomy is not as straightforward as it might appear because the difference between native and non-native speakers does not sufficiently describe the identities, linguistic abilities, and teaching skills that those teachers possess. Cho (2012) described two critical considerations for male Korean-American teachers of English in South Korea: (1) linguistic capital and the ideal of native English speakers in Asian countries and (2) the social status and identity of Asian-Americans as members of minority groups in the United States. In order to transcend the idealisation of the West and to support learners and teachers in South Korea, this paper discusses issues of whiteness and native-speakerness in relation to the two issues that Cho described by examining the backgrounds and characteristics of Korean Americans as well as English-as-a-foreign-language education in South Korea. In addition, the paper discusses the teaching experience and the abilities of English teachers. The analysis identifies the benefits and risks of commodifying linguistic capital. The findings contribute to the developments of English-language education not only in East Asian countries but also in the rapidly globalising world of the modern age, in which English competence is more valuable than ever.

Article information


Journal of English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics

Volume (Issue)

4 (4)





How to Cite

Kawabata, T. (2022). English Language Teachers in South Korea: Issues of Whiteness and Native-speakerness. Journal of English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 4(4), 102–106.



Native-speakerism, Whiteness, English teacher, Korean-American