This article analyzes the distinctive patterns of adult education in the Republic of Korea, from the social and structural point of view. It reveals that Korea’s adult education has shifted from the phase of the “social-education paradigm” to the phase of the “lifelong learning paradigm”, which corresponds with transitions in the economic and social structures in the lives of adults. Ironically, the transition was accelerated by the inclusion of the Korean economy into the global capitalist system, and the shock of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 played a key role in boosting the role of lifelong learning in the society as a whole. The new streams reformulated the whole of Korean adult education, with highly developed legal support systems under the leadership of a government-led agency called the National Institute of Lifelong Education. Based upon legislative initiatives, adult education opportunities have significantly improved under several iconic programs such as Lifelong Learning City or the Academic Credit Bank System, etc. In spite of the distinctive achievements, however, Korea still has to address some key challenges such as huge intergenerational gaps in educational attainments, inequalities in lifelong learning participation, and limited public funding systems.
SoongHee Han, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
SeonJoo Choi, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea