Revisiting the Role of Cultural Capital in East Asian Educational Systems: The Case of South Korea

Soo yong Byun, Evan Schofer, Kyung keun Kim

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147 Scopus citations


The concept of cultural capital has proved invaluable in understanding educational systems in Western countries, and recent work seeks to extend those insights to the diverse educational systems of other geographic regions. Using data from the 2000 Programme for International Student Assessment, the authors explored cultural capital in South Korea by investigating the relationships among family socioeconomic status (SES), cultural capital, and children's academic achievement. South Korea was compared with Japan, France, and the United States to understand how institutional features of South Korean education shape the role of cultural capital in academic success. Results showed that family SES had a positive effect on both parental objectified cultural capital and children's embodied cultural capital in South Korea, consistent with evidence from the other countries. Moreover, parental objectified cultural capital had a positive effect on children's academic achievement in South Korea. In contrast to other countries, however, children's embodied cultural capital had a negative effect on academic achievement in South Korea, controlling for the other variables. The authors highlighted several institutional features of South Korean education, including a standardized curriculum, extreme focus on test preparation, and extensive shadow education, which may combine to suppress the effect of children's embodied cultural capital on academic achievement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-239
Number of pages21
JournalSociology of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • East Asian educational systems
  • academic achievement
  • comparative study
  • cultural capital


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