Asian Women - The Research Institute of Asian Women Journal

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OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8 , No. 3

[ Article ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.97-125
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Jul 2018
Received 10 Apr 2018 Revised 11 Jun 2018 Accepted 10 Jul 2018

The Insider vs. Outsider Mentality and the Need for a New National Identity: Examining South Korea’s Multiculturalism
Reginald J. Lee
Hanyang Cyber University, South Korea


As the foreign population steadily grows in South Korea, the government is continuing its efforts to socially integrate its new members under the ambiguous banner of multicultural and multiculturalism. In addition to the inconsistencies involving definitions of those terms with other related labels including “foreigner,” “multicultural family,” “global family,” and even “Korean,” there are lingering questions about how Korea’s long-term, legal residents, including naturalized Koreans, can be categorized and whether they can be accepted as new Koreans in mainstream society. These questions are highlighted particularly with the perpetuation of the insider versus outsider mentality historically used in Korea. The government has outlined its official multiculturalism policies via The First Basic Plan for Immigration Policy (2008-2012) and The 2nd Basic Plan for Immigration Policy (2013-2017), but absent is a discussion on a new national identity to help lessen the divide. This paper discusses the background of multiculturalism in Korea and examines the efficacy of the government’s approach towards social integration especially in terms of ways to mitigate the longstanding insider versus outsider mentality in Korea. Finally, this paper suggests the creation of a new shared national identity as a means to help better integrate “new Koreans” as accepted members of Korean society.

Keywords: multicultural, immigration, assimilation policy, national identity, Korea


This paper is based on (portions taken from) my dissertation published at Hanyang University in 2017.

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Biographical Note

Reginald J. Lee is an associate professor of the English Department at Hanyang Cyber University in Seoul, Korea. He is a recent graduate of the Korean Studies Department in the Graduate School of International Studies at Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea. His interests are in Korean culture, multiculturalism, and English Education. E-mail: (