Theses Doctoral

Elite Reproduction of Korean Yuhaksaeng in Top-Ranked American Universities

Lee, Jessica JungMin

Based on multi-sited ethnographic research conducted in South Korea and the United States from May 2014 to August 2016, this dissertation examines elite reproduction of Korean families who sent their children to the United States for their education. Despite recent debates and active discussion on transnationalism and immigration populations, international student communities in American universities, especially those from the upper class of Asian countries, have not gained much attention. By focusing on a specific subgroup of Korean elite educational migrants, or yuhaksaeng, in the United States, my study attempts to begin filling this void and to add further value to anthropological studies. To explore how elite reproduction occurs, I examined the narratives of Korean elite families—250 yuhaksaeng who received higher education from top-ranked American universities and forty of their parents. In addition, I engaged in participant observation of various social gatherings in the Gangnam area of Seoul, Korea; New York City; and other major US cities in the Northeast. Drawing on the ethnographic data, my dissertation demonstrates that elite reproduction is an on-going venture fraught with numerous obstacles requiring continuous and deliberate effort and practice to overcome. It explores how yuhaksaeng and their parents attempt to navigate the arduous process of maintaining and reproducing the privileges across generations. Furthermore, it examines each step and educative practice that the participants collectively figure out within their exclusive transnational elite networks.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Anthropology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Varenne, Herve H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018