Short-term 'Intensive Mothering' on a budget: Working mothers of Korean children studying abroad in Southeast Asia

Jeehun Kim, Sumie Okazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although pre-college or early study abroad (ESA) in the West used to be characterized primarily as a cosmopolitan aspirational strategy of affluent East Asian families with professional fathers and stay-at-home mothers (Cho, 2004), less-affluent middle-class Korean families have also begun to pursue ESA in the past decade. This study examined the parenting narratives of working mothers from less-affluent middle-class Korean families whose children engaged in ESA in Southeast Asia. We found that working mothers viewed affordable ESA as an opportunity both to facilitate their children's English language learning and to engage in short-term intensive mothering (Hays, 1996), and thereby to realize their own desires to conform to the prevailing ideology of an ideal Korean mother as an education manager (Park & Abelmann, 2004). Their narratives, however, also revealed unequal access to cultural knowledge with regard to navigating institutions related to ESA, and this inequality appeared to reproduce the families' class disadvantages. These findings imply that global education must be inclusive of working Korean (and other Asian) mothers as well as those from less-affluent and less privileged backgrounds. With respect to policy, these findings convey the need for greater access to a high-quality English language education, and a re-examination of the expectation that acquiring fluency in the English language serves as a gatekeeper to cosmopolitan upward mobility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-139
Number of pages29
JournalAsian Women
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Education
  • Korean
  • Southeast Asia
  • Study abroad
  • Working mothers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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