This article examines why universities in Korea champion internationalisation and aggressively recruit foreign students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, yet resist ideas of valorising diversity. Through a qualitative analysis of university curricula at three major Korean universities, ethnographic interviews with 50 foreign students and focus groups interviews with 30 Korean students, I find that despite recent internationalisation efforts, notions of ethnic nationalism remain firmly entrenched at the level of university curricula and also at the level of micro-level interactions between foreign and domestic students. I explain this as an instance of Korea's continued attempts to selectively adopt elements of globalisation for national interests, a familiar paradigm in Korea's historical legacy of social change. Such an instrumentalist approach to the internationalisation of higher education in Korea also confirms global cultural theory, especially the kinds of disjunctures that might result among various types of global flows. Thus I seek to contribute to a growing literature on diversity in higher education in Asia as well as to educational debates on global/local processes and mechanisms of cultural change.
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