Prof. Dr. Hyo-Seon Lee

Summer Semester 2012

Prof. Hyo-Seon Lee (Graduate School of Social Welfare, Kangnam University, Yongin, South Korea)

After chairing the Dept. of Administration at Seoul Woman’s University from 1988 to 1990, Prof. Lee, born in Inchon (Korea) in 1959, began studying German and from 1992-96 was a doctoral student at Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany. Lee received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (magna cum laude) in May 1996 for her dissertation, which was entitled “Korean Youth Morality: An Empirical Study of Different Social and Spatial Environments in Korea,” and in which Lee examines whether and to what extent Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral theory can be applied to Korean adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18. In addition, the study determined the proportion of the values of equity and care (sensu Gilligan) in the respondents’ opinions; lastly, the approportion of individuality and collectivity was investigated in terms of differences between selected villages and metropolitan centres.

Following consecutive teaching contracts in social work and qualitative methods at three Korean universities from 1996-2001, in the Winter Semester of 2001, Lee was appointed Professor in the Graduate School of Social Welfare at Kangnam University in Yongin, South Korea.

Research Specialisations: Prof. Lee has collaborated on a long-term project studying the emigration of German-speaking Jews between 1933 and 1939 (cf. the list of her publications); currently her research interests can be divided into two broad areas:

  • On the one hand, the reconstruction of autobiographical accounts of persons with disabilities in light of the comparatively weak state support in Korea as well as the options for improvement; on the other hand, the reconstruction of biographies by elderly persons with a particular research focus on the life stories of older women who were affected as children by the patriarchal microstructure of Korean society and then later laboured under in most cases difficult financial situations in order to bring up their children and maintain their families; these women now find themselves once again relegated to the social margins because the emergence of capitalist structures has been accompanied by the decline of Confuscian concepts of care for the parents, effectively shutting these women out from participation in the general improvement of living standards. These women’s life stories are frequently complicated by the nation’s division into North and South Korea and the associated processes of the “tearing apart” of families. Prof. Lee has named these women the “Korea’s lost generation” and has published extensively on this subject.
  • Lee’s second research focus concerns the female emigrants (nurses) and male emigrants (miners) who emigrated from Korea in order to take up jobs in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. With the help of biographical interviews, the experiences of this group will be polled: those workers who remained in Germany, and those who returned to Korea (either directly after the end of their contracts or later, after retirement). Very few studies have thus far investigated this area of migration research. This is the subject of research already undertaken by Prof. Lee in 2008 in a collaborative research project with Prof. Garz (JGU Mainz) on “The Acculturation Experiences of the Children of Korean Migrant Workers in Germany and Foreign Migrant Workers in Korea: A Qualitative Study.” The study was funded by ZIS and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Current Research: In the framework of the above-mentioned migration research, Prof. Lee will be collaborating during her research visit at Mainz University on the project “From Foreign Lands: The Lives of Korean Nurses and Miners in the Federal Republic of Germany, From Their Arrival until Today.” As Cooperation Partner, Prof. Lee will be involved in the application for German Research Council funding for the project proposal “The Migration of Korean Miners and Nurses to Germany: A Study Based on Autobiographical Narrative Interviews,” which is associated with the ZIS Visiting Professorship.


“What is a Stranger? A Qualitative Study on the Biographical Development of Migrant Workers in Korea”
July 2012

University of Mainz host: Dr. Boris Zizek