This article discusses Nancy Abelmann's scholarship on the university and includes a new study of the South Korean media discourse on Chinese international students—a work she planned but could not undertake. Abelmann studied the university, viewing it as a window to society's particular desires and anxieties regarding the future. Her research on South Korean university students reveals their personal fervor and struggle to stay afloat amidst the country's rapid modernization and globalization. Her later work on the American university considers the struggles of Asian American and Asian international students, illuminating the new realities of a global educational market and exploring new ethics of sharing the same university. The study in the second part of this article demonstrates how South Korean universities and public discourse have attempted to “optimize” the increasing numbers of Chinese international students as financial and symbolic capital. The shift between 2001 and 2016 from maximizing to distancing shows that Korean universities were straddling a line between the desire to become global institutions and the realization that they are a second-choice destination in the global higher-education market.
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