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Confucianism and Qualitative Interviewing: Working Seoul to Soul

Sunghee Park, Neil Lunt

2015 South Korea, Asia

With the internationalization of higher education, research settings and researcher backgrounds are becoming increasingly complex, further complicating disciplinary assumptions, traditions and techniques. This article highlights key practical and conceptual issues that arose during planning fieldwork, fieldwork conduct, subsequent analysis and writing up of a qualitative study carried out within a Confucian setting. Drawing on the experience with a detailed research study of a pay for performance scheme (involving 31 in-depth interviews undertaken by a South Korean researcher), this article explores conceptual and practical issues that emerged between Anglophone methods and countries with a Confucian heritage. It is discussed how processes of sampling/recruitment, ethics, fieldwork conduct (including insider relations, power hierarchies, and translation) are complicated in such settings. The article seeks to expand our understandings of qualitative research vis-à-vis contemporary Confucian cultures, something which has previously not been well addressed and which is part of the ongoing project of “globalizing qualitative research.”

cross-cultural; interviewing; fieldwork; ethics; insider; Confucianism; South Korea; East Asia