One millennial researcher is reshaping Intercultural Training: the effects of the researcher's positionality.

Bak Ji-yu

Jul 25, 2022

Academic Research

Milner IV(2007) claimed that people typically put on their filters or their interpretive lenses to separate fact from fiction or to disentangle the implicit biases inherent in the presentation of ideas, stories, philosophies, and experiences. (Milner IV, 2007). And many researchers are afraid that both their race and cultural backgrounds lead their research to just personal opinions. If the researcher's positionality cannot balance with other's viewpoints, the research results can not form a consensus with global citizens. In this context of the approach, I analyzed my training program to filter potential issues provoked by biased thoughts.



Three individual cultural features affecting my program


- Millennial South Korean

- Yogini since 2015

- Multicultural work environment



Interestingly, It is concluded that three factors that greatly affect my sensibility positively led me to complete designing my program. (a) Reinterpreting the living Korean culture (b) Adding mindfulness to intercultural competence as a skill (c) Navigating acculturation along with Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity. In this article, it is possible to explore how one Millennial Korean researcher has differently approached the Intercultural Competence Training with individual uniqueness.




1. Reinterpreting the Living Korean culture

The intercultural competence training began in North America and Western Europe to industrialize their international trades first. And the training had spread across cultures because of the introduction of the social system. As I designed the Intercultural Competence Program developed from a Western-centric perspective, it is needed to identify two points. First, 'How Koreans' self-esteem toward foreigners has changed.' Secondly, 'How the communication style of most Koreans has changed.' Discerning two points can be a helpful direction for designing practical training. Because Korean historically suffered from Japanese colonialism and the United States Army Military Government and what racial and cultural experiences had affected Koreans' mindset had formed intercultural communication styles in and out of the historical tradigies.



It is founded that Korean cultural dimensions are moving like the fast speed of its economic growth concerning the above two questions. The dynamic economic growth brings about a society that each generation has a different cultural background. (Kim, 2021, p. 74-79; Kang, 2020, p. 30-33; Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 2020)



Regarding the first checkpoint, Generation 2040, who began their economic activity after achieving some degree of national economic growth and had global citizenship, tends to respond sensitively and boldly to cultural microaggression. Furthermore, MZ generations have great pride in Koreans after experiencing the power of Korean artistic creativity and originality, as they have encountered sensational situations such as the global success of Korean film, drama, and BTS. (Kim, 2020) Korean society has observed the mindset of the MZ generation interestingly and spread their attitude to other generations.



In terms of the second checkpoint, represented keywords of Korean cultural dimension at the international journal: indirect, hierarchical, and collective are not dominant in the current Korean society. (Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 2020; Kang, 2021, p. 30-33) For instance, the MZ generation has behavior patterns such as individualism, egalitarianism, and Low-context(Direct), leading to organizational culture change. (Kang, 2021, p. 30-33; Jo, 2021, 69-90)



National cultures have indicated the faced changes issued or developed by countries. Today's Korea also suggests a new paradigm of Korean communication styles across cultures from the same perspective. Thus, it is needed to update the recent communication trends for those who need to know about the movements of Korean communication.




2. Adding mindfulness to the intercultural competence as a skill

As highlighted in the previous paragraph, research practically has been affected by how researchers consider the way of knowing and perceiving the world. In a similar vein, practicing Yoga for over seven years has convinced me that mindfulness is essential as a part of intercultural competence. According to the article (Thomas, 2006:85, as cited in Spencer-Oatey,2013), as a facet of cultural intelligence, mindfulness means being aware of our own assumptions, ideas, and emotions; and of the selective perception, attribution, and categorization that we and others adopt.



In the same way, I had convinced that a key to developing intercultural competence is mindfulness which leads me to observe myself and others carefully in intercultural interactions. Furthermore, the research (Langer 1992:289, as cited in McConachy,2018) supports my approach to mindfulness which is a state of conscious awareness in which the individual is implicitly aware of the context and content of information. To summarise, mindfulness could encourage us to visualize and contextualize intercultural exchange to relieve stress and handle the challenges more effectively. In conclusion, I defined mindfulness as a core competence in my program, which helps us make coping strategies for cultural interactions.




3. Navigating acculturation along with Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity.

What is the future of intercultural competence training? My multicultural teamwork experiences lead me to have the question. Although Reinterpreting the Living Korean culture was discussed above, there are unexpectedly communication challenges affected by diversity dimensions such as gender equality, education, and social-economic status in the multicultural workplaces. Likewise, Hinton (2020) talks people think in culture, as our expectations derive from the structure and organization of a culture. But this does not mean that human thinking is determined by culture. Namely, having an insight into diversity dimensions is vital to intercultural communication.



From the broader perspective of society, It is also possible to find why future intercultural training needs combination with DEI subjects. To illustrate this, global media like 'Youtube' and 'Netflix' has accelerated the phenomenon that teenagers and adults are naturally exposed to diverse national cultures. Consequently, it shortens the time for learning different national identities compared to the origination of intercultural training. However, those types of unlimited, convenient, and active cultural exchange risk perpetuating the stereotypes if they do not have something to stop being biased. And Navigating acculturation along with Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity can be a solution.



To clarify, today's Information Technology has provided a large amount of cultural information that can not require intercultural competence training so far. However, those information has limitations. It is a basic expectation derived from the social system to which an individual belongs and does not protect people from perpetuating stereotypes. Hence having DEI insights can support people develop their cultural filters in our daily lives. Gibson, R.(2021) explained that Diversity is the existence of multiple identities, while inclusion means that the different perspectives of all individuals matter so that people feel a sense of belonging. If my program provides Korean communication styles derived from Korean social norms aligned with DEI insights simultaneously, participants feel belonging to Korean society, and it can be a starting point of solidarity between locals and immigrants.



To summarise this article, three elements that significantly affect my sensibility (1) Millennial South Korean, (2) Yogini since 2015, and (3)Multicultural work environment lead me to consider three directions: (a) Reinterpreting the living Korean culture (b) Adding mindfulness to intercultural competence as a skill (c) Navigating acculturation along with Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity. In other words, my identity leads my approach to my research(designing training) creatively. In addition, it was confirmed that intercultural training with inclusive intelligence creates synergy for sustainable solidarity across cultures. Specifically, trainees can learn communication styles originating from national social norms, and DEI intelligence enables them to cope with variables that can not stop intercultural solidarity.

International References

Hinton, P. R. (2020). Stereotypes and the Construction of the Social World. Routledge.

McConachy, T.(2018) ‘Awareness and intercultural competence’[ppt slides], ET909: Intercultural Competence and Assessment. The University of Warwick.

Milner IV, H. R. (2007). Race, culture, and researcher positionality: Working through dangers seen, unseen, and unforeseen. Educational researcher, 36(7), 388-400

Gibson, R.(2021) Bridge the Culture Gap A toolkit for effective collaboration in the diverse, global workplace. 1st edn. Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Spencer-Oatey, H. (2013) What is mindfulness. A compilation of quotations for the intercultural field. GPC Core Concept Compilations.


Korean References

Hyo Jeong Kim (2020). Covid-19 causes Youth’s overwhelming patriotism, Weekly Chosun, Vol. 2612, p. 30-32.

Jinsul Kim (2021). The office labor union formed by MZ generation, a signal of restoration of fairness, HR Insight, vol. 793, p. 74-79

Sung-Jun Kang (2021). Generational conflicts and occupational Stress. Industries, Vol. 399, p. 30-33.

Ji-Hyeon Kang (2020). The report on Generational conflict and organization culture in the workplace: A leader is working late but an associate finishes work on time (同社異夢), Contact Journal, No. 242, p. 30-33.

Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (2020) The report on the generational conflict in the workplace and organizational culture, Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (2021), The National Survey for Multicultural Acceptability 2021, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family

Samsup Jo. (2021) The Factors of MZ Generation’s Perception on Internal Communication: Focus on Organization-Public Dimensions Theoretical Framework, 社會科學論集 52. (2),: 69-90.


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