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In Pursuit of Status

In Pursuit of Status

The Making of South Korea’s “New” Urban Middle Class

Denise Potrzeba Lett

ISBN 9780674007819

Publication date: 03/30/2002

In this ethnography of the everyday life of contemporary Korea, Denise Lett argues that South Korea's contemporary urban middle class not only exhibits upper-class characteristics but also that this reflects a culturally inherited disposition of Koreans to seek high status. Lett shows that Koreans have adapted traditional ways of asserting high status to modern life, and analyzes strategies for claiming high status in terms of occupation, family, lifestyle, education, and marriage.

The Harvard-Hallym Series on Korean Studies, published by the Harvard Council on East Asian Studies, is supported by the Korean Institute of Harvard and Hallym University in Korea. The series is committed to the publication of outstanding new scholarly work on Korea, regardless of discipline, in both the humanities and the social sciences.


  • In Pursuit of Status is an important contribution to the ethnography of Korea and anthropological studies of social stratification. It is perhaps the best introduction to contemporary Korea’s social stratification and urban life that has been published in English.

    —American Ethnologist


  • Denise Potrzeba Lett is Lecturer in Korean Anthropology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Book Details

  • 270 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center