Professionals' double life
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Some scholars in the field of adult education assert that adult educators, as professionals, should contribute to social justice. However, there is little empirical research on individual professionals who are involved in social justice. The purpose of this qualitative life history study was to explore how professionals learn to become activists in Korean progressive social movements. The research questions guiding this study were as follows: 1) what motivates professionals to be activists in Korean society 2) what struggles do professionals encounter as they attempt to connect professionalism and activism in social movements and 3) how do professionals negotiate these struggles? The primary means of data collection were semi-structured interviews with four physicians and five lawyers who joined progressive professional organizations in Korea. Some of the professionals shared artifacts from their lives. Data were analyzed on two levels. First, on the level of a descriptive analysis method, a life history for each participant was constructed. Then on the level of a thematic analysis method, common themes across the nine professionals histories were identified. The findings indicated that the participants motivations for becoming physicians or lawyers were affected by the patriarchal Korean culture and that they come to be involved in social activism because of the impact of the atmosphere of the time, significant others, student activism, and personal characteristics. However, their involvement in professionalism and social activism caused different conflicts in their lives. First, the professionals identify themselves as social activists, professionals, or employees. The process of identification is not smooth and decisive but in conflict and under change. Second, the professionals struggle for survival in professional training institutes are dominated by mainstream culture and values of Korea. Third, the professionals struggle with relationships with other professionals, full-time activists in social movement organizations, and clients from underprivileged groups. Nonetheless, they make efforts to negotiate the struggles by finding an appropriate specialty and workplace, conducting self-reflection and self-regulation, making communities, and learning from role models and mentors. Four major conclusions were derived from the findings of this study: First, professional identity can be constructed through social activism. Second, the positionality of professionals can be in conflict through social activism. Third, professionals can find intersections of professionalism and social activism. Finally, professionals commitment to social justice can be maintained and articulated through cognitive praxis.