Between 200,000 and 250,000 South Korean students studied abroad each year in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: In 2012, 30.7 percent of Koreans studied in the United States, compared with 26.3 percent in China, 8.6 percent in Canada, 8.4 percent in Japan, and 7.2 percent in Australia, according to the Fulbright Commission in Seoul. Fulbright Commission figures, from the South Korean Ministry of Education (MOE), show slightly shrinking pie portions for the United Kingdom and Japan, and a swelling slice for Canada — 5.6 to 8.6 percent — between 2010 and 2012. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

“But because of cost, some Korean non-degree seekers studying English are looking beyond the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The Philippines and Malta, for instance — where English is the second national language, and tuition, living expenses, and airfare are much lower than in other English-speaking nations — have become popular destinations, says Seunghwan Lee, president of the Korean Association of International Educators, or KAIE. In the Philippines, says Lee, English programs offer eight hours of instruction a day — double typical daily U.S. ESL program hours at less cost. Recently the Philippines has also been attracting growing numbers of Chinese and Japanese students to study English, he adds. However, studying elsewhere in Asia (China aside) “is not a trend” for South Koreans, says Lee, and the numbers are small.Between 2010 and 2011, for instance, the share of South Koreans studying in the Philippines went from 1.1 to 1.2 percent, or to 3,238 students, based on Ministry of Education data from the Fulbright Commission.

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “For decades, Koreans have thought their education was not really complete without study abroad. In 1999, there were 154,219 students studying abroad: 96,778 in North America, 20,577 in Europe, 36,552 in Asia-Pacific countries, 138 in Africa, and 174 in South America (MOE). The United States continues to lead in popularity, but Koreans' foreign study destinations have become diversified. [Source: Young-Key Kim-Renaud, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

As of 1999, the share of those who went to the United States to study was 27.81 percent, considerably lower than 1997's rate of 42.9 percent. Even so, as of 2000, the 41,191 Korean students studying at American colleges and universities made up 8 percent of all international students studying in America and ranked fourth after those from China, Japan, and India (Open Doors). Since 2000, the government has provided 70 college graduates evidencing outstanding achievement with full scholarships — US$18,200 per year for two to three years — to study at overseas institutes of higher learning. In addition, a fellowship of US$38,000 per year per person for 3 years was available for those in doctoral programs at overseas institutions.

Reasons Why South Koreans Study Abroad

Some students head abroad because of the difficulty of getting into the university they want in South Korea. Others do it because they want to work overseas, Hur Wahn-burm, marketing director at Overseas Educational Corp, which places 700-800 Korean students abroad each year, told Reuters. [Source: Jee Heun Kahng, Reuters, December 8, 2015]

In the 1990s and 2000s, rich Korean students, who did poorly on their college-entrance exam and enrolled at second-rate American universities, were referred to as parachute kids. One Seoul newspaper ran a 28-part special report on young Koreans on the loose in Koreatowns in major American cities. One installment had picture of young Koreans dancing at an L.A. disco with their faces blacked to avoid embarrassment.

Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: Most Koreans going overseas seek degrees. Korean families with the means to send their children abroad for higher education are still motivated to do that. Why? Korea’s universities are not among the world’s top tier of academic institutions and don’t produce Nobel Prize winners, says Korea International School chairman Sunshik Min. “Korea is a latecomer to advanced studies in science and technology,” he says. Government spending for Korean universities accounts for less than 23 percent of total university revenue, according to World Education News and Reviews (WENR), compared with an average of 78 percent in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

“Parents are acutely aware that neither private nor public higher education in Korea fosters creativity, based on Korean press reports. Options for attending Korea’s few top schools are reduced or cut off for students who fail to excel in Korea’s national university entrance exam. And rapid expansion in access to higher education has produced parental concern about school quality, according to WENR.

“In 2013, 63 percent were aiming for a diploma; the rest attended shortterm or other programs. That figure has fluctuated between 57 percent and 64 percent since 2006. When around the globe, Koreans mostly study engineering, business, fine arts, and English as a Second Language (ESL). Study abroad decisions come down to perceptions of cost, value, and prestige. Living expenses in the United Kingdom are even higher than in the United States, says Ji Hong Hwang, who received a BA in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois in 2012 and is now back in Korea. Australia doesn’t have many prestigious universities, she feels, explaining why “everyone” she knows studies in the United States. For Jisun Bang, the United Kingdom was her first choice, but she ended up choosing to study in Australia because of the option to immigrate. In 2012 Bang earned a master’s in translation and interpreting from Macquarie University. “Translator was in the category for permanent residency when I entered,” she says. Soon after her arrival, it was removed from the list. She now works in an YoSeph Kuh, who studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, feels a U.S. graduate degree may not be the only option for South Koreans to pursue their higher education today. He now works in Seoul.”

English and Other Issues for South Korean Students Studying Abroad

Choe Sang-Hun wrote in the New York Times: “In a 2008 survey by South Korea’s National Statistical Office, 48.3 percent of South Korean parents said they wanted to send their children abroad to “develop global perspectives,” avoid the rigid domestic school system or learn English. More than 12 percent wanted it for their children as early as elementary school. [Source: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, August 22, 2010]

“Some of the things that can go wrong have been highlighted by the economic downturn. “Many of the students who were sent abroad in the 1990s have since returned home,” said Shin Hyun-man, the president of CareerCare, a job placement company. “Despite their foreign diplomas, they were unable to find jobs abroad because of the global recession. But their Korean isn’t good enough, and they don’t adapt well to the corporate culture here.”

“Jimmy Y. Hong, a graduate of Middlesex University in London and now a marketing official at LG Electronics in Seoul, said that when he returned to South Korea in 2008, he enrolled in a business master’s degree program at Yonsei University in Seoul to help compensate for his lack of local school connections, which can be critical to making friends, landing jobs and closing deals. “I feared I might be ostracized for studying abroad,” he said.

South Korean Students in China

In 2012, 26.3 percent of Koreans who studied abroad studied in China. The number of Korean students studying in China rose more than threefold between 2001 and 2012, from 16,000 to almost 63,000. Kyna Rubin wrote in International Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: “The newest, greatest competitor at the moment” to the U.S. in hosting South Korean students “isn’t other English-speaking countries, but China — Korean students’ second top study abroad destination after the United States. The number of Korean students flocking across the Yellow Sea to China grew more than three-fold between 2001 and 2012, from 16,000 to almost 63,000, according to Wall Street Journal statistics. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

“China is Korea’s largest trading partner,” says Korea International School chairman Sunshik Min. “Parents and students think that Chinese language will become more important, although not as important as English.” Min’s friends, he says, send their kids to China after they’ve studied in the United States. In fact, because of burgeoning business ties to China, Korean companies already want employees who speak both English and Chinese. “Korean companies being launched in China are vigorously recruiting Korean students who have very good Chinese speaking abilities and have completed a degree program [there],” says Shim.

“If boosting career prospects by studying in China weren’t incentive enough for Korean youth, China offers further perks. It’s a cheaper option than study in the West. Its geographic proximity to South Korea gives some families “a sense of security,” says Shim. These factors, together with the nations’ shared cultural underpinnings, make it “kind of easy” for Koreans to study in China, notes Lee. Speaking a second language like Chinese on top of English, a nearly ubiquitous skill among Korea’s educated class, is minimally needed to be competitive, affirms MSU graduate Dongsun Kim, now a marketer for Best Western Premier Gangnam Hotel in Seoul. Furthering the tide of Korean students to China are the flourishing exchange programs between Korean and Chinese universities, says Lee, who observes that U.S. institutions seem less interested in creating such ties, presumably because of uneven flows.

South Korean Students In the U.S.

There are typically about 100,000 South Korean students at all levels — including universities and secondary schools — in the U.S. each year . South Korea sent more nonimmigrant students — 113,519 — to the United States than any other country except China in fiscal year 2008-2009, according to the United States Office of Immigration Statistics. The number of South Korean university students in the United States rose more than 40 percent from 51,500 students in the academic year 2001-02 to more than 72,000 in 2012-13. South Korea sent about 93,000 students of all levels to the United States in 2006. [Source:; Open Doors Report, Institute of International Education[Source: Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, August 22, 2010]

In 2012, 30.7 percent of Koreans who studied abroad studied in the United States. Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: The U.S. share of the pie has held fairly steady since 2010. In 2010 29.8 percent of Korean students abroad studied in the United States — a slice that shrunk to 27.5 percent in 2011 before rising above 30 percent in 2012. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

India, China and South Korea are the three largest exporters of university students to the United States. The populations of China and India are more than 20 times that of South Korea’s. Many Korean students do graduate work at universities in the United States. Of non-American students who receive doctorates at U.S. universities, 30 percent are Chinese, 10 percent are South Koreans and 2 percent are Japanese.

Top 10 sources of foreign students at U.S. universities and colleges in 2011-2012: 1) China (194,029); 2) India (100,270); 3) South Korea (72,295); 4) Saudi Arabia (34,139); 5) Canada (26,821); 6) Taiwan (23,250); 7) Japan (19,996); 8) Vietnam (15,572); 9) Mexico (13,393); and 10) Turkey (11, 973). Worldwide, international student enrollment at U.S. universities soared in the 2000s and early 2010s, reaching a record 764,495 foreign students in 2011–12, contributing over US$2 billion a year to the U.S. Economy. [Source: Institute of International Education, Kayla Webley, Time, May 10, 2013, New York Times]

South Korean students regular rise to the top of their classes at to American universities. In 2002, they represented 8.4 percent of all international students in the United States; in 2009 they reached a high of 11.2 percent.

Why South Korean Students Study In the U.S.

In South Korea, a diploma from a top American university is an important status symbol and key to a good job. Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: “Studying in the United States seems not a benefit but “a sort of requirement” for landing a good, secure job in South Korea, says YoSeph Kuh. And these days, says Kuh, who earned a master’s degree in accounting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010, fierce job competition in Korea’s soft economy means an overseas MA, let alone a BA, may no longer be enough. A PhD could be better. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

Sure, Kuh says, studying at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign helped his career. In the States he took classes taught by “legends” in the accountancy field. He networked with executives from the Big Four accounting firms and Fortune 500 companies speaking at school seminars. But the accounting manager at SK C&C, an internet technology services provider in greater Seoul, says he isn’t sure a U.S. graduate degree is the only option for South Koreans to pursue their higher education.

Today, there are more options, and not going abroad at all is one of them. These days, South Korean students are still coming to the United States as their most popular destination, but many students are also deciding to stay home rather than go abroad to pursue their higher education. In the global competition for the best and brightest international students, other countries, like Australia and China, which have ramped up their recruitment efforts to attract South Korean students, may become greater competitors to the United States in the quest to attract these students in the future. While the United States still seems to be a favorite choice among South Korean students, it’s no time to rest on laurels as the tide of where South Korean students go is changing.

Attraction of Ivy League Universities to South Korean Students

“Going to U.S. universities has become like a huge fad in Korean society, and the Ivy League names — Harvard, Yale, Princeton — have really struck a nerve,” Victoria Kim, who attended graduated from Harvard in June 2007, told the New York Times. “Preparing to get to the best American universities has become something of a national obsession in Korea,” said Alexander Vershbow, the American ambassador to South Korea. [Source: Sam Dillon, New York Times, April 27, 2008]

Sam Dillon wrote in the New York Times: Korean applications to Harvard alone have tripled, to 213 in the spring of 2008, up from 66 in 2003, said William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions. Harvard has 37 Korean undergraduates, more than from any foreign country except Canada and Britain.Harvard, Yale and Princeton have a total of 103 Korean undergraduates.

Kim Soo-yeon, 19, who was accepted by Princeton, in the spring of 2008. “Ms. Kim’s father is a top official in the Korean Olympic Committee. Ms. Kim developed fierce study habits early, watching her mother scold her older sister for receiving any score less than 100 on tests. Even a 98 or a 99 brought a tongue-lashing.“Most Korean mothers want their children to get 100 on all the tests in all the subjects,” Ms. Kim’s mother said.

“Ms. Kim’s highest aspiration was to attend a top Korean university, until she read a book by a Korean student at Harvard about American universities. Immediately she put up a sign in her bedroom: “I’m going to an Ivy League!”... Ms. Kim, like thousands of Korean students, took weekend classes in English, physics and other subjects at private academies, raising her SAT scores by hundreds of points. “I just love to do well on the tests,” she said.

Studying Abroad Loses Its Attraction to South Koreans

In the early 2010s the number of South Korean students in the United States and abroad began to decline.Jee Heun Kahng of Reuters wrote: After years of heading abroad in droves to study, more young South Koreans are opting for education at home as expensive overseas degrees no longer provide an edge in a tough job market — and are even a liability. The overall number of South Koreans studying abroad at college level or above peaked in 2011 at 262,465, accounting for 6.7 percent of those in higher education; it fell in 2014 to 214,696, or 5.8 percent of the total, government figures show. [Source: Jee Heun Kahng, Reuters, December 8, 2015]

“Data from its website showed the number of Korean undergraduates fell by 19 percent, from 532 in late 2010 to 430 in late 2014. During the same period, international undergraduates overall increased from 1,732 to 1,906. South Korean funds remitted overseas to pay for tuition and living costs fell from a peak of US$5 billion in 2007 to US$3.7 billion in 2014, which was a 14 percent decline from the previous year, according to the Bank of Korea. Fiona Mazurenko, marketing manager at the University of Texas at Austin's international office, said the number of Korean students there had fallen since 2010.

Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: “In 2012 for the first time in eight years total figures for Koreans studying abroad declined from the year before by almost 9 percent — from 262, 465 to 239,213 — according to Jai Ok Shim, executive director of the Fulbright Commission in Seoul. A similar, if less dramatic, drop occurred among Koreans studying in the United States. Those numbers fell 2.3 percent in 2012–2013 from the year before and 1.4 percent in 2011– 2012, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE’s) Open Doors report.

Reasons Why Studying Abroad Loses Its Attraction to South Koreans

Jee Heun Kahng of Reuters wrote: Recruiters and students say the improving quality of domestic education, including in English, means the premium placed on a foreign education is not what it was in a country known for its intense focus on academic achievement. At the same time, connections cultivated at home through school and university play a factor in landing a job and getting ahead. "Domestic graduates' capacity has increased, so now businesses no longer blindly prefer overseas graduates," said Lee Young-mi, senior executive director at headhunting firm Careercare. [Source: Jee Heun Kahng, Reuters, December 8, 2015]

Kim Dong-jin, an adjunct professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and the former head of recruiting at LG Electronics Inc, said Korean employers still valued applicants with prestigious foreign MBAs or advanced degrees, but there was less demand for overseas-trained undergraduates. This was partly because people emerging from the Korean system came with a useful network of connections, he said. "Domestic students have a lot of support from their school, their seniors, as well as through government programmes," he said. Overseas-educated Koreans, on the other hand, can have a harder time fitting into a hierarchical South Korean workplace. "They are individualistic, which makes it hard for them to adapt to the Korean business culture," he said.

In a survey of 484 job applicants by Incruit Corp, which runs a recruiting website, half of the 151 applicants with overseas experience felt they had faced discrimination while looking for work in South Korea because of time abroad. "There's no advantage in the job market for internationally educated applicants unless you have work experience in an international corporation," said Park Shin-young, a 22-year-old student in Seoul who graduated from high school in Canada but returned to South Korea for college.

Cost of Studying Abroad Become Too High for Many South Koreans

Jee Heun Kahng of Reuters wrote: The high cost of studying abroad is another reason more Koreans choose education at home, especially amid a sluggish economy with high youth unemployment and household debt. Average tuition for the current school year at four-year U.S. private institutions is US$32,405, and US$23,893 at public institutions for out-of-state students, according to the College Board. That excludes living and travel costs. Average tuition at South Korean universities is 6.67 million won (US$5,812), according to the Korean Council for University Education. [Source: Jee Heun Kahng, Reuters, December 8, 2015]

In 2014, Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: “The creaky economy, “not favorable at this time,” according to the Fulbright Commission’s Shim, has eroded Korea’s middle class. Slow income growth and increasing family debt due to the high costs of housing and private education (the latter, de rigeur among a population disaffected with the nation’s public education system) have pushed more than half of middle-class families into what a 2013 McKinsey report calls “a growing ‘poor middle-income’ cohort.” In an economy where the lifetime earnings of a private college graduate lag those of a high school graduate entering directly into employment, as the McKinsey study reports, it is no wonder that some families are asking whether educating their children anywhere abroad is worth it. The Korean public is already concerned enough about the high costs of a domestic college degree. [Source: Kyna

Middle-class financial woes and a saturated job market for foreigntrained college graduates seem to dictate that Korean students stay put. And those for whom an overseas degree is financially impossible, do.

Overseas Korean Schools and Helping Student Returnee

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “ To help overseas Koreans — emigrants, dependents of diplomats, and other short term foreign residents — cultivate a sense of identity and learn about their cultural roots, the Korean government established "Korean Schools," where Korean language, culture, and history are taught. As of 2000, there were 23 Korean Schools in 14 countries with more than 5,000 students taught by 660 teachers. In addition to these schools, there are various "Saturday schools" often called han'gûl schools (Korean Language Schools), which are established mostly by independent volunteer groups including religious organizations. As of 2000, there were 1,664 Saturday schools in 95 countries with 96,784 students taught by 10,531 teachers (KEDI 2000). [Source: Young-Key Kim-Renaud, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

“The National Institute for International Education Development (NIIED), originally established as part of the Seoul National University Korean Heritage Education Center in March 1962, came under the jurisdiction of the MOE by presidential decree in 1992. NIIED's many programs support international exchanges, including scholarships for students from newly developing countries. As of 2000, approximately 85 percent of overseas Koreans who study the Korean language with NIIED's 9 month program are given scholarships. Of students taking a 3 month language program, 60 percent receive scholarships. As of 2001, overseas Koreans from Japan, China, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Russia, Kazakstan, Germany, Bolivia, Suriname, Denmark, Chile, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, and Ecuador have taken this course. NIIED also provides language programs for Koreans living abroad and foreigners studying Korean on the Internet, called "Kosnet."

The number of students going abroad on government scholarships between 1977 and 1999 amounted to 1,639 (MOE). The Korea Research Foundation is usually responsible for facilitating research and activities for scholars and students who wish to study abroad.“To help students returning from abroad reintegrate into domestic schools (elementary, middle, and high schools), international schools have been established in Seoul. [Source: Young-Key Kim-Renaud, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Foreign Students at South Korean Universities

Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: Of the international students in South Korea — nearly 86,000 in 2013, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Education data — a whopping 58 percent were from China. A relatively small fraction — 3 percent, or almost 2,700 students — were from the United States.” In 2014. Belgium’s Ghent University launched an environmental engineering program in South Korea. Next up is Russia’s St. Petersburg State Conservatory, which has signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “The rapid ascendance of northeast Asia has given each country of the region a more distinct image. Korea is increasingly regarded as a key area of East Asia both historically and at present. As Korea's international visibility has increased, Korean studies has emerged as an academic field. Foreigners traveling to study in Korea have mushroomed. In 1971, 7,632 students from 42 foreign countries studied in Korea; by 1999, there were 154,219 from 71 countries. Of these 96,778 were from North America, 36,552 from other Asia-Pacific countries, 20,577 from Europe, 174 from South America, and 138 from Africa (MOE). Foreign Students in National Universities: 2,143 [Source: Young-Key Kim-Renaud, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

“The government has also provided scholarships for foreign students and overseas Koreans to study in Korea for advanced degrees or to attend a short term language and culture study tour program. It also affords various conveniences to foreigners engaged in education and research activities in Korea. Between 1977 and 1999, a total of 607 foreign students studied in Korea under Korean government scholarships.

“Korea and Japan have exchanged 150 university students and teachers annually since 1990. From 1999, other Korean university and secondary school students were sent to Japanese universities of engineering. Four hundred seventy secondary students were to be sent to Japan each year over a decade. One hundred university students were sent to Japanese universities of engineering in 1999, and the number was to be increased annually until reaching 1,000 in 2010. To promote better understanding and goodwill between Koreans and African-Americans, the Korean government has invited 50 to 70 African-American students annually since 1994 for 4-week programs on Korean culture and society. Korea-Japan exchange students are responsible for their own airfares, while the host country provides room and board and their programs of study. The Korean government has provided all expenses for the African-America students. Between 1990 and 1996, some 1,042 Korean students went to Japan on this program, while 1,101 Japanese students have gone to Korea. Fifty-three African-American students were invited into this program in 1994, 68 in 1995, 40 in 1996, 36 in 1997, and 31 in 1998 (MOE).

American Students in South Korea

American students studying in South Korea has increased significantly. The U.S. is the 6th largest source of foreign students in Korea but still small in absolute terms and relative to countries like China. In 2012-13 about three percent of the foreign students — almost 2,700 students — were from the United States. However, the number of U.S. students on Korean campuses in 2011–2012 rose 8.4 percent from the previous year, according to Open Doors. Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: Korea is not a top destination for U.S. college students. Only 60 of the 2,000 USC students who study abroad go to Korea, according to Beard. By contrast, 75 travel to Japan and 140 to China. But USC sees a lot of room for growth in its Korea programs. Seoul has a handful of very good universities that are interested in innovative programs, says Beard. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator:Historically, the Chinese and Japanese languages have attracted more students than has Korean within U.S. academe. Interest in learning Korean was sparked by the start of the Korean War in 1950, Yale University Professor Kim Seung-ja told the Joongang Daily in 2013. Korean language courses ceased at Yale in 1961 and didn’t resume until 1990. The 1988 Seoul Olympics, Korea’s recovery from the 1997 Asian financial crisis, and the current worldwide craze for Hallyu, or the Korean pop culture wave, have revitalized that interest, she said. Ninety U.S. universities and sixty high schools teach Korean language, according to Joongang Daily. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

Young-Key Kim-Renaud wrote in the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “The Fulbright grant program in Korea began in 1950, and the bilateral Korean-American Educational Commission (KAEC) was established in 1963. It is the only program funded and sponsored by both the Korean and U.S. governments. Fulbright grants support the exchange of more than 100 students, researchers, and teachers annually. The U.S. Education Center informs Korean students and scholars of educational opportunities in the United States. It also provides various official testing services to students who want to study abroad and helps U.S. institutions seeking to meet students or learn about institutions in Korea. [Source: Young-Key Kim-Renaud, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

Why American Students Study in South Korea

Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator:“It’s true — Seoul is not Tokyo or Beijing, says recent University of Southern California grad Alyssa Min. But that was a plus for her. Tokyo’s cost of living is much higher than Seoul’s, and she was wary of Beijing’s pollution and overcrowding. Instead, she spent spring 2013 studying at Yonsei University, one of Korea’s top private institutions. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

“Seoul’s charms are multi-layered and not so obvious at first sight,” she says. Yonsei University lies in a university district full of cafes, bars, and restaurants where life “never got boring.” Yonsei offered her a fine business program with quantitative classes that had not been part of her international relations major back home. Her Yonsei classes, most taught in fluent English by professors with overseas PhDs, were regular offerings not watered down for study abroad students. “The quality of teaching was high, as were the expectations and workload,” she says. Alyssa Min also loved Yonsei’s school spirit, “which rivals that of USC” and brought together local and foreign students “in a meaningful way.” Like 80 percent of USC students choosing study abroad in Korea, Min is Korean- American. Her head-start with the Korean language and the desire to experience Korea as a college student (she’d lived there before) boosted her interest in going.

“The other 20 percent of USC students who select Korea are non-heritage students. They study business or language, says USC study abroad adviser Trista Beard, “to make themselves more marketable and perhaps work in East Asia.” Many do internships in Korea, which, unlike Japan, has a history of such programs and more of an English-speaking corporate environment, says Beard. One USC student worked in Samsung’s marketing division, for instance. Alyssa Min is now working part-time for Samsung in Frankfurt, Germany. A semester in Korea allowed her to improve her Korean language skills and complete an internship, both of which upped her job prospects, she feels. Modeled in part on similar hubs in Singapore and the Middle East, Songdo Global University will house select programs from institutions around the world.

“SUNY Korea currently enrolls 126 students, 96 of whom are from Korea (the rest are mostly from elsewhere in Asia, with 10 students from the United States), says Lindquist. The program fully opened in March 2012 and offers a range of degrees in technology systems management and computer science, with other programs in the pipeline. The academic building the Koreans constructed holds 2,000 students, says Lindquist. The current quota SUNY Korea has set for itself — a more practical number, he says — is 880, with annual entry of 50 undergraduate students, who are required to spend one year on Stony Brook’s home campus. Projected enrollments for graduate programs are variable, he says.

In 2014 other foreign programs will join SUNY Korea on the Songdo campus: George Mason University will offer public policy management degrees Next up are the University of Utah, awaiting Ministry of Education approval (humanities and social sciences). If cost is a factor for Korean student decisions about where to earn a degree, SUNY Korea is not inexpensive. Tuition and fees equal those paid by international students on Stony Brook’s New York state campus, says Lindquist. So far, satellite programs offered by foreign universities in Korea aren’t siphoning off large numbers of students who would otherwise enroll in stateside institutions.

Foreign University Opportunities in South Korea

Kyna Rubin wrote in International Educator: “ One in-between-option for Korean students is foreign university branch campuses in Korea. Stony Brook University (SUNY) is the first overseas university to open on the Songdo Global University campus, a new, ambitious education hub in the Incheon Free Economic Zone, 45 minutes by car from Seoul. [Source: Kyna Rubin, International Educator, March-April, 2014]

Korean authorities approached Stony Brook for the project, and are providing five years of operating support as well as buildings and equipment. Stony Brook is responsible for attracting students, hiring faculty, and setting the academics, says W. Brent Lindquist, a Stony Brook professor of applied mathematics and statistics who was deputy provost in charge of setting up the Korea operation, SUNY Korea.

Korea Foundation

According to the “World Education Encyclopedia”: “The Korea Foundation (KF), established by the Korea Foundation Act in 1991, endeavors to contribute to a better understanding of Korea in the international community and to promote international goodwill between Korea and foreign countries. Unlike the Korea Research Foundation, which belongs to MOE, KF is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 1992 and 2000, KF helped create Korean studies professorships at 37 universities worldwide: 27 in North America, 4 in Europe, 5 in Australia and New Zealand, and 1 in Asia. In addition, KF granted support for establishing Korean studies courses at 60 universities in North America, Latin America, Europe, Oceania, Asia, and the Middle East. KF has also funded both basic and applied research, textbook projects, exhibitions, performances, and numerous international academic conferences and supported visiting scholars and students who come to do research or study in Korea. It also publishes journals on Korean studies. [Source: Young-Key Kim-Renaud, “World Education Encyclopedia”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

“In 1997, in accordance with the national slogan of segyehwa ("globalization") of Koreans and Korean life, the government provided special funds to nine graduate schools of international studies (GSIS) to promote research and specialized training necessary for international trade and relations, which require the students to deal with a wide variety of world affairs and people from different cultures with different strategies. All subjects are taught in English by outstanding specialists in particular fields. There are more than 200 international students in these schools.

“Area studies, encompassing Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, Central and South America, and Africa are gaining momentum at institutes of higher learning. Foreign languages have become an integral part of international studies. A whole range of foreign languages are taught in Korean universities: African languages, Arabic, Czech, Chinese, Dutch, English, German, French, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Malay, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Rumanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.

Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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