Is South Korea good for international students?
South Korea is a diverse country that has so much to offer! It’s no surprise that South Korea is among Asia’s top study abroad destinations for international students. The number of international students in South Korea consistently increased before the pandemic and is expected to grow even more! Nevertheless, in 2021 there were still 152,000 incoming students studying at Korean universities.
South Korea is known for its modern bustling cities, sub-tropical islands, rich culture, and fascinating history. The country has gained popularity due to its booming music and film industry (K-pop and K-drama). Other aspects that make Korea so attractive are the low living costs and excellent quality of life. Moreover, seven South Korean universities were in the top 200 Times Higher Education World University Rankings in 2021!
Top Korean universities for international students
The following universities are not only famous in South Korea but they are also popular among students from all around the globe!
Seoul National University (SNU)
Seoul National University was established in 1946 and is the best university in South Korea. Despite the high competitiveness, it is popular among international students. One reason for this popularity is the large offer of courses in English. SNU is also part of the elite SKY universities, a 3-member league of the best and most respected universities in South Korea. Moreover, SNU has a wide range of faculties. For example, students can study humanities, medicine, data science, administration, or engineering.
Tuition fee per semester: around 6000 USD
World Rank: 54
National Rank: 1
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
The Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is known for outstanding performance in innovations, entrepreneurship, and science & technology. In 1971 the Korean government opened KAIST as the first public research-oriented institution for science and engineering. Until today, the university highly engages in research in entertainment, engineering, and eco-energy research. One reason international students want to study at KAIST could be their focus on creating global value. That’s why most courses are in English. Moreover, the diversity among students with around 600 foreign students each year reflects the international approach of KAIST.
- Tuition fee per semester, Undergraduate: around 2500 USD
- Tuition fee per semester, Graduate 7500 USD
- World Rank: 99
- National Rank: 2
Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)
International students should also consider Sungkyunkwan University. The university strives for an academic society and education inspired by Confucianism. Furthermore, SKKU has a long history and still carries the name of Sungkyunkwan, the Joseon dynasty’s primary educational institution. However, today it is a modern institution known as a pioneer in business and technology. Therefore, Hyundai, Samsung, and many government agencies sponsor SKKU’s research departments. Consequently, it has a significant impact on Korea’s industry and society. Foreign students can benefit from the newest high-tech equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters.
- Tuition fee per semester, Undergraduate: around 5000 USD
- Tuition fee per semester, Graduate: over 6000 USD
- World Rank: 122
- National Rank: 3
Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)
POSCO, a Korean steel company, established Pohang University of Science and Technology. As a relatively young private research university, POSTECH is achieving impressive rankings yearly. However, it is particularly respected in the fields of science and technology. Consequently, the students receive the best education to become specialists in sci-tech and engineering. Therefore, many international students apply for their master’s or doctorate degrees. POSTECH maintains good relationships with national and international institutions to support innovation. In addition, POSTECH hosts together with KAIST the annual Science War where students can exchange knowledge.
- Tuition fee per semester, Undergraduate: around 2000 USD
- Tuition fee per semester, Graduate: 4000 USD
- World rank: 185
- National Rank: 6
Korea University (KU)
One of the best universities for foreign students in South Korea is Korea University, with over 4000 incoming students enrolled. KU is so attractive because it has been long established and massively extended its study fields over the years. There is almost nothing that you can’t study here! Students interested in law, medicine, science and management, natural sciences, engineering, technology, or business can expect the highest course quality. Furthermore, KU is invested in internationalization and recently established a Graduate School of International Studies. In addition, KU is a member of the elite SKY universities, just like SNU.
- Tuition fee per semester, Undergraduate: around 4000-5000 USD
- Tuition fee per semester, Graduate: 4000-7500 USD
- World rank: 201-250
- National Rank: 7
Hanyang University (HYU)
Hanyang University is a top choice for students studying in the STEM fields STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The history of Hanyang University started in 1939 when it was a driving force during Korea’s independence movement. Nowadays, students worldwide want to study at HYU, especially if they seek a career in engineering. That’s because HYU is one of the best engineering schools. Moreover, the university is very engaged in international collaborations with over 700 partner universities. Therefore, there are various nationalities among the 3000 international students that are enrolled.
- Tuition fee per semester: around 2450 USD
- World rank: 351
- National Rank: 10
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS)
The Hankuk University of Foreign Studies was established in 1954. Historically seen, HUFS significantly impacted Korea’s rehabilitation after the Korean War. It was one of the most important institutions to educate students to become CEOs and diplomats, making South Korea what it is today. Today, the university attracts a rising number of international students and emphasizes internationalization. Therefore, students can choose from a great variety of courses in English. Also, the international office will take care of them. For example, HUFS offers tandem programs for Koreans and internationals for cultural exchange.
- Tuition fee per semester: around 2450 USD
- World Rank: 1751
- National Rank: 56
Yonsei University is known as the oldest Korean university. There is high international interest in Yonsei, and even tourists visit the campus. That’s why Yonsei University is one of the prestigious SKY university members. However, students must face competitive admission rates due to the high rankings. Also, students benefit from a wide range of study fields and research departments supporting interdisciplinary tasks in context with ongoing recent global issues, like climate change. In total, around 4000 international students are studying at Yonsei University.
- Tuition fee per semester, Undergraduate: around 2000-3500 USD
- Tuition fee per semester, Graduate 3500-7500 USD
- World Rank: 151
- National Rank: 4
Kyung Hee University (KHU)
Kyung Hee University is popular among Korean and international students. One reason for that is the college of medicine, where students learn traditional Korean medicine and Asian medicine. KHU is the best institution for physical education, sports medicine, coaching, and Taekwondo in South Korea. Additionally, the hospitality and leisure management programs are also ranked high. Moreover, the university is collaborating with institutions around the globe—for instance, the United Nations Academic Impact program about human rights and conflict resolution. But KHU also has around 400 partner universities.
- Tuition fee per semester, Undergraduate: around 4000-5000 USD
- Tuition fee per semester, Graduate 4000-7500 USD
- World rank: 251-300
- National Rank: 8
Dong-A University (DAU)
Established in 1946, Dong-A University is a non-profit private higher education institution located in the suburban setting of the metropolis. Officially recognized by the Ministry of Education of Korea, DAU is a large coeducational South Korean higher education institution. It offers courses and programs leading to officially recognized higher education degrees such as bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees in several areas of study. Moreover, it is the only private university in Busan and one of only two that offers both a medical school and a law school. It’s the perfect choice for international students due to its location in Korea’s most popular holiday destination.
- Tuition fee per semester: around 2150 USD
- World Rank: 1220
- National Rank: 38
Korean scholarships for international students
South Korea is dedicated to attracting more international students. Therefore, universities and government institutions regularly provide scholarships and research funds for students from overseas. In addition, around 2000 students receive government scholarships each year.
Nowadays, Korean universities care about the internationalization of their institutions. You can check each university’s homepage and search for scholarships because many universities offer individual scholarship programs.
Global Korea Scholarship (GKS)
The Korean government gives the Global Korea Scholarship to international Bachelor, Master, and Doctoral students studying at elite Korean institutions. Students can study for free because the government pays everything from tuition fees, airplane tickets, resettlement allowance, health insurance, stipend, living allowance, medical insurance, and Korean language courses. Moreover, graduates receive research and financial support for their dissertation, including KRW 100,000 for graduation.
Undergraduate students need to be under 25 years and graduate students under 40 years old to apply for GKS. Additionally, students must have a GPA of 80% or higher. Students should submit all their scholarship applications to the Korean Embassy in their country of residence or the Korean university they consider. Then, they only send the best applications to the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) for the final selection process.
Korean Government Support Program for Foreign Exchange Students
On the one hand, the Korean Government Support Program for Foreign Exchange Students provides meaningful experiences to international students in Korea and at the university. On the other hand, it strengthens the global competence of universities in South Korea. International students in South Korea can apply for the program for one or two semesters. The support program includes living expenses, settlement allowance, round-trip airfare, and medical insurance.
However, only undergraduates from partner universities overseas of GKS for Foreign Exchange Students Program’s selected universities are qualified for this scholarship. In addition, master’s students from strategic cooperative partnership countries can also apply. Also, students must have already completed two semesters at their home institution.
Most affordable Korean universities for international students
Since South Korea’s higher education is very competitive and the universities are top-rated among international students, it can be challenging to get into university. Not only are Korean universities selective when it comes to accepting incoming students, but the application progress is also quite demanding. In addition, the application and tuition fees are often expensive for students without a scholarship.
However, international students can apply via Asia Exchange to the following three Korean universities and save a lot of money, time, and effort:
- Hanyang University
- Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
- Dong-A University
Asia Exchange is a study abroad provider maintaining partnerships with universities in Asia to make studying abroad easy and affordable for everyone. By applying to a Korean university via Asia Exchange, international students benefit from the most affordable tuition fees, the easiest and fastest application process, a secure study placement within a week, and great support throughout their studies abroad. This includes, for example, finding available courses, checking semester dates, or providing information on visas, travel, vaccinations, and accommodation. Above all, with the help of Asia Exchange, it is comparably easy to enroll in a Korean university, and the application requirements are very low and straightforward.
Student testimonials of international students in Korea
“The months in Korea were certainly some of the best in my life. In between a vivid nightlife, extraordinary food, deep conversations, a great number of wonderful friends from different cultures, a very special football club, and the exchange life itself – this is what shaped me most within the last few months.” – Niklas from Germany
“I would definitely say that South Korea is way past my expectations. And I’m so happy that I made this decision. I expected the culture and the language barrier to be much harder to overcome and immerse with. But like I said before, people here are very supportive, even though there is a communication barrier sometimes. All in all, everything has gone way smoother than I thought it would. It exceeded my expectations.” – Someya from Sweden
“My semester in Seoul truly exceeded my expectations. You never get bored of the city and meet a lot of amazing and kind people. One of my favorite things while exploring Seoul was walking past skyscrapers and suddenly you have a beautiful traditional temple in front of you. I’m so happy I decided to stay for another semester!” – Julia from Germany
Work during and after studying in Korea
As an international student, you can receive a part-time job permit from the immigration office. However, please check this in advance with your institution. Exchange students often look for internships, student jobs in an office, or even bartender jobs. The working hours depend on your exchange program. For instance, as a bachelor-level student, you can work up to 20 hours. In contrast, master-level students can work up to 30 hours during the week. In addition, international students have no limitations on working hours over the weekends.
After you have finished your studies, you can stay in South Korea to find an occupation. The Korean economy is stable, and there are jobs in all different fields. According to Korean law, international students can live in the country. Moreover, good Korean language skills higher TOPIK or KLAT are a huge advantage to getting that job you want! So, if you plan to work in Korea after your studies, you can start improving your references and contacts during your studies. However, you must have a valid visa. Usually, you have to apply for the Job-Seeking Visa (D-10 visa), valid for half a year. This includes participants in paid internships, activities related to intellectual property, and preparation for a start-up. You can upgrade to an E-7 visa or Specific-Job Visa when you have a job.
Most popular study programs at Korean universities for international students
Korea is one of the most sophisticated study abroad destinations in Asia and the world. Therefore, there is a wide range of study programs at Korean Universities for international students. Students often combine participating in a study program with visiting Korean language courses simultaneously. If you are interested to know more about university language courses, click here.
Semester abroad (1-2 terms)
One of the easiest and most common choices for international students is to do one or two semesters abroad at a Korean university. Because of the excellent courses offered in English, students can go abroad and continue their studies at their home university by choosing suitable lectures at their host university. This way, students can experience Korean culture and travel the country while earning credits and boosting their CVs.
Since Korea’s higher education is respected worldwide, many international students apply for a full degree at a Korean university. Of course, a full degree comes with many advantages, like enough time to immerse yourself in the culture or improve your Korean. Nevertheless, the application progress is more challenging and students should plan well in advance.
Foreign students love to spend a summer in South Korea and get a taste of what Korean university is like! The summer school lasts four weeks, but students can earn up to 10 ECTS or 6 US credits within this short amount of time. Students also join field trips besides the lectures in anthropology, cultural studies, Asian studies, and international business.
Many students who have recently finished high school or graduated college crave a valuable gap year before taking the next steps in life. A gap year at a Korean University is the perfect break in-between. You don’t need to be enrolled at a university, but you’re still able to educate yourself in business, economics, engineering, pharmacy, public relations, physics, and much more. Consequently, you will grow academically and personally.
Because of Korea’s efforts in attracting students from abroad and its prestigious higher education, there are many outstanding Korean universities for international students. Furthermore, the universities and government grant scholarships to incoming students from overseas. Depending on the individual needs, there are various study abroad programs for international students, from four weeks to four-year full degrees! All in all, South Korea has everything international students are looking for!
Do you want to study abroad in South Korea? Find out more information here!
Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in the Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.