Tag Archive | "education"

Promoting Gender Diversity in Academia

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • The Ministry of Education announced that national universities must increase the proportion of women professors to 25 percent by 2030.
  • As part of this plan, the government specified annual goals to reduce gender gaps in professional positions.
  • According to a Diversity Report published by Korea University, 16 percent of its professors were female. In comparison, the percentage of female faculty members at several American universities was revealed to be significantly higher at over 50 percent.

Implications: While the share of female faculty in South Korean academia continues to lag, the government’s new benchmark for hiring more women professors over the next decade may affect social norms around gender diversity. Through these new goals, the Moon administration seeks to not only increase representation of women in the labor force, but also shift general attitudes toward gender equality. As women still face gender bias in higher education, a push to extend more professional positions to females can help overturn pervasive stereotypes.

Context: As featured in a previous issue of Korea View, the South Korean government’s push to enforce greater gender parity have not only led to progressive gender quotas but also notable shifts in attitudes. With measures like male parental leave, more men have started to contribute to jobs that were traditionally viewed as suited for women, such as caring for household duties. At the same time, women have made advances in roles conventionally viewed as a male occupation. Yet, despite these changes, South Korea ranked 108 out of 153 on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index – an indication that public policies fall short of transforming women’s position in society.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of James Constant and Sonia Kim.

Picture from flickr user Hyunwoo Sun

Posted in Culture, slider, South KoreaComments (0)

Downside of South Korean Centralized Education System

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • South Korea announced it would gradually begin the new school year with online classes starting on April 9.
  • According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), the number of students with no smart devices stood at 170,000 as of March 30, based on the ongoing survey on 67 percent of all schools.
  • MOE announced its measures to ensure that every elementary, middle, and high school student has access to remote classes.
  • The MOE is being criticized for its late response and being ill-prepared for the nationwide remote education amidst the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
  • Municipal and provincial offices of education have launched pilot programs for online classes at selected schools.

Implications: Despite the country’s prowess as a global leader in digital technology, South Korea’s highly centralized education system may have hindered its schools from developing adequate digital education infrastructure. Highly dependent on the central government, both financially and administratively, public schools never had the authority to engage in autonomous trials with digital education. Remote teaching is now receiving the spotlight due to the pandemic, but individual schools appear unready to address the lack of IT infrastructure to execute the government’s vision.

Context: MOE provides more than 75 percent of school funding. In return, all schools (including private institutions) must adhere to the National Curriculum. With little financial independence or autonomy in their programs, schools adopt cutting-edge technologies more slowly. Focused on standardization, the government is also less likely to advance new programs unless it can be applied nationwide. For instance, South Korea proposed adopting digital textbooks in 2007. However, the implementation of this vision took almost a decade because of insufficient infrastructure, challenges associated with universal implementation, and mandate that schools use a state-sponsored social network platform for digital education materials.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

Picture from flickr user watchsmart

Posted in slider, South KoreaComments (0)

Changes to the School Calendar Still Off-limits

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • On March 21, South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo voiced support for moving the start of the school semester from March to September.
  • The start of the new school semester has already been postponed due to the coronavirus.
  • The media immediately raised concerns regarding the Autumn semester system. President Moon Jae-in responded that discussions on this issue “are not desirable.”

Implications: Just as the current administration is using the lessons from the 2015 MERS outbreak in its public health response, other prior experiences of the Korean government are shaping public policies aimed at ameliorating the social impact of the pandemic. The debate around the public school calendar is the most telling example of the government’s use of past experiences. When asked whether he thinks the changes to the school semester would be appropriate, President Moon avoided answering the question. He is likely benchmarking the experiences of previous administrations that received pushback on similar proposals.

Context: Unlike most other OECD countries, South Korea’s new semester begins in March. Believing that more international students might come study in Korea if its school calendar was more similar to other countries, Presidents Park Geun-hye and Roh Moo-hyun have considered introducing a new school calendar that would begin in August. However, both attempts failed because of the enormous cost associated with such a change. According to the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI), the cost of such reforms will amount to 10.43 trillion won (~USD 10 billion). Much of the added cost will go towards hiring new teachers and classes.

In addition, many cited potential social confusion if the school calendar was changed as the schedule of entrance exams, employment period, and budget planning calendars are all built around the current school semester system.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

Picture from flickr user Ji Sun Lee

Posted in slider, South KoreaComments (0)

Software Education Contributes to Government’s Response to Coronavirus

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • Private citizens are building websites and applications to share information about the coronavirus – one of these websites, “Corona Map,” accumulated more than 14 million views in just one month.
  • Many of these websites are programmed by university students, and occasionally even some middle school students.
  • President Moon Jae-in complimented the student programmer who developed the “Corona Map” and noted that the administration should adopt more efficient information-sharing systems.

Implications: Public investment in software education over the past few years may have contributed to the robustness of ongoing efforts to disseminate information about the coronavirus. Student programmers – many of whom were motivated to study software programming in concert with public education initiatives to prepare the future workforce for the 4th industrial revolution – are building websites that display updates on the viral infection from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These websites bolster the Moon administration’s aim to contain the epidemic by ensuring greater public awareness of the situation. In addition, the government believes that greater information dissemination will limit the spread of unverified information that could lead to panic.

Context: The previous Park administration had been strongly criticized for placing an embargo on information regarding the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2014-15. Concerned that there might be widespread panic, the government even issued a warning that people disseminating unverified information would be prosecuted. Nonetheless, a handful of private websites were built that tracked the spread of the disease. This prompted the government to follow suit.

That same year, unrelatedly, the government announced that software and coding education would be added to the standard education curriculum. This prompted a parallel growth in a private market for software and programming education.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

Picture from flickr user Ji Sun Lee

Posted in slider, South KoreaComments (0)

New Prospects for U.S.-Korea-Japan Cooperation

By Emanuel Pastreich

The difficulties in promoting cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C. in response to the rising technological and economic strength of China has been the hot topic of discussion in the United States. The standard answer is to attribute the difficulties to historical issues that have created an emotional gap between these two allies of the United States.

Although the resentment of Koreans regarding the events of the pre-war period are real, and they do occasionally create major obstacles, it is far from certain that they are the primary cause of the divergent views. It is entirely natural that South Korea, Japan, and the United States have divergent geopolitical interests. It is also clear that all three countries are riven domestically by ideological schisms that make a “NATO of Asia” difficult, if not impossible.

The push for collaboration has focused largely on military and security, with China postulated as a potential threat that must be countered through deterrence. Although this perspective has become commonplace in Washington, D.C., it is far from the consensus among experts on security in the United States, let alone in South Korea and Japan. If anything, concerns about nuclear war, climate change, the unprecedented concentration of wealth, and the negative impact of artificial intelligence and automation on human society dwarf any security threat from China, or from North Korea.

Thus, it is no surprise that there is no consensus on forging deeper military ties centered on potential threats from North Korea and China in the three countries.

In addition, we must ask ourselves whether future conflicts will follow familiar patterns. The rapid evolution of new technologies, from 3D printing to micro drones, to next-generation artificial intelligence assures us of a future in which powerful destructive tools will be available to small groups at the same time that internet-based links bring together similar groups around the world for like purposes. Such developments could make many current weapons systems obsolete from the start.

Technological change has also encouraged deep fragmentation within nation-states, at home and abroad.  Simply raising military budgets, or preaching about our alliances, is not going to make us safer. We need to understand the nature of emerging threats that go beyond the schemata we have used previously to define security, and make sure that citizens in all three countries are properly informed.

Whether we are talking about preventing nuclear war, climate catastrophe, or hybrid conflicts at the national, regional and international levels, we need to use our creativity.

Cooperation between the United States, South Korea, and Japan in the security realm, either traditional or non-traditional, can be extremely positive, but it must be the result of a rigorous and robust discussion between the three countries on science, technology, the environment, policy and strategy as well. That discussion will not only assure us that we are spending the tax dollars of citizens on responses to security threats that are up to date and effective, but will also create a broad consensus among the citizens and experts involved in this discussion at every level that will help to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

The economic and technological integration between these three nations is considerable and offers paths for effective cooperation to address emerging challenges.

Rather than force through military-military cooperation which does not grow naturally out of a broader discussion, the three countries need to broaden and deepen cooperation in fields that deeply inform security, but which are not strictly military.


There is tremendous potential for cooperation in education between the United States, South Korea, and Japan which should be pursued in a systematic manner. For example, we can create sister relations between elementary schools, middle schools and high schools at the local level in all three countries that will be the foundations for deep exchanges. Internet-based learning can serve as an opportunity for students in the three countries to meet up with each other on-line, engage in common projects and learn about each other’s neighborhoods, regions and countries.

If those exchanges are carried on long-term, they may evolve into lifetime relationships that will bring the three countries together.

Whether it is American, Korean and Japanese first-graders making presentations about their neighborhoods for each other, or community college students discussing with their peers how we should respond to the threat of nuclear war or the fragmentation of society, these opportunities for direct collaboration in education would be immensely valuable in building lasting ties.


We cannot discuss the future of security unless our discussion is grounded in science. We must encourage the use of the scientific method in all three countries at every level, from discussions among friends up to the formulation of national policy.

Towards this end, we must promote long-term collaboration in scientific research between the three countries which is combined with a broader effort to promote scientific thinking in society as a whole.

There are projects in scientific research that involve researchers in the three nations already, as well as other nations. It would be possible to focus government funding on collaborative research between the three countries for long-term research projects on critical issues that would tie the three together in a stable and predictable manner and promote broader cooperation.

The joint research in biology and bioengineering between Professor Heiwan Lee of Hanyang University and Hara Masahiko of RIKEN that was active from 2010 to 2016 is a model for how joint collaboration can be conducted between Japan and South Korea. Bringing in an American institutional partner to that project would have made it even stronger.

But science is not just about research. It is critical that we invest heavily in increasing the understanding of science among citizens in the three countries and international cooperation in civic education is another critical field. Town Hall forums that encourage a scientific analysis of the challenges facing human society can be planned that link together citizens from the three countries and that provide, through translation, opportunities for deeper exchanges. Shared best practices between the United States, South Korea, and Japan, for example, could be valuable.

Technology and policy

Existing networks for cooperation for the development of technology and for the formulation of policy between the three countries can be enhanced and brought to focus on the needs of society, rather than financial profit.

For example, the development of the technology for next-generation electric batteries, solar cells, or wind-powered generators that will be in the public domain could be undertaken by the three countries. So also, programs for the development of new policies to implement those resilient technologies at the local level could be developed through cooperation between the three countries. The sharing of best practices could be done in the form of sister city/sister state relations, thereby encouraging collaboration between citizens.

The arts and the humanities

Cooperation in the performing arts, film, painting, sculpture, and writing could be a critical means of drawing the three countries together and creating a consensus on current issues. What we think about security in the United States, South Korea, and Japan will be determined by how “security” is represented and discussed. Security is ultimately a cultural, and not a technological, issue. Therefore the humanities are not secondary fields to policy and technology, but rather they are the front line where philosophy, morality, and methods of representation intersect.

The three countries can cooperate in making films that address the concerns of youth, the threat of climate change, the growing inequity in our society and numerous other topics. Providing reliable funding for such efforts can help artists and intellectuals from the three countries to join forces in efforts to create works of art that help citizens to conceive of current threats like climate change and nuclear war and that offer new directions for international collaboration between citizens for security.

Cultural exchanges can do much to deepen current discussions between the three countries. If we include creative activities like writing and music into otherwise dry and formalized discussions about security and trade, we can create an environment in which innovative approaches are possible and a more honest debate conceivable.

I have attended many meetings between high-level figures from government, industry, and research in which the conversation never went beyond the most superficial greetings. Such overly formalized meetings are tremendous loss because often the experts assembled represented a treasure of expertise.

Just having a chance to listen to a musical performance together, or create a work of art together, can transform such meetings into something remarkably positive. The arts and humanities can contribute not only to helping citizens to understand the challenges of our age, but also in facilitating a discourse between policymakers that goes beyond the rituals of state and gives real gravitas to the exchange.


The goal of enhancing cooperation between the United States, South Korea and Japan in the field of security is worthy. Achieving that goal will be a complex process. Identifying what exactly security will mean in the 21st century, and how we can cooperate in our response is a task that will require the three countries to cooperate closely at all levels, from kindergarten to advanced research laboratories, for the long term. Before we start signing any narrow military and intelligence agreements, let us make sure that we have worked together closely as citizens, experts and policy makers to understand scientifically the current challenges and to respond in a constructive and effective manner.

Emanuel Pastreich is the President of The Asia Institute and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Korea Economic Institute. The views expressed here are his own. 

Image from the U.S. State Department flickr account.

Posted in Japan, slider, South Korea, U.S. Foreign PolicyComments (0)

New Education Policy May Undermine Efforts to Reduce Inequality

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • Recent polling showed that 63.3% of South Koreans preferred standardized tests receiving greater weight in college admissions than high school grades.
  • President Moon announced plans to abolish elite high schools and increase the weight given to the annual College Scholastic Ability Test in college admissions process.
  • After the notice, the demand for housing in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam district reportedly increased.

Implications: The government’s plan to deliver a more equitable college admissions process may clash with its parallel effort to stabilize the housing market in Seoul. Observers fear that the elimination of elite high schools would increase people’s demand for housing in traditionally high-performing public school districts where prestigious public high schools and private cram schools are concentrated. This concern stems from the observations that elite schools, many of which are located outside the prosperous districts in Seoul like Gangnam, had helped divert housing demand from key parts of the city. Detractors of the government’s policy also point out that emphasis on high school grades had actually pushed families away from competitive school districts. Critics believe that reversal of these educational policies will help exacerbate housing scarcity in Seoul – something that is central to the Moon administration’s struggle to reverse wealth inequality.

Context: The South Korean government has always struggled with the high-cost of education and wealth inequality. In the 1980s, the government prohibited private tutoring in response to criticism that more economically privileged families were leveraging their wealth to give their children an unfair advantage. However, it failed to control the black market of private tutors. In 2000, the ban was declared unconstitutional. In 2001, the government expanded the weight of high school grades in college admissions process to moderate the demand for private tutoring ahead of standardized tests. However, this has not mitigated the role of private education.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Soojin Hwang, Hyoshin Kim, and Rachel Kirsch.

Photo from KBS  photostream on Wikimedia Commons.

Posted in Economics, slider, South KoreaComments (0)

Why are there Fewer South Koreans Studying in the United States?

By Phil Eskeland

Earlier this month, the Institute of International Education (IIE) released its annual report documenting student flows both into and out of the United States.  While the total number of internationals enrolled at institutions of higher education in the United States grew slightly by 1.5 percent to reach nearly 1.1 million students in the 2017/2018 academic year, the number of students from South Korea in the U.S. declined to 54,555 or by 7 percent.  While Korea was still able to maintain its ranking as the third largest source of foreign students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities, the decline is apparent and is spread across all levels of higher education.  This is critical because South Korean students contributed nearly $2.3 billion to the U.S. economy, from paying hefty tuition and fees to living expenses, helping to contribute to the robust bilateral trade surplus in services for the United States.  On the local level, the economic effect of a typical student from South Korea amounted to nearly $42,000 in 2017, one of the highest financial impacts out of the 25 countries highlighted in the IIE report.  However, if the number of South Korean students coming to the U.S. continues to decline, their economic impact both locally and nationally will be more limited.

Why are the numbers of South Koreans studying in America declining?  There could be several explanations.

First, the number of young people in South Korea is not as large as it was even a decade or so ago.  In 2006, there were 9.2 million children between the ages of 0-14 in South Korea, representing nearly 19 percent of the population.  Now, there are only 6.7 million children, forming 13 percent of the total population.  As a result, the pool of future students from Korea continues to shrink.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea now has the lowest fertility rate out of all the developed economies of the world, which has fluctuated somewhere between a 1.1 and 1.3 replacement rate since 2001, down from 1.8 in 1992.

Second, young South Koreans have more opportunities around the world to obtain a college education taught primarily in English by going to school in either the United Kingdom or other English-speaking countries, such as Australia and Canada.  These countries have less cumbersome visa requirements, particularly if students wish to remain and work in the country after obtaining their degree.  South Korean students no longer feel the need to come to the United States to gain a high quality education.  In addition, some of these non-U.S. colleges and universities are less expensive than their U.S. counterparts, which often charges international students the full tuition rate with little or no scholarship opportunities.  According to the IIE, personal and family contributions comprise nearly 60 percent of the primary funding sources for international students to pay for college (vs. only 5 percent by a foreign government) so every avenue to find the best value for a college education is explored.

Third, some U.S. universities have opened up satellite campuses in South Korea, including George Mason University, the University of Utah, and the State University in New York (SUNY), to enable students to obtain a U.S. degree and still reside in Korea.

Fourth, there may be an unfortunate sense of unease among some Korean students (and their parents!) in coming to America, both with increasingly toxic rhetoric against immigrants and foreigners in recent years, along with concerns about security with the heightened media attention to every large scale gun shooting or other acts of violence that regrettably occurs on occasion in the United States.

Finally, the IIE reports that while the overall number of foreign students in the U.S. has increased, the number of new internationals enrolling at an institution of higher education in the U.S. has declined for a second year in a row, this time by 7 percent.  Thus, the declining trend of foreign student enrollment is not unique to Korea, but affects students from many other countries in the world as well.  This will have larger implications for colleges and universities across America as they deal with ways to close their budget gaps and increased competition for international students who pay full fare to enroll at their institution.

The one bright spot in the IIE report shows that the number of Americans studying in South Korea continues to increase.  In the 2016/2017 academic year, 3,770 Americans studied abroad in South Korea, an increase of 4.1 percent.  South Korea is ranked 20th in terms of country destination for the 332,727 U.S. students seeking a higher education in another country.  This may be due in part to the relatively new satellite campuses of U.S. universities in South Korea.  However, it may also be a testament to the growing world-wide reputation of South Korean universities, along with a desire for Americans, particularly those of Korean descent, to be immersed in the Korean culture and language to understand both countries.

While the IIE report points out some warning trends for U.S. educational institutions and U.S. government policy makers who are interested in attracting more international students to America, particularly from Korea, the outlook for Americans who wish to study in South Korea continues to look promising.

Phil Eskeland is Executive Director for Operations and Policy at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are his own.  

Photo from Jeremy Sorrells’ photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

Posted in slider, South KoreaComments (0)

Amid Work-Life Balance Reforms, South Korean Students Shouldn’t be Left Behind

By Kyle Ferrier

While President Moon Jae-in has been actively pursuing reforms to provide overworked South Koreans a better work-life balance, students have yet to see a comparable effort for their lives. The upcoming Suneung, South Korea’s college entrance exam, on November 15 should not only serve as a reminder of the need to relieve some of the pressure on students, but how it also contributes to some of the most challenging issues facing the country today.

The South Korean education system is consistently ranked among the best in the world, even garnering praise from U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015. However, if you talk with any young South Korean they are quick to point out the downsides of high test scores. Students spend long hours at school and the system is so competitive that most also take extra classes at cram schools known as hagwons. A 2017 study found that by age 15, South Korean students will on average have already taken 6.4 years of additional schooling. Overwhelming pressure to succeed has consistently resulted in South Korea having some of the lowest happiness and highest suicide rates among teens in the OECD. The stress culminates just before students take the Suneung, which can be life-defining.

For those unfamiliar with the exam, the sheer weight of the Suneung is probably best illustrated by the nationwide coordination before and during the test.

To ensure all students arrive before the 8:40am start time, the country pushes its day back by an hour. Normal business hours start at 10am – even for financial markets – and taxis are taken off the road to cut down on normal rush hour traffic. Police officers are posted on routes to schools to cut down on possible traffic delays and escort late students. More public transportation options are also made available.

During the 25 minute English listening portion of the test, air traffic around the entirety of the country comes to a halt. Live fire military drills are also suspended during the same period.

The aim for most students isn’t to do well enough to get into a good school, but to get into one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea. Suneung scores are such an important component of college applications that the conventional wisdom is even if a student has relatively poor grades throughout high school he or she can still get into a top university with a high test score.

In the U.S., on the other hand, most elite universities place less emphasis on college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT, and some are even moving away from requiring standardized tests. Universities are also not seen as the be-all and end-all of success. About half of Americans don’t think a four-year degree is worth the cost and university enrollment rates are down since 2000.

For South Koreans, the clearest path to success starts with getting into a top university, particularly a SKY school (an acronym for Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University.) The name brands of these schools are such that they all but ensure students secure high prestige jobs and high social standing after graduating. The only way for most South Koreans to obtain a place at one of these schools and put themselves on the fast track to success is to ace the Suneung.

Because the exam is so important, South Koreans demand a level playing field, a core reason why only one version is administered at one time each year. At least part of the reason why South Koreans were so outraged by the Choi Soon-sil scandal in 2017 was that political favors were exchanged to get Choi’s daughter enrolled in a top university, completely bypassing standard admissions procedures.

Even without cheating, more well-to-do families still have a leg up. Households in the top 20 percent by income spend about 242,600 Korean won ($215) per month on cram schools while the bottom 20 percent spend 8,925 won ($8). Similar disparities in the U.S. are behind why some American universities are moving away from standardized testing, though there is limited talk of similar measures in South Korea.

The high cost of private education is also contributing to the country’s demographic decline. Despite the government’s $70 billion in incentives over the past decade, couples are not having enough children. This year the South Korean fertility rate – the average number of babies born per woman – is expected to be only 0.96, an all-time low for the country. One of the reasons couples foregoing children often cite is the high and rising education costs of ensuring a student is competitive enough for a top rate university. Total spending on private education in South Korea last year was 18.6 trillion won ($16.5 billion), up 500 billion won ($440 million) from last year.

High competition in the South Korean education system is not just linked to rising costs, but also to limited economic opportunities. The youth unemployment rate hit a 19-year high over the summer, with 338,000 25 to 34 year-olds unable to find a job. There are simply not enough high-skilled jobs for the graduates of South Korea’s university-focused education system. Yet, there are growing vocational opportunities that are either left unfilled or receive limited applications from qualified applicants. This skills mismatch in the South Korean labor market – which the OECD has pointed out for years – acts as a drag on the economy.

Reexamining the importance placed on the Suneung is more than just about finding a better work-life balance for students. It’s about social and economic inequality, population decline, and high youth unemployment – all key issues President Moon was elected to address. Facing initial setbacks in resolving these challenges, he has tried to find success through changing cabinet members and allocating more resources for these issues. However, President Moon may be better served expanding his efforts beyond the symptoms of key socioeconomic issues to address some of their root causes in the education system. The Suneung is a good place to start.

Kyle Ferrier is the Director of Academic Affairs and Research at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from KBS photostream on Wikimedia Commons.

Posted in slider, South KoreaComments (0)

Korea Regains Spot as Third Largest Sender of Students to the U.S.

By Juni Kim

Despite the number of South Korean students studying in the United States dropping for the sixth year in a row, South Korea regained its spot as the third largest sender of students to America. In a report published today by the Institute of International Education, the previous third place holder, Saudi Arabia, had an even steeper drop in students studying in the U.S. over the past year. Saudi Arabia narrowly eked out South Korea for third place in last year’s report by 280 people.

After a decade of seeing steady increases starting in 1998, the number of South Korean students in the U.S. peaked in the 2008-2009 school year at more than 75,000 students. With only a brief rebound in 2010-2011, the number has consistently decreased since then, and the overall total has dropped by more than 16,000 from the previous high.

The continuing decrease of South Koreans studying in the U.S. reflects current domestic economic troubles for those wishing to study abroad. In addition to the money barrier for an expensive overseas education, a 2015 KEI blog post by Jenna Gibson also mentioned the growing accessibility to Korea-based branch campuses of American universities and the decreasing economic returns of a U.S. education as other factors for the dip in numbers of Koreans studying in America.

International students like those from South Korea have a positive economic impact on the American economy, with an estimated total contribution of $36.9 billion over the 2016-2017 school year. A 2016 Report by the Department of Commerce estimated that South Korean students added $2.3 billion to the economy in 2014.

With the current U.S administration’s focus on bolstering the American economy, it would be in the best interest for the U.S. to attract Korean students and indicate that not only is America open for business, but for education as well.

Juni Kim is the Program Manager and Executive Assistant at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI). The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Image from ehpien’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

Posted in Economics, Korea Abroad, slider, South KoreaComments (0)

The Elusive Korean Language Major

By Jeff Zwick

Korean language study is on the rise in the U.S. and throughout the world. Many experts have indicated that the growing popularity of Korean music, TV shows, and movies has likely influenced this surge in Korean language study. The Korean Wave started in the 1990s in Asian countries and later made its way to the U.S. market, bringing more interest for introductory Korean classes. But has this relatively new trend for all things Korean actually caused an increase in the number of advanced Korean language speakers or has it merely resulted in more beginner level speakers who abandon Korean after the first semester or year?

The surge in Korean study may be a result of the growing popularity of K-pop, K-dramas, and kimchi. If it is indeed the case that the “Korean Wave” has inspired college students to study Korean, it has proved to be no fleeting motivation. In a report by the Modern Language Association (MLA), the percentage of undergraduates enrolled in a Korean course who were studying in 3rd or 4th year Korean in 2006 and 2009 was higher than Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic, the three other hardest languages for English speakers among the top 15 most studied foreign languages in the United States. In 2013, the percentage of Korean language students continuing for a 3rd or 4th year Korean course came in second place among the four languages, after Chinese. Among these four languages, Arabic had the lowest percentage of undergraduates enrolled in an advanced (3rd or 4th year) Arabic course in 2006, 2009, and 2013 and the most unbalanced ratio of introductory level to advanced level students.

Various colleges and universities in the U.S. offer Korean language courses. However, the number of U.S. schools offering a Korean major is the lowest when compared to Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic. This may be obvious considering that, despite its growing popularity, the number of total students studying Korean is still the lowest among the previously mentioned languages. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that, with only seven universities offering Korean language and literature majors, it is also the lowest per capita when compared to Japanese, Chinese and Arabic. Using the numbers from the 2013 MLA study, for each of the seven universities that offer a Korean related major, there are 1,747 Korean language students. The ratios for Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic are 1 to 695, 1 to 642, and 1 to 1,113, respectively.

The argument that there is not enough interest to support adding more majors of a particular language is valid if the percentage of students in advanced level courses of that language is low, like Arabic. But, as I previously explained, that is not the case for Korean. In fact, students who are interested in Korean studies may find that the main obstacle is the lack of official Korean major programs. Unless more Korean majors are added in the United States, the amount of advanced level Korean language learners may have nowhere else to go but down.

The Korean Wave has proved to stimulate not only an interest in Korean dramas, music, and food, but also a lasting and committed drive to learn the Korean language to an advanced level. The wave may peter out at some point but, for now, it still seems to have momentum. To effectively ride the popularity of Korean culture and sustain an interest in academic Korean studies after the wave has passed, the ratio of Korean language students to Korean language majors in the U.S. should start to look more like that of Japanese and Chinese. This increase will allow students with a desire to make Korea their focus, to take classes in a variety of Korea-related subjects outside of language courses, and their final degree will distinguish them as a specialist in Korea. With a Korea-focused degree, graduates will be able to show their Korean language skills and cultural knowledge more clearly on their resume when applying for positions with a global Korean company, a Korea-focused NGO or non-profit, or a job in another industry with ties to Korea. As such, more Korean majors at U.S. universities will benefit both the United States and South Korea.

Jeff Zwick has a Master’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Utah and is currently an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Jason Tong’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

Posted in slider, South KoreaComments (0)

About The Peninsula

The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.