PhD in South Korea For International Students: Scholarship, Stipend, and More

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Usually, South Korea is known for its technological advancement and influential cinema (K-dramas and K-pop). But the country is also fast becoming a popular hub for international students for higher education. Its world-class universities and thriving research landscape make it an ideal destination for a PhD. This blog will tell you all about pursuing a PhD in South Korea. We will cover all aspects, such as top universities, programs, tuition fees and other expenses, scholarships, and work opportunities. Read on to discover more!

Program LevelPhD
Program Duration3-4 years (can vary for each university)
Research StrengthFields like engineering, technology, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences
Total Number of International Students207,125 (as of June 2023)
Tuition FeesPublic universities: KWR 64,82,525/year
Private universities: KWR 12,965,050 – 25,930,100/year
Admission RequirementsMaster’s degree, strong academic record, research proposal, recommendation letters, language proficiency (Korean recommended, English sometimes accepted)
Living ExpensesSeoul ~ KWR 10,37,204 – 15,55,806/month; 
Other cities ~KWR 7,77,903 – 10,37,204/month.
Funding OptionsGovernment scholarships and University scholarships (Merit-based, research assistantships, teaching assistantships)
Stipend AmountsKWR 12,96,505 – 25,93,010/month.
Career OpportunitiesHigh demand for PhD graduates in academia, research institutions, and leading Korean companies

Also Read: Study in South Korea for Indian Students

Why Pursue PhD in South Korea?

We can list several reasons for international students to enrol in PhD in South Korea. The country is home to institutes ranked in the 100 top universities of the world and is known worldwide for its technological innovation. But you can also find a blend of this innovation with ancient heritage in cities like Busan, Seoul, and Incheon. In addition to this, the Korean Government also provides many scholarships and funding programs for international students to cover their academic and other expenses.

Top Universities For PhD in South Korea

Numerous public and private universities offer PhD in South Korea. These universities are among the top 100 institutes globally known for their courses in Engineering and Technology. So here’s a list of the top 5 universities in the country to pursue a doctorate in the field of your choice:

UniversityTypeQS World Ranking 2024
Seoul National UniversityPublic41
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)Public56
Pohang University of Science and Technology Private=100
Yonsei UniversityPrivate=76
Korea UniversityPrivate79

Also Read: Top Universities in South Korea 2024

Top Disciplines for PhD in South Korea

Given below is a list of some of the popular fields in which South Korean universities offer doctorates to international students:

  1. Chemistry, General
  2. Clinical Psychology
  3. Education, General
  4. Educational Leadership and Administration, General
  5. Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering
  6. Physics, General
  7. Physical Therapy
  8. Psychology, General

PhD Program Structure: 

The academic year for PhD in South Korea lasts from March to February. It is split into 2 semesters, the first from March to June and the second from September to November. Here’s a general overview of what pursuing a PhD in South Korea looks like:

  1. You will be required to complete research training and taught courses to the value of 36 credits (or approximately equivalent to 72 ECTS Credits), depending on your Masters’ qualification.
  2. You will then have to clear a written/comprehensive examination.
  3. Ultimately, you will complete a thesis with one or more supervisors for guidance.
  4. After submitting your thesis, a panel of 5 supervisors will evaluate it. You may not need to prepare an oral defence of your thesis if it gets approved by the supervisory panel.

Note: To get a more specific PhD program structure, contact the respective university you wish to apply to.

Tuition Fees and Funding

The tuition fee for PhD in South Korea is the same for international and domestic students, costing around KWR 2,056,932 – 16,229,862/semester. The Engineering and Medicine courses are more expensive compared to the Humanities discipline. Here are some other academic costs that aspiring researchers can expect in South Korea:

Application FeeKWR 26,540 – 265,410 
Language coursesKWR 1,061,650 (for 3-week intensive course)
KWR 1,857,890 (for a 10-week program)
National Health Insurance (NHI)KWR 26,540/month

Cost of Living in South Korea

Here are some living costs that international students can expect while doing their PhD in South Korea:

ParticularsMonthly Cost (in USD)
Accommodation$40-USD 60/month (monthly pass)
Food & Groceries$100-USD 200/month (electricity, water, internet)
Transportation$300-USD 500/month
Utilities$30-USD 50/month
Mobile phoneCinema tickets: $10-USD 15, Museum entry: $5-USD 10. Costs can vary depending on activities and hobbies.
Dining outBasic consultation: $20-USD 50
Public healthcare is relatively affordable, but private insurance might be desirable. 
EntertainmentUSD 6 10 (casual lunch), $15-USD 25 (mid-range dinner)
HealthcareBasic consultation: $20-$50 USD
Public healthcare is relatively affordable, but private insurance might be desirable. 
Personal expensesDepends on your individual needs and preferences.

Also Read: Cost of Living in Seoul


While tuition fees for a PhD in South Korea can cost quite a bit, there are also several scholarships available for international students. These scholarships come in the form of partial or full fee waivers, covering 30%-100% of the tuition costs. Some of these merit-based schemes are as follows:

  1. Global Korea Scholarship – Covers medical insurance, tuition fees, flights, living costs, and language lessons.
  2. Support Program for Self-Financed Students – KWR 500,000 worth of living expenses per month to self-financed students in Korea.

When to Apply for a PhD in South Korea?

South Korean universities generally have two intakes around the year: Spring and Autumn. Students going for courses starting in March should apply between September and November. Those seeking admission in courses starting in September must apply between May and June. Students can apply directly to the university of their choice.

Admission Requirements

To enroll for a Ph.D. in South Korea, students need to have a master’s degree (or equivalent) in a relevant field. Some universities also accept an undergraduate degree from a recognized university. Here are some other requirements that aspiring researchers need to fulfill:

  1. Filled application form
  2. A personal statement
  3. A letter of recommendation from your previous alma mater.
  4. Academic transcripts
  5. Nationality proof of the applicant (copy of passport)
  6. Language proficiency in English and/or Korean (TOPIK Level 3 or above)
  7. Proof of financial means
  8. Portfolio with certification in practical courses
  9. A bank balance of USD 10,000

Student Visa

To get a student visa to South Korea, students will need to apply for the same at the Korean embassy in their home country. International students must apply for D-2 visa (Visa for Regular Educational Program) for PhD in South Korea using the following documents:

  1. Completed visa application form
  2. Valid passport
  3. Passport-size photographs
  4. Offer letter from the university applied to.
  5. Academic transcripts (certified copies)
  6. Proof of financial means (at least USD 10,000)

Also Read: South Korean Student Visa for Indians: Process, Requirements & Duration

Relevant Reads:

50 Common Words In Korean With ExamplesScholarships for South Korea
Best Country to Study Abroad for Indian Students in 2023Most Popular Bachelor Programs in Sports in Seoul, South Korea
Korean Government Scholarship ProgramSouth Korean Education System


Q1. Do I need to speak Korean to do a PhD in South Korea?

Ans: Universities often offer Korean language courses for international students, and some scholarships even require basic proficiency. So, while it’s not essential to be fluent, starting or improving your Korean before or during your PhD will be highly advantageous for several reasons:
1. Enhanced research opportunities
2. Deeper cultural immersion
3. Improved career prospects

Q2. How much can I expect to earn as a PhD student in South Korea?

Ans: Your income as a PhD student in South Korea will depend on your scholarship/funding, university, research assistantships, and teaching opportunities. Prestigious government scholarships like the Global Korea Scholarship can cover full tuition and provide a monthly stipend of around $1,000-2,000 USD. Then there are universities offering merit-based scholarships, and research or teaching assistantships, which can add to your income.

Q3. What are the challenges I might face as an international PhD student in South Korea?

Ans: While studying in South Korea offers exceptional opportunities, there are also potential challenges to consider:
1. Cultural adjustment
2. Language barrier
3. Academic pressure
4. Social isolation
But with good preparation, cultural sensitivity, and a supportive network, you can overcome any obstacles and thrive in your academic journey.

We hope you got a complete overview of pursuing a PhD in South Korea from this blog. For more courses to study abroad, subscribe to Leverage Edu today. Thank you for reading!

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