Study Abroad: South Korea Meets its 2015 Goal of Hosting 200,000 Foreign Students

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Study Abroad:
According to recent data, the number of international students in South Korea reached an all-time high in 2022. The information was made public by the Korean Educational Development Institute in response to the nation’s immigration service’s declaration that Korea had reached 200,000 overseas students. 

By enrolling 205,167 foreign students in March 2023, the nation achieved its goal. Hosting 200,000 foreign students by that year, which was set in 2015. By 2020, 2,00,000 university students were to be housed. According to a former ministry of education goal from 2011, but this goal was later altered.


In April 2022, approximately 166,892 students enrolled in Korean colleges, up just under 10% from 2021. Especially, when there were over 152,000 foreign students. The numbers demonstrate a recovery following the closure of borders during the Covid epidemic.

According to Kyuseok Kim, a team leader from the State University. “The resilience of Korean higher education highlight by the slight decline in student recruitment during the pandemic, decreasing to 153,695 in 2020, and 152,281 in 2021.”

These figures quickly recovered and exceeded pre-pandemic levels despite the global crisis, demonstrating the strength of Korea’s foreign education sector. On May 7, shortly after the data made public, the nation’s ministry of education also declared. It would establish a new section to serve international students. 

Study Abroad: South Korea Meets its 2015 Goal of Hosting 200,000 Foreign Students

“The new division will cater to international students, partner with universities to create new programmes. Also, ease visa restrictions for international students,” a ministry official said. 

Several documents, particularly those demonstrating financial stability, required as part of the current application procedure for a student visa. 

The section, which will initially have seven employees, establish under the auspices of the nation’s Global Education Planning Bureau. 

KEDI records show that China sent the most students to Korea last year, accounting for 40% of the total. Surprisingly, Vietnamese students improved, making up just under 23% of the total. An increase of about 6% from the previous year. 

According to experts, the increase of Vietnamese students could be partially attributed to Korean investment in Vietnam. Where some big firms have established facilities. Numerous universities in Korea have started working with institutions in Vietnam. A Memorandum of Understanding signed by Dongnam Health University and two Vietnamese universities in April. By Inje University and Hanoi Polytechnic College with the intention of establishing specific exchange programmes. 

Vietnamese Enrollment in Korea

Kim cautioned, nevertheless, that the rise in Vietnamese enrollment in Korea might not just be the result of increased academic interest. 

Vietnamese students seem to be arriving in South Korea in greater numbers with a focus more on employment than education. “Although Vietnam makes a considerable contribution to international student mobility, it is clear that South Korea has to diversify its hiring practices. The bulk of overseas students currently come from China and Vietnam. Which may not be a viable long-term approach, Kim added. 

Uzbekistan, which contributed slightly more than 5% of the total number of students, as well as Japan, which contributed 3.5%, are two other nations that significantly boosted the numbers.

The students in these nations’ language programmes are the main contributors, which has increased credential mobility, according to Kim. The KEDI data includes non-degree programmes, language courses, and graduate and undergraduate international students at higher education institutions. 

With around 6,999 foreign students enrolling at Hanyang University in 2022, the private institution was the most effective in terms of luring international students. 

Top-Ranked Universities in Korea

Kyung Hee University, which had 6,912 international students, Sungkyunkwan University, which had 6,676 students, Yonsei University, which had 5,926 students, and Korea University, which had only 4,731 students, were all closely behind Hanyang.

The top-ranked university in Korea, Seoul National University, was absent from the top five, while the other four are all headquartered in Seoul. Only Gacheon University in Seognam, which received 3,057 foreign students in 2022, is not located in Seoul and is among the top 10 universities with the most international students. 

According to Kim, it demonstrates the necessity for more Memoranda of Understanding and cooperation for colleges outside of the city. Overall, he continued, the numbers rising at this rate are positive. Over the past 20 years, international students have steadily increased in number at South Korean higher education institutions, according to Kim. 

From the meager 12,314 pupils in 2003, the amount represents a remarkable increase. This remarkable rise linked to the rising awareness of the necessity to globalize higher education, which has subsequently attracted Korean HEIs’ attention. 

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