The Korea Herald


Korea sends fourth most students abroad

By Ock Hyun-ju

Published : Sept. 18, 2016 - 17:12

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South Korea has the fourth highest number of students pursuing studies abroad in the world, with the most favored destination being the United States, recent data showed.

According to statistics from UNESCO on the mobility of students in 2014, the number of Korean students studying abroad was 116,942.

Among South Korean students, the most popular destination was the United States, with 64,693 students, or more than half of the total, choosing to study in the country. Japan was the second most favored destination, followed by Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

According to the latest census released this year, South Korea’s population surpassed 50 million as of last year, a 2.7 percent increase from 49.7 million in 2010. The nation ranked 28th in the world in terms of population, according to the 2015 CIA World Factbook, when its figure was 49.1 million.
Participants attend the Korea Study Abroad and Emigration Fair held at Coex in southern Seoul in March. (Yonhap) Participants attend the Korea Study Abroad and Emigration Fair held at Coex in southern Seoul in March. (Yonhap)
The UNESCO data showed that an estimated 5 million students around the world studied outside of their home countries last year, more than double the 2.1 million who did so in 2000. North America and Western Europe hosted a combined 57 percent of the mobile students.

The US was the favorite destination not only among Koreans, but among all international students, hosting 19 percent of the students. The UK came in second, receiving 10 percent of international students. Australia and France shared the No. 3 spot, both respectively accepting 6 percent of international students. 

China, the world’s most populous country with a population of 1.36 billion as of 2015, sent the most students overseas, with 712,157 students studying abroad for higher education. India, which has the second-biggest population of 1.25 billion, ranked No. 2, sending 181,872 students abroad. Germany came in third with 119,123.

South Korea is also increasingly becoming a popular destination for foreign students, with the total number of foreigners studying here exceeding 100,000 this year.

According to data compiled by the Education Ministry and Higher Education in Korea (, 104,262 students had enrolled in local schools as of April 1, a far cry from just 3,954 in 2000.

Among them, 60.5 percent were studying for a degree in Korea. The biggest portion of foreign students were from China at 61.7 percent, followed by Vietnam at 5.5 percent, Mongolia at 3.6 percent, the US at 2.5 percent and Japan at 2.5 percent.

Korea University had 4,333 foreign students enrolled this year, topping the chart among local universities. Of them, 1,564 were pursuing degrees, with the rest being exchange students or attending language courses.

Kyung Hee University ranked second with 3,655 students, followed by Yonsei University with 3,223, Sungkyunkwan University with 2,783 and Chung-Ang University with 2,033.

Outside the top five schools, Hanyang University, Konkuk University, Dongguk University, Kookmin University and Seoul National University made the top 10 list with over 1,500 foreign students each, according to the data.

While the number of incoming foreign students as well as outgoing local students remains high, the total student enrollment quotas among 141 four-year universities has declined by 21,867 over the past three years since the Ministry of Education launched its university restructuring plan in 2014.

According to data obtained by Rep. Yoo Eun-hye of The Minjoo Party of Korea, 77 percent of slashed admission quotas were concentrated on universities outside the nation’s capital Seoul.

The Education Ministry has pushed universities to reduce student admission quotas as part of efforts amid the falling birthrate.

The fertility rate, the number of babies a woman is expected to have in her lifetime, was at 1.24 this year, well below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 1.68.

By Ock Hyun-ju (