Back To Top

Forum to discuss problems faced by international students

The Korea International Students’ Support Association will hold its second Open Forum on Policy Development for International Students on April 10 to discuss problems facing foreign students in Korea and ways to improve the situation.

The forum will feature presentations by student and university representatives, as well as officials from the education and justice ministries. Philippine-born lawmaker Jasmine Lee will make an opening speech.

Key problems highlighted in preparatory meetings include difficulties with scholarships, in which the scholarships are smaller in practice than what was offered, or only given in return for work that was not explained as a condition before the student came to Korea.

Some students complain that they are not allowed to graduate, even though they have fulfilled the course requirements, until they have done a certain amount of work. Many students are calling for written agreements between students and professors to be made standard in Korea.

Worse yet, some students say the English-taught courses they signed up to attend are in practice mostly taught in Korean.

Other language problems are also common. Universities often have English-language websites, but students say they are mainly for promotion and are not useful for current students. They say the sites do not include the links to job openings and administrative affairs that are on the Korean sites.

KISSA manager Sara Rai said that during the preparatory meetings there were strong calls from graduate students for language support.

“Most students are saying, ‘Teach us Korean. You don’t want us to learn Korean, but when we come here everything is in Korean, you don’t lecture in English, we can’t go out and make friends or share our feelings or talk about articles or issues … you just accept us because of our IELTS score,’” said Rai.

IELTS is a test of English proficiency commonly used for university entrance.

Rai also added that there were cultural problems, such as a lack of understanding of the dietary and other requirements of Muslim students.

Rai said that some of the problems were subtle, but others were quite blatant, and more widespread than she had expected.

“I started my life in Korea at a university and I’ve seen a lot. And now I started working for KISSA, and I thought that it happened at my university, but it’s everywhere,” she said.

Korea has been trying to increase its number of international students particularly since 2004, with the Study Korea Project aiming to increase the number of foreign students from less than 20,000 to 100,000 by 2012.

But the number fell 4,000 to 87,000 last year, in the first drop since the project began. In October, the government announced a new target of 200,000 students by 2020

By Paul Kerry (