The Korea Herald


Teens from Asian countries invited to apply for study abroad programs at North Gyeongsang high schools

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Aug. 31, 2023 - 09:35

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North Gyeongsang Province’s Education Superintendent Lim Jong-shik addresses a group of high school principals in a recent meeting. (North Gyeongsang Province’s Office of Education) North Gyeongsang Province’s Education Superintendent Lim Jong-shik addresses a group of high school principals in a recent meeting. (North Gyeongsang Province’s Office of Education)

In a bid to tackle a dwindling youth population, South Korea’s southeastern province of North Gyeongsang is trying a new strategy: inviting Asian teens to enroll at its high schools as a means to cultivate potential future residents.

North Gyeongsang Province is currently in the process of selecting 72 teens from six different countries in Asia for admissions to schools within the province for the upcoming school year thatstarts in March 2024. Eligible countries are Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Mongolia, Cambodia and China.

“Like Korean students attending school, tuition will be free for overseas students, but they would have to pay for living expenses such as dormitory fees,” Kim Mi-jeong, the program’s head at the North Gyeongsang Office of Education, told The Korea Herald.

Since South Korean public education is free from elementary through high school levels, there are no scholarships tied to the study abroad program, she added.

Nine schools, mostly vocational schools with boarding options available, are to accept foreign students through this program.

Applicants for this program must submit academic records from middle school and score Level 2 or higher in the Test of Proficiency in Korean, the state-run Korean language test more widely known as TOPIK.

The chosen students will be eligible to apply for a D-4-3 visa, which is a subtype of the D-4 general trainee visa and is usually given to elementary, middle or high school students.

The D-4 visa allows students to stay in Korea for one year. The students will have to renew it every year in order to continue their study beyond the first year and graduate.

"We're discussing with the related agencies to give the graduates of this program work visas, so they could settle in North Gyeongsang Province (after graduation),"

Of the nine schools participating in the program, the application for four -- Uiseong Unitech High School, Korea International Culinary Arts High School, Korea Railroad High School and Gimcheon High School -- have already wrapped up. A total of 32 students from Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia were admitted to the schools.

The application deadline for the remaining five schools is Sept. 8.

The five schools are Korea Marine Meister High School in Pohang, which will accept four students from Indonesia; Silla Technical High School in Gyeongju, which is looking for 12 students from Vietnam; Gyeongju Business High School; Gyeongju Girls Information High School; and Myeongin High School in Seongju, which plan to accept a combined 24 students from Vietnam.

The program will reopen next year for the 2025 school year, the North Gyeongsang Province official said, although the list of schools and student quota are subject to change.

The province’s Education Superintendent Lim Jong-shik has vowed full support for the initiative to continue at a recent meeting with the participating school principals.

“It will be a valuable program that can help us connect with outstanding and talented overseas students,” he said. “We will support the students and the program so it would eventually lead to great job opportunities in our local communities.”