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Most international students are based in Seoul area: report

June 24, 2024 - 15:11 By Yoon Min-sik
International students participate in a school anthem contest hosted by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in this May 28 photo. (KAIST)

Even foreign students are stuck in Seoul-centric mode. A recent report showed that over half of them were studying in the Greater Seoul area as of last year.

A total of 181,842 international students were in South Korea as of 2023, according to a report issued Monday by the government-affiliated Korean Council for University Education, more than double the 85,923 in 2023. Of those, 119,237 were studying for a university degree while 52,602 were in a non-degree programs such as language study courses.

The report showed that 42.7 percent of the international students here were studying in Seoul-based universities, while 13.9 percent were in schools based in Gyeonggi Province. Combined with the 1.8 percent in Incheon, well over half of all foreign students were enrolled in institutes based in the so-called capital region.

Two Seoul-based universities had far more international students than any other, Hanyang University with 6,612 and Kyung Hee University with 6,395. They were followed by Sungkyunkwan University (5,472), Yonsei University (4,965), and Chung-Ang University (2,210), all based in the country’s capital.

South Korea has long struggled with the issue of Seoul centralization, which refers to the country's population, infrastructure and investmentbeing concentrated in the Greater Seoul area -- Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. The country's most prestigious higher education institutes are in Seoul, while very few high-ranking schools such as Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are located outside of the greater Seoul area.

"Efforts by each university notwithstanding, the government must help provide specific and systematic scholarship plans for the international students, so that there would not be such large disparity in the number of international students hosted by universities," a KCUE researcher was quoted as saying.

The report also showed that the 58,062 Chinese students accounted for 32 percent of the international students, followed by the 37,732 Vietnamese, 9,738 Mongolians, and 5,701 Japanese students.