South Korea is trendy. For several years now, Hallyu – the “Korean wave” – has been sweeping across Asia from the small peninsula. Films, soap operas, fashion and pop made in Korea are in demand among young people across the continent. Korea Pop has also arrived in the West since Psy and his Gangnam Style at the latest.
According to top-medical-schools, this rise of South Korea to a culture exporter is quite remarkable. In just forty years, the small country between Japan, China and North Korea has developed from the “poor house of Asia” into a flourishing economic nation. However, we know relatively little about this country, which most often makes headlines in connection with its communist-ruled neighbor North Korea. South Korea has a lot to offer, especially in the area of technology.
5,000 years of cultural history
On the one hand there is the capital Seoul. The ten million metropolis with its neon-lit karaoke bars, countless restaurants, small galleries, hip boutiques, colorful markets and huge shopping centers never seems to sleep. The other major cities in the country – Busan, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju – have also grown rapidly over the past few decades. More than eighty percent of the fifty million South Koreans now live in modern, busy metropolitan areas.
Away from the cities, South Korea shows itself from a different side. Mountains cover more than seventy percent of the small land. In the east rise the high, snow-capped mountain peaks of the Taebaek Mountains. In the west, the landscape is criss-crossed by smaller mountain ranges and gently rolling hills. Dense mixed and coniferous forests with a multitude of exotic plants characterize the picture. While hiking – the national sport of South Koreans – travelers can discover Buddhist temples, Stone Age dolmen tombs and other testimonies to the 5,000-year-old cultural history of the country. On the west coast, on the other hand, wide sandy beaches and small offshore islands, such as the tropical volcanic island of Jeju, invite you to relax.
To study in South Korea: the university landscape
The enormous economic growth in South Korea is based not least on the great importance that education has in the small country. More than half of all young South Koreans have graduated from university. The government invests a lot of money in the country’s education system, which is reflected in the modern equipment of the universities and their excellent study programs.
The internationality of the universities is also strongly promoted: Many universities offer English-language study programs and the government has made greater efforts in recent years to bring foreign lecturers into the country. The government and universities also award scholarships to international students.
Types of universities in South Korea
There are around 400 universities in total in South Korea. Most of these are universities (Daehakgyo) and colleges (Daehak) where students can earn a bachelor’s degree within four to six years. At the Daehakwon mentioned graduate schools of Daehakgyo students can then earn a master’s or Ph.D. degree.
In high-tech South Korea there are not only regular universities but also around twenty so-called cyber universities. These are virtual distance universities where classes take place over the Internet.
The Colleges of Education are responsible for teacher training. There are also around 150 junior colleges and around a dozen industrial universities. These are primarily responsible for vocational training. In addition, they also offer preparatory programs.
Quality and Accreditation in Higher Education in South Korea
Only about 20 percent of South Korean universities are state-owned. The majority of students study at private institutions. They are regulated by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which among other things draws up educational plans and sets quality standards. The Korean Council for University Education, which has currently recognized a good 200 universities, is responsible for the accreditation of universities.
Study system in South Korea
Studies in South Korea are divided into an undergraduate and a postgraduate section and are similar to the US system with regard to the degrees to be obtained. The study achievements are calculated in credit points.
The lowest degree is the associate degree, which students can acquire within two to three years at junior colleges or industrial universities. Most of these are pre-vocational study programs that are strongly oriented towards the needs of the Korean economy. They prepare students primarily for technical and commercial professions, for work in the health sector, in agriculture or in housekeeping.
Similar to the USA, many junior colleges also have cooperation agreements with the regular colleges. These agreements offer students the opportunity to transfer to college with the associate degree. There, the already acquired credit points are counted towards a regular bachelor’s program and the students can acquire the bachelor’s degree in a few more semesters.
Bachelor in South Korea
At universities and colleges, students acquire a bachelor’s degree in the undergraduate section. The Korean undergraduate programs typically last four years. An exception are medical courses that take up to six years to complete. In the first two years of the bachelor’s degree, students usually devote themselves to general subjects and basic courses in their chosen field of study (general studies). Only then do they specialize in the subject they have chosen.
Master and Doctoral Degree in South Korea
With a bachelor’s degree in their pocket, students can begin studying in South Korea in the graduate area. The master’s degree in South Korea usually lasts two years, during which the students attend seminars and lectures and write a thesis. Afterwards, the doctoral degree can be acquired in two further academic years, which requires writing an independent research paper and attending courses. Some universities also offer courses in which the master’s and doctoral studies are combined. In these programs, students usually have to take twice as many courses as in the regular master’s programs.