South Korea Study Abroad Country Profile

South Korea Overview

South Korea’s culture stems from traditional Korean culture and has, since 1948, strongly diverged from its neighbor, North Korea. Industrialization and urbanization has greatly impacted the way that South Koreans live today and, like elsewhere in Asia, South Korea has been influenced by American popular culture. Korea is a confluence of old and new, with many temples, palaces and UNESCO World Heritage Sites mixed among modern buildings and densely populated residential areas. South Korea is a complex nation with endless possibilities, and many travelers never even begin to see all that South Korea has to offer.

Cultural Highlights

In many ways, South Korea is similar to other destinations around Asia – advanced, modern-looking cities with large populations that are constantly on the go. South Korea is a forward-looking nation with an appetite for technological advancement and, though the West has influenced much of its culture, South Korea maintains its own unique culture in parallel. Its music scene is unique and widespread, and many of South Korea’s own movies have outsold international blockbusters domestically. Technology plays an important role in South Korea’s culture, and while a lot of technology remains somewhat expensive, many South Koreans get a new phone every 11 months on average; there is also a dominant video game/PC game culture. South Korea is similar to other areas of Asia in that its academic environment is extremely competitive. Korea has a number of prestigious universities, the majority of which are located in Seoul. Getting into these universities is seen as a prerequisite to being successful in Korean society.

Popular Fields of Study

There are a variety of programs available for students interested in studying abroad in South Korea. Programs in the arts and sciences are equally abundant, and businesses-oriented programs are popular as well. There are a number of culture and language-based programs available that will take you to the heart of South Korea’s cities and into its pastoral, more traditional countryside; intensive Korean language programs for the summer are also popular. Other South Korea study abroad programs have some unique programmatic offerings, including a National Science Foundation summer institute program for graduate students from the United States. Programs like these are a great way for students to return to Korea after their initial undergraduate study abroad experience.

Why Study Abroad in South Korea?

South Korea has many unique advantages as a study abroad destination. Here are ten reasons why you should consider studying abroad in South Korea.

1. Korean Language

The benefits of traveling to South Korea for language study are twofold: it is the only place to go where you can fully immerse yourself in the language, and there are not many American colleges and universities that have Korean language course offerings, so students interested in learning the language often have to look for international alternatives.

2. Strong Academic Atmosphere

South Koreans take education very seriously, particularly higher education. Academics can be competitive, but students treat teachers with respect and are very serious about their education.

3. Tae Kwan Do

This particular variety of martial arts originated in South Korea and is the country’s national sport today.

4. Korean Food

Though Korean food has some elements in common with other Asian cuisine, the combinations, ingredients, and unique flavors produce entirely new dishes.

5. Kyongju

The amazing Korean city of Kyongju is essentially a large, open-air museum that contains an impressive collection of well preserved Buddhist art.

6. Friendly People

Korean people are friendly and helpful. Though there are cultural differences when it comes to etiquette and interpersonal relationships, this should not be a challenge to students in the country.

7. Korean Amusement Parks

Amusement parks are fun points of interest for travelers of all ages, but they are especially popular with high school and college-aged travelers.

8. Norebang

Karaoke isn’t for anyone, but the unique Korean version of karaoke known as norebang may appeal to more shy participants. Norebang occurs in small private rooms with a group of friends, so you won’t be embarrassed in front of strangers. Norebang is very popular in South Korea.

9. Shopping

Shopping is a 24/7 activity in South Korea, with shops open day and night. There are shopping centers everywhere, and the goods available span every need, desire, and budget possible.

10. Access to Asia

While you are in South Korea, take advantage of its proximity to other popular Asian destinations. Many South Korea study abroad partcipants like to travel to China, Japan, and elsewhere before returning home.

South Korea Study Abroad Statistics

South Korea Country Ranking: 30+

(based on estimated total outbound U.S. students)
  • % of U.S. students: less than 1%
  • Total US Students 2006/07: less than 1,000
  • Total US Students 2007/08: less than 1,000
  • Yearly 2007/08 Trend: N/A
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