American students ranked fourth behind China, Japan and Mongolia for foreign students studying in Korea in 2012 according to data from the National Institute for International Education of the Korean government. The United States and Canada are the only two non-Asian countries in the top ten for international students in Korea. There were 2,665 U.S students studying in Korea during 2012, an increase of over 360% since 2003 when there were only 575 U.S. students in Korea. The top three ranked universities in Korea attracted almost half of all U.S. students in 2012: 736 U.S students were at Yonsei University, 305 at Korea University and 211 at Seoul National University. Both Yonsei and Korea Universities have Korean Language institutes specifically designed to help non-native Korean language students learn Korean and better understand Korean culture.
In addition to Yonsei, Korea, and Seoul National University, U.S. students studied at more than 130 universities and colleges across Korea. Ewha Womans University, founded by American missionary Mary Scranton in 1886, was the first university in Korea for women and is a popular university for U.S. students studying in Korea. Another popular university for U.S. students is the Korea National Open University which accepts both full and part-time students allowing individuals to both work and study while in Korea.
The upward trend of U.S. students going to study in Korea has continued for over a decade. However, there was a dramatic increase in the number of U.S. students studying in Korea from 2007 onwards as highlighted on the graph below. It was around that time when the former administration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak implemented the English Program in Korea (EPiK) and the Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) initiatives which were designed to attract more native English speakers to Korea. In addition, the Korea-America Student Conference(KASC) was launched in 2008 with the goal of building “closer ties between young leaders in both countries.” Each year the KASC program brings U.S. and Korean students together for one month to study and exchange ideas about the U.S.-Korea relationship and foster closer ties between future leaders. Looking ahead, it is prudent to predict that U.S. students looking to study overseas will continue to be attracted to Korea ensuring that the U.S.-Korea relationship will continue to develop to new heights.Jieun Choi is an Asan Academy Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.