Programs that facilitate American students going to Korea, as well as Korean students coming to the US, were extended this week in an agreement signed by US Ambassador to Korea Sung Kim and Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. American students who are interested in living and studying in Korea will be able to do so for up to 18 months under Korea’s Working Holiday Program, while the counterpart for Korean students is the Work, English Study, Travel program, or WEST, which also allows for stays in the US up to 18 months. Under both programs, students are able to study, travel throughout the country, and work as interns. Both programs accept 2,000 people annually, and are open to current college students and recent graduates.
The WEST program was first agreed upon with Korea in 2008, and the first group of students to travel to the US arrived in early 2009. Under the original agreement that established WEST, Korea also opened its Working Holiday Program to Americans for the first time. This week’s signing of the extension agreement guarantees the programs for another five years. Working Holiday and WEST visas are different from student visas, in that they allow the visa holders to work in certain capacities during their time abroad.
Originally established under the Bush and Lee administrations, Presidents Obama and Park agreed to the extension during their May 2013 summit.