Riding the ‘Korean wave’ to new markets . . .
The Korean Ministry of Education has announced that it will double the funding available to support overseas Korean-language programs to approximately C$26 million this year. There are still few details on implementation, but this funding is expected to help launch 1,800 language programs in 43 countries worldwide. Seoul already provides support for language and studies courses in advanced economies. However, much of this new commitment will focus on parts of the world where demand for such programs is reportedly strong, including across Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Ecuador, Belgium, Jordan, and Russia.
Filling domestic universities . . .
This investment in Korean-language programs is believed to be driven by a desire to create an enrolment bridge between university-age youth around the world and Korean universities. The size of South Korea’s youth population has been steadily declining for years due to persistently low birth rates. Last year, the country hit a grim milestone, with the number of newborns falling below the number of deaths. This trend not only raises concerns about a contraction in university enrolment – and possible institutional closures – but is also a warning sign for the economy and a possible lack of workers to fill key roles.
Competing with Canada . . .
Canada is no stranger to such conundrums. Indeed, its push to increase university and college enrolment by international students is also partly driven by demographic trends, especially in some parts of the country. Until recently, Canada has often thought of its main competitors in attracting international students as Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. There is still a wide gap – Korea hosts approximately 160,000 students, whereas Canada hosted more than 640,000 in 2019 – but Korea and neighbouring Japan have seen impressive and sustained growth in international student enrolment, much of it coming from elsewhere in Asia.
- Centre for Strategic and International Studies: South Korea – future hub of international education?
- The New York Times: As birthrate falls, South Korea’s population declines, posing threat to economy
- Times Higher Education: Korea doubles budget for language training overseas