The number of South Korean students enrolling in Chinese colleges has tripled from less than 20,000 in 2003 to around 63,000 according to the Wall Street Journal’s Jeyup S. Kwaak. That’s significant because South Korean students are a significant market (they rank third after Chinese and Indians) for universities in the West and elsewhere.
So why are South Koreans opting to study abroad in China instead of the West? For starters, South Korea is one of the few countries which actually has a trade surplus with China – meaning having Chinese language skills is beneficial for candidates seeking jobs with Korean exporters and major MNCs like Samsung. In addition, Chinese tourists and businessmen are increasingly flocking to South Korea – forcing those who work in the hospitality and tourism sectors to start learning Chinese.
Kwaak went on to say that everyone in South Korea wants to get ahead with a foreign language albeit English language skills are still considered to be most important. However, Kwaak had spoken with Korean language academies who said they have seen a 40% increase in students enrolling in Chinese language classes over the past two years plus one administrator for a test of spoke Chinese has seen a 50% increase every year in the number of registrations for their Chinese language tests.
Moreover, studying abroad at a Chinese university will cost an average of $3,500 per year verses $30k or $40k (plus air fare and living costs) for a university in the USA while the gap between Chinese and American universities has closed over the past few years. Nevertheless, 73,000 South Koreans still opted to study abroad at American universities last year.