South Korea - Country Commercial Guide
Education Services

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-08-13

ITA CODE: SV EDS        


Education Services Market Data: 2017-2020     (Unit: $ million)






Total Market Size





Total Exports

(Total educational expenditures of foreign students in Korea)





Total Imports

(Total educational expenditures of Korean students studying abroad)





Imports from the U.S.

(Total educational expenditure of Korean students studying in the U.S.)





Exchange Rate: 1 USD





Sources: Bank of Korea’s Economic Statistics System, Educational Statistics Center

South Korea represents the third largest source of foreign students matriculating at U.S. universities, comprising 4.6 percent of total international students in the U.S. The Open Doors of Institute of International Education (IIE) indicates that a total of 49,809 Korean students were enrolled in U.S. institutions for academic year 2019-2020. On a per capita basis, Korea sends the second-most students to the U.S. from Asia. The fields of study of Korean students in the U.S. have now become more diversified which is attributed to the preferred majors in job market. Currently 25 percent of Korean students are seeking STEM majors, while 14 percent are studying engineering, 13 percent are studying business management, 12 percent are studying find & applied arts, and 11percent are studying social studies in the U.S.

Many talented Korean students opt for the best schools outside of the country and obtain a diploma from an accredited overseas school. Although Korean students with U.S. degrees no longer can enjoy the same advantages in the job market as they did a decade ago, English language skills, internship experience, vocational trainings, or a degree from a mid-ranked state university in the U.S. is seen as providing a competitive advantage to secure full-time employment. This translates into opportunities for U.S. schools to recruit some of Korea’s most talented students.  The Korean government also runs a Scholarship Program by providing financial aid up to $40,000 per year for those students. Each year, 70 students are benefitted by this government funds to study abroad.

While this market is very attractive to a wide swath of U.S. educational service providers, it has become, over the last few years, an increasingly tough market. The number of Korean students studying in the U.S. has trended slightly downward in each of the last five years. While the U.S. remains by far one of the most preferred overseas destinations, especially for undergraduate studies, fewer Korean students are going to the U.S. because there are simply fewer high school graduates due to decreasing birth rate.  Korea is a rapidly aging society with one of the world’s lowest birth rates at 0.8 children per family. In addition to this demographic decline, the recent economic difficulties at home are also affecting, to some degree, the declining number of Korean students in the U.S.

Although a university’s reputation is still a key element for Korean students seeking degree programs, recently more Korean students are employing strategies to lower the costs of their education by studying at community colleges before transferring to four-year schools or state universities with less expensive living costs. Korea’s dynamic and constantly evolving education market is best characterized by the speed and power of the referrals and information that flow by word-of-mouth. Good opportunities do exist, albeit with smaller numbers of U.S.-bound Korean students, if and when U.S. educational entities are prepared to compete in a highly sophisticated, demanding, and brand-oriented market.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

According to Open Doors 2020, 47 percent of Korean students studying in the U.S are enrolled in undergraduate courses and 30 percent are enrolled in graduate courses. The best prospects for attracting Korean students are in higher education programs of undergraduate- and graduate level study. The perception and prestige of U.S. universities, academic research, and the chance to gain English proficiency remain strong draws for Koreans, despite challenges, such as the declining Korean population and the growing appeal of China as a study abroad destination.

Intensive English Programs

Korea is the fifth-leading country of origin for students studying in intensive English programs in the U.S. Korean students take intensive English programs to improve their English language skills for academic and professional reasons. The numbers have declined over the years due to the increased availability of English language training programs by native English speakers in Korea. However, Korean students continue to opt to study in the U.S. because most Korean parents view English education as a top priority and prefer immersion in an English-language speaking environment. Lower school students in Grades 1 - 6 utilize summer or winter vacation periods to take short-term language learning programs in the U.S.

Education Technology (EdTech)

The education technology market is advancing in Korea and it is a growing sector with potential to engage advanced education technology suppliers. Korea is among the world’s most digitally connected countries and developments are progressing in the Ed-tech areas including mobile learning environments, online learning analytics for instructional design, and artificial intelligence for learning sciences research. Ed-tech has been strongly supported by the government for decades and forms a significant part of government strategy to reform the education system to focus on developing students’ skills and using latest cutting-edge technology.


To attract Korean students and penetrate the dynamic and highly competitive Korean education market, U.S. education institutions should take an approach based on a more permanent, consistent, and profound commitment to the market. Korean parents are increasingly savvy about how they acquire information on educational opportunities for their children. Traditional ways of recruiting students, such as hosting school information sessions and participating in trade fairs are less effective than they were in the past. Education recruitment agents or local representatives are utilized less. U.S. education institutions should consider employing a combination of online and off-line promotional campaigns. Building people-to-people networks through alumni advocacy, as well as developing and broadening exchange programs, which could, in turn, raise the profile of the U.S. institution, help U.S. schools attract Korean students to the United States.


Trade Shows

  • International Education & Emigration Fair
  • EDU Plus Week (Korea International Children Education and Product Expo)
  • Edtech Korea Fair
  • Education Korea
  • Key Contacts
  • Ministry of Education
  • Fulbright (Korean American Educational Commission)
  • Education USA
  • KOSA (Korea Overseas Studying Agencies)

Local Contact

Ms. Song Oh
Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service Korea
U.S. Embassy Seoul
188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu
Seoul 03141 Korea
Tel:  82-2-397-4396