South Korea - Country Commercial Guide
Education Services
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Total Korean Students Studying in the U.S.

Table: Total Korean Students Studying in the U.S.







South Korea’s Rank






Korean Students






% Percentage Change






No. of New International Student Enrollment






(Source: IIE Open Doors Report)

Study Level of South Korean Students in the U.S.

Table: Study Level of South Korean Students in the U.S.


Academic Level






Number of South Korean Students by Academic Level





























Total No. of Korean Students








(Source: IIE Open Doors Report)

Market Overview

Korean students comprise 4.3 percent of total international university enrollment in the United States, representing 40,755 Korean students in 2021-2022, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). On a per capita basis, Korea sends the third-most students to the U.S. from Asia. Most Korean students studied Engineering (15.8%), Business Management (13.2%), followed by Social Sciences (11.6%), Fine and Applied Arts (10.5%), and Life Sciences (8.9%). Over the past two decades, two trends have become more apparent with undergraduate enrollment: a decline in business and administration and an increased demand for STEM-related fields, reflecting the influence of government and industry.

In South Korea, higher education, especially from reputable institutions, is a high priority for Korean families. Degrees from well-known institutions function as status symbols to finding the “right job at the right company.” However, top-tier universities in Korea are highly competitive, driving many talented students to opt for the best schools abroad. As more Korean universities have grown in prestige, U.S. universities now see their Korean counterparts as competition. While Korean universities can afford better domestic networking opportunities, degree and training from U.S. institutions still offer students a competitive advantage.

Another trend involves changing criteria that Korean families use to decide on their preferred schools. The quality of facilities, faculty, and internships (i.e., OPT experience) often take precedence over the school’s rankings. This opens up opportunities U.S. institutions to attract more Korean students by strengthening department-level offerings.


Attracting Korean students has become increasingly challenging for U.S. education providers. For example, Korean enrollment in U.S. universities has fallen over the past five years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a 21 percent drop. While 2022 saw a 3.2 percent growth, it remains far below pre-pandemic levels.

A declining birth rate (0.78 children per family) also translated into a decrease in U.S. and Korean university enrollment. According to the Ministry of Education and Statistics Korea, college annual applications in Korea plummeted by 16 percent, from 820,000 to 690,000 between 2000 and 2010. In 2020, this figure was updated to 520,000 with projections that it will half by 2040.

In addition to this demographic change, the current economic slowdown has led some Korean students to consider more affordable international education opportunities in foreign counties besides the United States.

EDTECH (Education Technology) Overview

Korea is well known for its technological infrastructure. It boasts one of the world’s fastest Internet networks, with penetration reaching 95 percent. South Korean adults have 97 percent smartphone ownership in 2022, and nearly all age groups except those over 60 have close to 100 percent ownership. Korea has also developed its own local search engine platforms, such as Naver and Daum, which enjoy 90 percent market share.

As in other countries, interest in AI, robotics, coding, and ICT dominate the local EdTech industry. The Korean EdTech industry is projected to reach $7.7 billion in 2025 at an 8.5 percent growth rate. This is, in part, driven by government initiatives, including the Korean Minister of Social Affairs and Education’s plan to introduce digital textbooks and artificial intelligence (AI) tutors by 2025. Consequently, schools will see a wide adoption of cutting-edge EdTech solutions.

EdTech impacts all education market sectors in Korea. In 2021, the pre-k and k-12 segments proved to be the most profitable, generating over 54 percent of the total revenue in the EdTech market. Freemium, ad-based, subscription-based, and marketplace models were responsible for driving most of the revenue.

Despite the current economic recession, Korean EdTech companies like Dayone, NHN Edu, and Zaranda have managed to attract substantial investments, contributing to market expansion. Another market leader, “Woongjin ThinkBig,” has successfully integrated its content with tablets, targeting pre-k to 12TH grade learners. On the language learning front, Speakeasy Labs’ “The Speaking App” stands out as the leader in AI voice recognition based on GPT-4. Speakeasy Labs has garnered international recognition after twice receiving the CEO Innovation Award for its “ARPedia” product.


General opportunity

U.S. educational institutions must recognize not only the competition they face from Korean universities and more-affordable countries but also deeper understanding of educational options. Recruitment in Korea requires lasting, consistent, and profound commitment to the Korean market, as Korean parents become increasingly knowledgeable about education opportunities for their children. Traditional methods of recruitment (e.g., trade fairs) have proven less effective and the use of recruitment agents has declined for the post-secondary market. However, middle and high school students still rely on such agencies regarding concerns related to U.S. schools security and reliability.

U.S. education institutions should also consider implementing a combination of online and offline promotional campaigns. Digital marketing holds great relevance for the higher education sector, as students exhibit the highest internet consumption rate compared to other groups. Cultivating people-to-people networks through alumni advocacy and expanding exchange programs can also raise the profile of U.S. institutions and attracts Korean students to the United States.

Transfer system and state offers

While a university’s reputation still holds importance for Korean students, an increasing number of students are adopting strategies to reduce their education costs by initially studying at community colleges first and then transferring to four-year institutions or state universities with lower living expenses.

Korea’s education market is dynamic and constantly evolving and accessing it relies on the speed and influence of referrals as well as world-of-mouth information. Despite the declining number of Korean students pursu education in the U.S. there are still viable opportunities. It is especially crucial to highlight each state’s offer and incentives for international students. Collaborating with Study State consortia for combined promotional activities is often more effective than solely promoting individual institutions.

U.S. – Korea, increased partnership on STEM-related Academic Programs

To enhance educational cooperation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the Korean and the U.S. government agreed in April 2023 to launch a special exchange program for 2,023 students from each country, with a total budget of $60 million ($30 million from each country). The ‘KORUS Educational Exchange Initiative for Youth in STEM’ will be jointly led, emphasizing institutions with expertise in STEM fields such as semiconductors, batteries, bio, and AI. It is worth closely following the upcoming government plan for potential financial support in these areas.


Undergraduate and Graduate Programs:

The best prospects for attracting Korean students are in higher education programs at the undergraduate- and graduate-level. According to Open Doors 2022, 45 percent of Korean students studying in the United States are enrolled in undergraduate courses, and 36 percent are enrolled in graduate courses. The perception and prestige of U.S. universities, academic research, and the chance to gain English proficiency remain strong draws for Koreans.

Intensive English Programs:

Koreans represent the fifth-largest population of intensive English language learners in the United States. This includes studying English for everyday use as well as for academic and professional needs. While the number of Korean students has declined over the years due to improved English language training programs by native English speakers in Korea, Korean students continue to choose to study abroad. This is because most Korean parents view English education as a top priority and prefer immersion in an English-language speaking environment.

Education Technology

The education technology industry in Korea is advancing and presents potential growth areas for education technology suppliers. Developments are progressing in mobile learning environments, online learning analytics for instructional design, and artificial intelligence for science research. Growth momentum is likely to remain steady as the Korean government has plans to reform the education system to focus on developing students’ skills through using the latest cutting-edge technology.

Trade Shows and Events

EDU Plus Week - Korea International Children Education and Product Expo (August 10-12) EdTech Korea Fair (September 20-23)   Korea Study Abroad & Emigration Fair (October 7-8)  University Fair organized by Linden Tours:

Key Contacts

U.S. Commercial Service - South Korea: U.S. Commercial Service Global Education Team: and Analysis, Office of Supply Chain, Professional & Business Services: Ministry of Education (Korea): (Korean American Educational Commission): (Korea Overseas Studying Agencies): Korea EduTech Industry Association Digital Education Frontiers Association

U.S. Commercial Service Korea   
U.S. Embassy Seoul
188 Sejong-daero, Jongro-gu
Seoul 03141, Korea
Tel: 82-2-397-4535