Tuesday, February 3, 2009

South Korean students form largest group of foreign students in the United States

The Chosun Ilbo reports that South Koreans have become the largest group of foreign students studying in the United States for the third year in a row, ahead of perennial favorites China and Japan. The official number is around 110,000 students. 

Here in Hawaii, this really comes as no surprise at all (although Japanese students still heavily outnumber Koreans or any other group). It's very easy to meet yu•hak•saeng (유학생, 留學生; students who go abroad to study) at the beaches, in the mall, at the coffee house (gee, don't they study?!).

Such an accomplishment (if that's what it is) is due to a confluence of several things
  1. A drive for English proficiency that leads to more employment opportunities, for which studying abroad seems like a natural way to achieve such a goal.
  2. Overheated competition for the handful of "elite" universities in South Korea, versus the relatively high number of "well-known" universities in the United States that are much easier to get into, particularly as grad students.
  3. A continuing perception that the United States is on top of the academic heap. 
  4. A last chance for many young people to live a freer, less stifling experience before having to settle down with family and a job and have the life sucked out of you.
  5. Growing national affluence that lopsidedly favors the upper class and upper middle class so heavily in South Korea that it is immune even to a global financial meltdown. 
[above: For this stock photo, these two are pretending to be a prospective yuhaksaeng and her broker, figuring out how to fill out an application form, but in reality they're two young women hoping to make it as hand models.]

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