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More Working Hours for International Students in Korea

clock iconCreated At:11 July, 2023
write iconCreated By:Allaa Ashraf

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The Ministry of Justice has outlined measures in South Korea that will benefit international students, including reduced financial requirements for applications and expanded work rights during their studies.

Effective July 3rd, the new regulations aim to attract a higher number of international students to South Korea. 

Due to delays, the Study Korea 3.0 plan has been pushed back to the end of July. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has announced that the financial criteria for obtaining a student visa will be eased. Previously, degree-seeking students were required to demonstrate a minimum of $20,000. Under the revised system, the amount will be converted to Korean won, with 20 million won (equivalent to approximately $15,400) being the new requirement for degree students.

According to Johan Asplund, the head of Dream Studies Abroad, the reduction in the income threshold will be particularly beneficial for students from less wealthy countries. Importantly, for international students considering various universities in South Korea, the threshold will decrease to 16 million won if they apply to universities located outside of major metropolitan areas. 

This adjustment can potentially encourage student distribution across different parts of the country, as currently, a large majority choose to study in Seoul and other major cities. However, Asplund acknowledged that most students who can afford Seoul universities will likely continue to pursue them. The required amount is lowered to just 10 million won for students enrolled in language courses, equivalent to approximately $7,700.

The statement also highlights another significant measure: the extension of work-hour allowances for international students. Instead of the previous limit of 20 hours per week, they will now be permitted to work up to 25 hours per week.

Kyuseok Kim, a team leader at SUNY Korea, emphasised the importance of the local industry and economy providing substantial job and career opportunities to attract and retain these students. Kim further emphasised the need for the Ministry of Justice's programmes to encompass international students interested in knowledge-based and digital industries. This will help attract high-quality students from abroad who can contribute to advanced fields in science and technology, adding value to the overall development.

In addition to regular part-time jobs, international students can now undertake internships in their field of study during university holidays. 

The release of these measures has sparked speculation due to the delay of the Study Korea 3.0 initiative, which aimed to attract more students from overseas. Although previous iterations were moderately successful, with South Korea hosting a total of 200,000 international students in 2022, concerns arise regarding the current surge, primarily driven by language course students on D4 visas. 

These students also constitute 70% of those engaging in activities that are "disallowed on their visas." This policy change may raise concerns about the increasing number of international students with undocumented status, as instances of students going missing from university campuses have significantly risen since 2016. In contrast, such occurrences are relatively rare in Japan.

"[These measures] would have been more effective if they were integrated with the MOE's Study Korea 3.0 initiative, providing a comprehensive approach encompassing every stage of international admissions, from the recruitment process to post-study job opportunities and proper immigration status," Kim emphasised.

Asplund reiterated the severe repercussions for universities whose students misuse their visa privileges or even go missing, noting that such institutions could face reprimand or even lose their authority to issue student visas.

"With more relaxed visa regulations and lower income requirements, this problem could potentially escalate to a point where the system may need to be revised, shifting the responsibility from universities to perhaps the MOJ," Asplund predicted.

Regarding the increase in working hours, the MOJ highlighted that students with higher grades and proficiency in Korean would be allowed an additional five hours per week, which Asplund mentioned could serve as motivation to excel academically, but he acknowledged that few students would be able to manage it.

It should be noted that language course students will not be granted work rights until they have resided in the country for six months.

The MOJ's statement also introduces a "diversification" of Korean proficiency testing methods for international students. In addition to the standard TOPIK test, the Social Integration Programme of the MOJ and the King Sejong Institute Korean standard will now be available as alternative options for students to demonstrate their proficiency, if required.

Another measure outlined is that international students, per the MoE's regulations on mandatory field practice, will have the same opportunities for practice as Korean students without needing a work permit.


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