In a groundbreaking move to combat its dwindling youth population, South Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province is pioneering innovative measures by extending an open invitation to teenagers from across Asia to enroll in its high schools.
This visionary initiative seeks not only to bolster school enrollment numbers but also to cultivate a potential future population for the region. Currently, the province is meticulously selecting 72 eligible candidates from six Asian countries – Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Mongolia, Cambodia, and China – for admission to its high schools, slated to commence in the upcoming academic year starting in March 2024.
Under the ambit of this program, the selected students will be entitled to free tuition, akin to their Korean counterparts. However, they will be responsible for shouldering their living expenses, encompassing dormitory fees. The attractiveness of this proposition is further enhanced by South Korea’s policy of providing free public education from elementary to high school levels, obviating the need for scholarships in this unique study abroad opportunity.
Nine schools, primarily vocational institutions equipped with boarding facilities, will warmly welcome foreign students through this visionary program. As part of the application process, candidates are mandated to furnish their middle school academic records and attain a minimum Level 2 proficiency score in the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), a state-administered language examination. Prospective students who emerge successfully from this rigorous selection process will become eligible to apply for a D-4-3 visa, a category typically designed for elementary, middle, or high school students pursuing education in South Korea.
The D-4 visa affords students a one-year residency in South Korea, with the provision to renew the visa annually for the continuation of their studies beyond the initial year, ultimately culminating in graduation. Ongoing discussions with pertinent authorities are underway to streamline the process of obtaining work visas for program graduates, thereby encouraging them to establish roots in North Gyeongsang Province upon completing their educational pursuits.
Notably, several participating schools, including Uiseong Unitech High School, Korea International Culinary Arts High School, Korea Railroad High School, and Gimcheon High School, have already successfully concluded their application processes. These institutions have extended admissions to a total of 32 students hailing from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Mongolia. For the remaining five schools, the application deadline looms on September 8.
This visionary initiative is poised to continue into the subsequent year, targeting the 2025 school year, with the possibility of adjustments to the roster of participating schools and allocated student quotas. Aiming to rejuvenate its youth population and foster cultural exchange, North Gyeongsang Province’s bold initiative stands as a beacon of hope in the realm of regional development.