Indian students may now have the Republic of Korea on the list of favourable overseas education destinations. Besides the Korean language gaining popularity in India, several meaningful collaborations on the academic, technology and spiritual front have further strengthened the diplomatic ties, as 2023 marks 50 years of India-Korea friendship.
Academic initiatives with India, says Minister Lim Sang Woo, have been the topmost priority for the Republic of Korea (ROK), which has traditionally been an education-oriented country. Korea was a war-torn country which has risen to be one of the 10th largest global economies. “Education was the foundation of the growth, upon which we rebuilt our nation,” says Lim, underlining the importance of student exchange programmes, acquisition of Indian talent and popularisation of the Korean language.
Korea’s Ministry of Education (MoE) has recently unveiled the Study Korea 300K Project in Seoul, which aims to revolutionise the gateway for international students. The initiative aims to position Korea as a global education powerhouse, for which a series of strategies have been outlined to attract 300, 000 international students by 2027, adds Lim. Under the five-year plan, ROK is restructuring visa policies, and permanent residency, as it battles a low birth rate and a rise in the ageing population, fuelling the demand for international workers and students.
In 2022, the government started to streamline the visa process for the international workers needed urgently in specific Korean industries. “Indians proficient in the Korean language are in demand at the Korean IT, technology and automobile companies,” adds Lim. Universities, regional industries, and local government under the Regional Innovation System & Education (RISE) are working on strategies to address a wide range of regional needs, including domestic job opportunities for mid-sized and small businesses in India. Under the science technology talent fast track system, visa integration of graduates, master’s, and PhD has been launched to obtain permanent residency or naturalisation visas. This was possible through the expansion of the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS) programme and increased financial support for the recruitment of international researchers, adds Lim.
ROK Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) along with India’s Department of Science & Technology (DST) have invited Indian and Korean scientists/researchers to submit proposals on green mobility, robotics & manufacturing, renewable energy, semiconductor, and quantum technologies. India Korea Center for Research and Innovation (IKCRI) has been instrumental in facilitating collaborative research in Science, Technology & Innovation covering Digital Transformation, Future Manufacturing, Future Utilities and Health Care, between the two countries.
As of now, Korea has 12000 Indians of which only 1,500 students are enrolled in the universities. The low enrolment can be attributed to the language barrier and the limited popularity of Korea as a study destination. “We aim to increase the enrolments by two to three folds. For this, Korea is aggressively reaching out to universities for academic collaborations. The regional provinces are also signing MoUs with several universities in India to accelerate the process through several lucrative scholarship opportunities,” he adds.
The rising popularity of K-pop and Korean dramas has enthused Indian youth to learn Korean language and its culture. In 2015, the Korean Culture Centre reached out to schools and colleges, which started with three after-school classes. “Under NEP 2020, India introduced Korean as one of the eight foreign languages in secondary schools. This has amplified its reach and learners are now opting for online and offline classes,” says Lim.
In 2021, a Korean training programme was started in JNU to train the local students, who are now working as language teachers in various institutions and schools. Besides, the University of Delhi (DU) offers programmes in Korean Studies and Korean Language courses, respectively. The Korean language is also being taught at Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI), Christ University, Manipur University, and Nalanda University, among others. Central University of Jharkhand (CUJ) started offering five-year integrated postgraduate degrees in the Korean language, while Manipur University and Madras Christian College are offering diploma courses in Korean.
King Sejong Institute has been conducting online classes across India, which has seen increased registration in the past five years. Named after King Sejong, a Korean scholar, who instituted the Korean script hangul and emphasised scholarships, education and cultural exchange, the institute has trained 2400 students in the Korean language.
The historical connection of Buddhism is translating into research and academic partnerships between India and the ROK. “Dongguk University, Seoul, has recently signed an MoU with Nalanda University to reinvigorate Buddhist research and philosophy.” Seoul National University established a new Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations in 2012, which offers a degree in Indian Studies. Various other universities in South Korea are offering degree courses in Indian Philosophy, Yoga and Ayurveda.