Sep 06, 2013

    Korea students pick China over the US

    TWO years ago, Ms Lee Eun Yul made an unusual choice for a South Korean student: to do her master's degree in Shanghai instead of the United States.

    She says the decision helped land her a job at Samsung Electronics, the top pick for graduates.

    "I chose China over the US as China is the future," said Ms Lee, 36, who studied at China Europe International Business School.

    "My experience in China opens up more exciting opportunities and I expect more challenging work when I join (Samsung this month)".

    Ms Lee is at the forefront of a trend in South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, that is steering students towards China to boost their prospects in an increasingly competitive employment market.

    The number of South Koreans studying in China more than doubled to 62,855 last year from 2003, according to South Korea's Ministry of Education. The number of US-bound students grew 50 per cent to 73,351 in the same period.

    "It's only the beginning of the shift in Koreans' appetite for education towards China from the US," said Mr Cho Jin Pyou, chief executive officer of Seoul-based Wise Mentor, which provides education and career-path advice. "A flood of Korean students will follow companies going to China for jobs."

    The focus on the Chinese language mirrors South Korea's strengthening ties with the world's second-biggest economy. Trade with China climbed an average 20 per cent per year between 1992 and last year, faster than the 6 per cent growth with the US, according to Korea Customs Service.

    South Korea exported more to China than to the US and European Union combined last year. China overtook the US for South Korean foreign direct investment in the first quarter, the finance ministry said.

    That's causing a sea change in the way Korean students approach one of the world's most competitive job markets.

    English was at the core of extra classes traditionally, a reflection of the nation's export-based economy and close political and economic ties with the US. Now, English has become so ubiquitous that it doesn't give applicants an edge.

    "English has become such a common product here that it can no longer guarantee a decent job," said Mr Cho.

    Mr David Swan, managing director in Tokyo for recruiter Robert Walters, said: "There is definitely a changing trend towards more consideration of Asian degrees."