7 Top Universities in South Korea in 2023

Do you want to know the top universities to study in South Korea? Also, the top universities in South Korea for International students to study in?

South Korea is one of the best study abroad destinations in the world. It is known as one of the largest sources of economic power in Asia. Its economy is established in its rapid-growing education, tourism, and technology sectors.

Out of 152 connecting countries, South Korea ranks first in telecommunications and information technology – according to the source of the International Telecommunication Union.

South Korea has more than 370 official higher education institutions with outstanding education systems. Out of the over 370 institutions, South Korea has not less than four top-20 entries and 88 representatives in QS Asia University Rankings 2021. It has 29 ranking institutions in the QS World University Rankings 2021®.

If you are looking to study abroad in South Korea, this article explores the top universities in South Korea in 2023 as well as every other information you need to know about the country.

Table of contents

Why Study in the Top Universities in South Korea?

South Korea is a force to reckon with. It is a unique study abroad destination for international students. It experienced a growth of foreign enrollment with more than 160,000 international students in 2019.

Here are reasons international students choose the top universities in Korea:

It is a citadel of innovation

South Korea embodies an innovative spirit that is gradually setting it on the global stage.

It ranked 2nd on Bloomberg’s 2020 Innovation Index and 11th on Global Innovation Index in 2019.

It welcomes international students

The country understands the great value of international exchange. For this, the government of Korea plans to attract 200,000 international students by 2023.

Low tuition fees and living costs

International students in South Korea will study at low tuition fees and live at low living costs. The country offers scholarship programs to international students.

It has since provided over 6,550 scholarships from almost 150 different countries since 1969. 

See: 13 Best Civil Engineering Universities in the UK in 2023

It is home to many high-quality institutions

Korea has over 370 official higher education institutions. It is reputable for its outstanding higher education system and the access to top educational opportunities it offers.

Students in South Korea also profit from excellent employment and career development while studying.

The quality of life is high

Even at low living costs, South Korea offers a high and satisfactory quality of life.

This satisfaction usually comes in safe and comfortable housing, transportation, networking opportunities, and numerous cultural activities.

There’s the terrific weather too, the food, nature and the outstanding quality of education. 

It has a rich culture

South Korea is rich in culture and an incredible blend of tradition. The country has 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites and Seoul’s multifaceted metropolitan buzz, amongst others.

There are beaches and islands, too, and amazing transportation infrastructure to make things much more manageable.

If you love festivals, then you will love South Korea.

It has a booming economy

South Korea is the 12th largest and 25th freest economy in the world. In 2020, it earned an economic freedom score of 74 in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.

Now, if you’re contemplating studying in South Korea, here are the top universities to go for.

Cost of Living in South Korea

One of the best things about studying in South Korea is that the country offers a high standard of living at low costs.

Housing is quite affordable for students in the country.

Below is a breakdown of the cost of living in the country:

  • Housing: it costs around $275 a month for an off-campus dormitory – $1,000 in an expensive one room.
  • Typically, to live very comfortably, you can expect to pay $830 (975,000₩) per month for a one-bedroom apartment.
  • Utilities: costs $170 ( 200,000₩)
  • Monthly public transport pass: costs $45 (55,000₩)
  • Meals at inexpensive restaurants: costs $7 (8,000₩)
  • Coffee:  costs $3.90 (4600₩)
  • Milk: costs $2.15 (2500₩) per liter
  • Vegetables: costs between $2.55-$6.80 (3,000₩ – 8,000₩) per kg
  • Eggs: costs $2.80 (3,300₩)
  • Water: costs 1.20 (1,400₩) per 1.5 liters boiled
  • Beef: costs $34 (40,000₩) per kg
  • Beer: costs  $2.40 (2,800₩) per bottle
  • Bread: costs $2.35 (2,760₩) per loaf.

Basically, the average cost of living in South Korea is $1075 (1,260,000₩) per month – excluding rent.

Things You Need to Know About South Korea

  • Officially, South Korea is named the Republic of Korea. However, it is widely known as South Korea or Korea
  • It has a population of 51.5 million people
  • The country’s capital city, Seoul, has over 10 million population. It is called a megacity
  • The country is nicknamed the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ due to its incredible natural beauty of clear waters and mountains
  • Some international companies the country is home to includes Hyundai and Samsung
  • The country’s currency is the South Korean won (₩/ KRW)
  • Tuition fees for undergraduates typically cost US$6,500 per year
  • Students are allowed to work part-time jobs for up to 20 hours per week during their studies.

Are Universities in South Korea Good for International Students to Study in?

Can foreigners study in Korea? The answer is yes, universities in Korea are good for international students to study in.

Korea is one of the most prestigious study abroad destinations for international students in Asia and the world at large.

Continue to read to find everything you need to know to study in universities in Korea as an international student.

Which Universities in South Korea are Best for International Students?

Wondering which are the top Universities in Korea for international students? Here’s a list of 10. 

  1. Seoul National University (SNU)
  2. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
  3. Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)
  4. Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)
  5. Korea University (KU)
  6. Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)
  7. Yonsei University
  8. Kyung Hee University (KHU)
  9. Sejong University (SJU)
  10. Hanyang University (HYU)

Also, see: Top Universities to Study For Free in Norway

What is the Best Major to Study in Korea?

Are you wondering what the best majors to study in universities in South Korea for international students are?

Here are the top courses to study in South Korea in 2022:

  • Arts and Literature
  • Economics
  • Business Studies
  • Engineering and Natural Sciences 
  • Management Studies
  • Social Sciences

Is Studying in Universities in South Korea Expensive?

If you are wondering how much it costs to study in universities in South Korea for international students, then continue to read. As an international student studying in universities in South Korea, an undergraduate public university costs around $4,350 per semester. Humanities subjects and medicine are at the lower end and the top respectively.

Meanwhile, undergraduate private university fees in South Korea are at sound $5,800 per semester. Basically, you are expected to budget fees ranging from $4,000-$20,000. However, South Korean universities and government institutions constantly award scholarships and research funds to students.

Can International Students Work in South Korea While Studying?

Yes, international students can work in South Korea while they study.

Generally, international students in Korea have a D-2 visa (full study term) or a D-4 visa (language study or training activities with a 6-month duration). Both visa holders can work while they study in Universities in South Korea, however, this can be after receiving permission from their institution. If they are granted permission, they can apply for a part-time job permit from the immigration office in their area.

However, the number of hours you would be allowed to work as an international student will depend on your language ability and your type of degree. International students in an associate or bachelor’s degree program can work up to 10-20 hours per week. On the other hand, students in master’s and doctoral programs can work up to 30 hours on weekdays.

Can International Students Stay in Korea After Graduation?

This can be a bother for most international students looking to choose South Korea as their study abroad destination. Yes, international students can stay in Korea after graduation. However, they will be required to change their visas to a D-10 or Job-Seeking Visa. This visa type is specifically for individuals looking to get employment in a Korean institution or company.

Also, the visa type is for the following:

  • Participants of paid internships
  • Activities related to intellectually property
  • Preparation for a start-up.

After you have gained employment, you will be required to have an E-7 or Specific-Job Visa which is valid for 2 years. However, if your work area is in academic work or some other particular occupations such as:

  • Researcher
  • Professor
  • Athlete
  • Professional artist
  • Technical or foreign language instructor
  • A field designated by the Minister of Justice

You will be required to upgrade to an E-1 to E-6 visa.

Top Universities in South Korea

Here are our top picks on the best universities in South Korea in 2023:

  1. Seoul National University
  2. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
  3. Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)
  4. Korea University
  5. Yonsei University (Seoul Campus)
  6. Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)
  7. Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)

1. Seoul National University

Seoul National University was founded in 1946 by the consolidation of ten higher education institutions.

It is one of the most reputable universities in South Korea as well as Asia. It is ranked #36 in QS Global World Rankings 2022. The University doubles as the first national university in Korea, and it has three campuses:

  • Gwanak Main Campus
  • Pyeongchang Campus
  • Yeongeon Medical Campus

It is made up of 16 colleges, one graduate school, and 10 professional graduate schools. It offers undergraduate, postgraduate, and Ph.D. courses. 

The university’s campus is set in Southern Seoul. It has over 200 buildings which include the Graduate School of International Agricultural Technology. Also, it houses the Green BioScience and Technology as well as the university’s farm complex.

As a national institution, the university offers students the opportunity to receive a quality education at low tuition fees, with the average tuition fee being around $6,000 per semester.

2. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

Set in the central city of Daejeon, this Institute was established in 1971 and held the place of the first research-led science and technology university in South Korea. KAIST is South Korea’s first top science and technology university. It has been the gateway to progressed and expanded science and technology.

This University was set up to meet the country’s need for elite human resources in science and technology. South Korea’s reputation for its high-tech prowess has been highly improved through the teaching and cutting-edge research conducted at this university. Even better, over 80% of courses at this university are taught in English.

This university was the first to implement the test-free admissions system in South Korea. It has a system that allows it to operate autonomously. Also, this university enables students to try courses before choosing their major. They can also switch majors at any point.  Obtaining an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree in this university will cost you about $7,000. However, getting a master’s degree costs $27,000 per year of study. 

3. Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)

Sungkyunkwan University is East Asia’s oldest university. It doubled as the highest national educational institute in the early years of the Joseon Dynasty in South Korea. It was founded over 600 years ago, and it has two campuses; the natural sciences campus in Suwon. The second is the humanities and social sciences campus in Seoul.

The University offers the first completely English-taught MBA program in South Korea. It partners with over 650 universities on academic exchange programs in more than 73 countries. It runs 33-degree programs with prestigious universities around the world.

Also, it further aims to broaden its dual program with more reputable universities. The cost of tuition for the bachelor’s programs is typically around $12,900 per year. Meanwhile, a master’s degree costs around $14,820 per year.

4. Korea University 

Korea University is set in Seoul.  It is divided across the city departmentally. However, it has its main campus, the Anam campus, only a few minutes away from a beautiful selection of restaurants, cultural attractions, shops, bars, and a famous Buddhist temple.

The University is ranked 69th best university in the world and 3rd in the South Korea ranking. It is an academic home to about 37,000 students, with a faculty of 1,700, with more than 95% holding a Ph.D. or equal in their fields. The school is famous for its large campus and the reputable college of law that offers one of the best undergraduate law programs in South Korea. Also, it is highly ranked for its programs in the following fields:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Politics
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Social Policy and Administration
  • Modern Languages

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree at this university costs around $11,222 per year. Meanwhile, obtaining a master’s degree costs around $11,000 per year.

5. Yonsei University (Seoul Campus)

Yonsei University was established in the late 1800s by a Christian missionary, Horace Grant Underwood. However, the university had different identities and only took up the name Yonsei university in the late 1950s.

The University is one of the SKY universities – a term for the three institutions regarded widely as the most prominent in the country.

Some of the university’s alumni include:

  • Han Seung-su – former prime minister of South Korea who doubled as the president of the United Nations General Assembly
  • Ryu So-Yeon – a professional golfer who won the United States Women’s Open Championship while a student at Yonsei.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree at this university costs around $8,236. Meanwhile, obtaining a  master’s degree costs around $12,068.

6. Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)

The Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology is set in the industrial capital of South Korea, Uslan. Uslan is also home to some renowned companies such as SK Energy and Hyundai. The University is a research-oriented institution focused on scientific and technological advancement. One of the unique things about the university is that it is the only university in South Korea where 100% of lectures are taught in English. 

UNIST offers programs in different fields such as:

  • Physics
  • Computer science
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry and more sciences.

Also, it offers programs at various academic levels; undergraduate, master’s or doctoral, and beyond. Also, it has quite several states of the art research h centers:

  • Green Energy Material Technology Development Center
  • New Growth Engine Project Group

See Also: 11 Cheapest Universities in Europe to Study Abroad (Almost Free)

7. Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)

POSTECH is a private research university ranked joint 77th worldwide. Also, in the QS stop 50 and Under 50, the university ranked sixth in both. It was the first university in South Korea to be officially marked as a bilingual campus in 2010.

Also, it has the majority of its events and programs at both junior, senior, and graduate levels; all taught in both English and Korean.

The University has a large campus 20 minutes away from downtown Pohang. It contains student accommodations, cafes, a digital library, beautiful gardens and water features, a sports multiplex, a pub, and a sculpture park.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree at this university costs around $10,819. Meanwhile, obtaining a master’s degree costs around $10,819 per year of study.


South Korea might not come to mind when you think of the best study abroad destinations to choose from. However, it is one of the best. It has some of the best universities in the world. Also, students do not only enjoy the excellent education system and culture; they enjoy the high standard of living at low costs in the country.


Should I study in South Korea?

Why study in South Korea:

It is a citadel of innovation
It welcomes international students
Low tuition fees and living costs
It’s home to many high-quality institutions
The quality of life is high
It has a rich culture
It has a booming economy

What are the top universities in South Korea?

Top universities in South Korea in 2023:

Seoul National University
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)
Korea University
Yonsei University (Seoul Campus)
Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST)
Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH)

Can I work while I study in South Korea?

Students are allowed to work part-time jobs for up to 20 hours per week during their studies.

Can foreigners go to university in South Korea?

Prior to the start of the semester at Korea University, all overseas students pursuing degrees are required to apply for a student visa (D-2). Other visa kinds that allow foreign students to enroll in a degree-seeking program at a Korean university.

Is South Korea cheap to study?

Comparatively speaking, studying in South Korea is less expensive than in other nations. These factors should be taken into account when determining the overall cost of studying in South Korea because studying abroad may be expensive.

Can I stay in Korea after study?

After graduation, you can only work full-time in South Korea if you have a master’s degree in the humanities, a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences or engineering, or a visa for professors.

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