Korea and China are both major global players and regional leaders in Asia. Both countries have vibrant cultures, top-tier universities, and excellent environments for international students. Which one should you choose to study in?
Let’s take a look at some main differences between studying in Korea vs China!
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Size and Climate: Korea vs China
Out of the two, China is the much bigger country. China’s biggest cities (Beijing and Shanghai) both have populations of over 20 million. China has an incredible geographical and climate range as well. Students can study in the warm, semi-tropical south, or the dry north with frigid winters.
Korea is much smaller by comparison. The total country has a population of ~51 million, and the capital city Seoul has a population of 9.9 million people. There are fewer universities to choose from overall.
Study Subjects: Korea vs China
Korea is a highly industrialized and modern country with major global economic connections. Therefore, science, engineering, business, marketing, and architecture are some of the most well-developed programs in South Korea. These students benefit from networking and internship opportunities with global and Korea firms in these areas.
Because China has more universities, they also offer a wider variety of majors. Business, medicine, engineering, China Studies, and Chinese language are the most popular subjects for international students in China. These are very practical majors that can lead to a profitable future career.
Scholarships: Korea vs China
Both Korea and China offer incredible government scholarships for international students!
The Chinese government scholarship (CSC) is offered to thousands of international students each year to cover their tuition and living costs. It is quite competitive to get one of these scholarships, and the application period is only open for a few months each year. For more information, you can click here.
The Korean government also offers the Global Korea Scholarship which covers 100% of student fees including tuition, airfare, and other living expenses. The GKS scholarship is different because it requires students to study Korean language for one year. This is an excellent opportunity to develop proficiency in the Korean language and earn a degree.
The GKS scholarship and CSC scholarship are both excellent, fully-funded opportunities for international students, but only the GKS includes a year of dedicated language study.
Culture: Korea vs China
Over the past centuries, Korea and China have participated in a long process of cultural exchange. Many elements of their culture may have some overlap. Respecting elders and ancestors, celebrating traditional holidays on the Lunar Calendar, and the influence of Confucianism are some common elements. But of course, there are many unique traits as well!
Korea is influenced by three major beliefs: Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism. According to a 2010 survey, 23% of Koreans are Buddhist and 29% are Christians.
Korean culture has spread around the globe with major superstar bands like BTS, EXO, BLACKPINK, and more creating a global interest in Korean culture. K-dramas, known for romantic storylines and historical dramas, also have a huge global following.
Chinese culture draws from a long history of thousands of years and different dynasties. The country is largely atheist, with major cultural influences from Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. There is a big divide between the culture and economy of rural vs urban China. Big Chinese cities are extremely modern and futuristic, with global brands like Starbucks and Apple alongside big Chinese names like Huawei and Luckin Coffee. Rural China is primarily agricultural, and not many foreigners live in these small towns or ever get to visit them.
Both Chinese and Koreans have great pride in their cultural heritage and national history. Studying in either country will give you excellent insight into East Asian history and modernity!
Laws: Korea vs China
As an international student, it’s important to be aware of the legal environment in the country you will study. Otherwise, you may run into quite a bit of difficulty!
In China, for example, it is important to know that all drugs are illegal–including marijuana, which is already legal in some countries around the world. Protests and activism are illegal as well. International students in China are allowed to take internships and certain part-time jobs under a new law (here), but it is illegal in China to work full-time while on a student visa. The most important difference is that the Chinese internet is separate from the international internet. Facebook, Google, and Instagram don’t work inside China. Instead, Chinese use WeChat, Baidu, and RED.
In Korea, drugs are also illegal (including marijuana) and carry harsh penalties. It’s important for foreigners to have their ID such as a passport (or copy of it) with them at all times, as that will be your primary identification in Korea. “Student Discounts” are popular across Korean stores, but these discounts are only for students under 19, not for university students! Korea has an open internet with the rest of the world, but the most popular platforms in Korea are still unique–Kakao Talk to chat with friends, and the search engine Naver. It is legal to work part-time while studying in Korea, but you cannot work full-time.
How Easy is it To Apply?
The Korean university application process is very straightforward. You will need many basic documents that are required by universities around the world, such as transcripts, personal statement, and recommendation letters. Many Korean university applications also require your parents’ passports/IDs to validate your identity and citizenship status.
The most difficult part of the Korean application process is the financial requirement. Some universities may require you to submit a bank statement of your/your family’s account containing at least 20,000 USD. Even if the university does not require it, you will need this proof of financial stability for the student visa.
The Chinese university application is a bit harder than the Korean application due to extra forms. Chinese universities may require such documents as a health check and non-criminal record. The health check requires you to get a health exam and blood test for blood-borne diseases like HIV-Aids. The non-criminal record requires a report for your local police station affirming that you have never been arrested and have no criminal charges against you. These forms may take a few weeks to get depending on your local hospital/police station.
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