Global Korea Scholarship (GKS) Program for International Students

Korean Government Scholarship Program for international students

Attracting 820 foreign students yearly from more than 156 different nations, the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS) Program for international students is the most ambitious and generous initiative taken by the Korean Government in their pursuit of spreading Korean education abroad.

This article will break down the official application guidelines provided online into more comprehensible parts, with a special focus on the graduate program.

Global Korea Scholarship Program for international students coverage

  • Exemption from all tuition fees, including one year of Korean language training as part of the program. If you by any chance hold a TOPIK level 5 or above before entering into the program, you will be exempt from this.
  • You will be given 900 000 Won as a monthly allowance
  • You will be given a settlement allowance of 200 000 Won upon arrival
  • Medical insurance will be provided free of charge
  • One round-trip economy class ticket
  • Dissertation printing costs will also be covered

900 000 Won for a monthly allowance is more than sufficient for the first year when you study Korean in a language institute – you might even be able to save some of it. However, if later on you are undertaking a Major in Seoul, which has a high cost of living, eating and living on a 900 000 Won budget might occasionally lead to some weeks with lots of noodles. You might want to take this into account when you start receiving your allowance.

Eligibility – Who can apply

As any other government supported scholarship program, the list of eligibility criteria’s provided in the official guidelines is long enough to take the courage away from even the most motivated applicant.

Don’t worry, it’s not really that frightening at all.

The basic points are as follows:

  • You should be below 40 years old as of September 1st of the year you apply;
  • You cannot be a Korean citizen, rather you should be a citizen of one of the 156 nations mentioned in the guidelines (Australia is included);
  • You need to hold a bachelor’s degree as of September 1st of the application year;
  • You should have a GPA of 2.64 on a 4.0 scale;
  • You should be healthy;
  • This should be your first time studying in Korea (previous exchange students are only permitted in special circumstances).

Before Applying – Some important information about the GKS

You need to early figure out if you want to apply for the scholarship program through the Korean embassy in your country, or via your designated university (that is, the one (1) university you want to apply to). If you decide to apply through the Korean embassy in your country you may apply to three (3) universities at the same time – alternatively, applying via your designated university doesn’t give you this opportunity. 
I would therefore strongly recommend you to apply through the Korean embassy in your country, as you have three universities to choose from and only need to be accepted by one of them. You can only apply via one of the institutions, dual applications is not accepted.

Each country has a quota as described in the guidelines. The embassy quota and the designated university quota vary a bit. Be sure to check this before applying.

In addition, overseas Korean Adoptees have been allotted a different quota. 12 countries are listed as covered by the overseas Korean Adoptee quota, and applicants who wish to apply as an Korean overseas adoptee must apply through the Korean embassy in their respective country.

As you may apply via either the designated university or the Korean Embassy in your country, the application process varies a bit. However, I will present the application process for applicants who apply through the Korean embassies. 

The application deadline for the scholarship is usually set by the end of March each year.

Supported majors and schools

There is a list of 66 universities you can choose from when considering which university to apply for. The famous universities like Seoul National University (SNU), Yonsei, and Korea University (also referred to as the SKY-universities) are on the list, as well as perhaps less known universities like Chonbuk Nat’l University or Jeju National University.

You should ideally have a clear idea of what major you would like to pursue, and at which university you would like to study. However with so many universities to choose among, making the right decision can be quite difficult. I therefore recommend you to first research which universities actually offers your major and then compare your result with the list of eligible universities.

When I applied for the scholarship through the Korean Embassy in Norway I was uncertain of the major I wanted to study, which meant I didn’t specify in my application material which department I was applying for. As a result, the Korean embassy in Norway called me on the date of the deadline and told me there was a problem, leading me to freak out for a second as I thought they would disqualify my application. Fortunately, the lady in charge of applications was kind enough to guide me through the university departments that suited the kind of major I had described in my application material. However, you may not be as lucky so be specific about your major when you apply!

Application Material

Make sure to have one original and three copies of the application form placed in separate envelopes. The copies will be sent to the universities you apply for by the Korean Embassy.

  • Personal data (attachment #1 in the official guidelines);
  • Self-introduction (attachment #2 in the official guidelines);
  • Study plan (attachment #3 in the official guidelines);
  • Letter of recommendation (attachment #4 in the official guidelines);
  • Pledge attachment (attachment #5 in the official guidelines);
  • Personal medical assessment (attachment #6 in the official guidelines);
  • Official transcript from undergraduate institution;
  • Copy of passport;
  • Certificate of citizenship of the applicant;
  • Copy of TOPIK score (if applicable);
  • Copy of TOEFL, ILTS score (if applicable);
  • Published papers (if applicable);
  • Awards (if applicable);

Make sure the official transcripts from your undergraduate institution are issued directly by the administration office with an official stamp. Officially you only need one letter of recommendation, but if the university(s) you are applying for require more than one, you should add two letters of recommendation. I applied for Yonsei which requires two, and therefore added one from my former employer. Doing the medical assessment can be a bit tricky, make sure you do everything as stated in the attachment. The certificate of citizenship is to certify that you are a citizen of the country in which quota you are applying for. I used my birth certificate when I applied. I did not have a TOPIK score when I applied so I did not attach one; if you have taken the TOPIK before though, I strongly recommend you to attach it in your application. The same goes for the TOEFL (ILTS). If you have taken one of these English proficiency tests before, I strongly recommend you to attach it with the rest of the papers in the application. Although, of course, if English is your native language then you don’t need to have completed an ILTS test. If you have any awards or published papers you can attach to your application, do it!

The application process

You have to deliver your application to the Korean embassy in your country within the deadline. If you are unable to hand in the application yourself, you may have someone else do it on your behalf. As I was in China on the date of the deadline, I had my mother go over to the embassy with my application.

The applications process is divided into three different stages. First the Korean Embassy makes its own selection schedule based on the criteria provided by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED). They will select 1.5 times as many candidates as their quota and recommend them to NIIED.

NIIED then makes it selection, and finally submits the documents of successful candidates to the 3 universities of indicated preference, and requests admissions of the candidates into their master’s or doctoral programs.

If you gain admission to more than one university, you will be asked to make a final selection and notify the local Korean embassy and NIIED. If and when this happens, you will be given information about what to do.

Selection schedule

As you wait for your application, you are sure to become increasingly more anxious to get your results. Here is the quick overview of the selection schedule. All results are announced and posted on

  • By the end of March the 1st selection will be clear and announced;
  • Announcement of the 2nd successful candidates will be made on April the 30th;
  • Admission Procedures for the Korean Embassies’ candidates is between May 1st and May 29th. During this period you will be notified of which university(s) you are accepted into, which will require you to make a selection; and
  • The announcement of the final successful candidates will be made on June 16th.

The process after the final selections have been made

After months of nervous waiting and constantly checking the homepage of NIIED, the final round of preparations can begin.

Between June 17th and July 31st you will be given an electronic airplane ticket to Korea. I got the ticket in July (sent to me via email), and I remember it really made me realise I was going to study in Korea for three years. In this time period you should also visit the embassy and get your student visa to Korea. Since you are a scholarship student and have gone through an extensive selection procedure, the visa issuance will be an easy process.

For the first year of the language training period you will be assigned to live in the dormitory of the language school you will enrol in. Exactly which language school you will be assigned to is random, and you will know which school you will be sent to when you are selected as a final candidate. The dorm fee is subtracted from your monthly allowance, which means you will have less spending money some months; it is usually done in four portions; during the fall, winter, spring and summer semester. After the one-year language training period you are free to choose where to live.

When you arrive in Korea – what’s going to happen and what to expect

The time has finally come and you are sitting on the airplane bound for Seoul, perhaps enjoying your first ever Bibimbap with a dash of Kimchi on the side.

I was super excited when flying to Korea. Whilst it was my second time traveling to Korea, which meant I already knew a little about the country, I was obviously unsure of what to expect from the program.

When I arrived in Seoul, two very nice and helpful ladies from my language institute greeted me by the arrival gate. Shortly after my and another participant’s arrival, they quickly rushed me to one of the busses bound for Chuncheon – my new home.

Upon arriving in Chuncheon we were again greeted by a very nice English speaking lady from the language institute who rode with us in a waiting car to the language institute. We were then assigned to our rooms, where we met our new roommates.

The following days we were given a small tour of the university campus and met with the other scholarship participants. Later on, we were also signed into a buddy program, giving us an excellent opportunity to make new Korean friends: I still meet my buddy every week and we have become really close friends. 
Later on we also underwent the medical check-up as described in the official guidelines by NIIED. This was all very straight forward and was finished in a matter of hours. I was also brought to the local bank and had my bank account set up.

Korean classes & culture

In the middle of September our Korean language classes began. We were assigned to classes usually consisting of 10-12 people. No one, or very few, of the teachers spoke English and this is part of the guidelines of the language institute as a way to familiarize the students with the Korean language. When I studied Chinese the teachers also didn’t speak any English, and this arguably made me improve my Chinese a lot faster. In the beginning this might be frustrating, but in the long term it will definitely be to your benefit.

The scholarship grantees came from a wide range of different backgrounds and will pursue their majors in a variety of different fields. Studying language this intensively was probably a quite new experience for most of the scholars, and some of us have definitely had our difficulties with the language, which is to be expected. Studying Korean, Chinese or any other foreign language is difficult and usually demands a different approach than what you are used to from studying for your undergraduate degree: to mention just a few, you have to memorize new vocabulary; learn the sentence structure of the language; and practice pronunciation. If you have no previous experience with studying Korean you are definitely in for some intense months of studying.

Learning a language is important when trying to understand a culture, but not enough to fully comprehend all aspects of the culture. The language you learn in the class room is often different from the language they speak in the streets. I think this goes without saying, but having Korean friends is key in getting a full grasp of the language and fully understanding the culture. One way of going about this is getting a language friend, where you teach English (or any other language of interest) and your friend teaches you Korean. I didn’t do this when I studied Chinese, but after having done this as part of my Korean studies, I have definitely gained some invaluable experiences I wouldn’t have been without.

Now my language training period is soon coming to an end and I will finish up by taking the TOPIK exam in July. Hopefully I’ll be in Yonsei in September, starting my Master studies.

Click here for the latest GKS Guidelines.

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Magnus Botnedal

After finishing a undergraduate degree in Finance, Magnus moved to China (Harbin) where he studied Mandarin for one year. After having completed the language course, he then moved to Beijing where he interned at the Royal Norwegian Embassy on trade, economy and related issues. Magnus is now currently studying under the auspices of the Korean Government Scholarship Program. From September he will be studying International Trade at Yonsei Graduate School of International Studies.

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