The Virtual Collapse of Korean Graduate Education
Horace H. Underwood
Executive Director (Fulbright)
Korean-American Educational Commission
[ED. This article was originally published as a Letter
to the Editor in IEKAS 02-37 (December 6, 2002).
Dr. Underwood wrote this in response to several articles in
Korean daily about the sorry state of the
graduate education in Korea.]
I feel I must comment on the JoongAng Daily articles
about graduate education, particularly Ph.D.
education, in Korea, as reported in the past two issues of
Korean faculty are all up in arms about the situation,
and SNU professors are quoted as saying that
the "government" should "do something" to prevent students
from going overseas and to force them
to study in Korea. However, at least as long as I have
been a professor in Korea (since 1971), the
top Korean universities have been sending the following
messages to their potential Ph.D. program
1) You will have no
decent library or facilities here.
2) You will get very little financial
3) You will work with poorly
qualified fellow students.
4) And, when you finish, we will
not hire you.
These messages, understandable when Korea was a poor
country, have continued even though Korea is
now in the OECD and listed among the rich nations of the world.
Students are not stupid, particularly in
a country like Korea where many important messages are not
said directly but conveyed indirectly in
such a "high-context" manner. The students heard these messages,
and the best students continue to
go overseas for their doctorates. WHY IS ANYONE
Now 87% of Yonsei's full-time faculty have overseas Ph.Ds.
Frankly, I think this is a GOOD thing -
let Korean universities concentrate on improving undergraduate
education, and let American
universities handle the burden of highly-expensive doctoral
education! Korea's economy and society
will continue to benefit.