South Korea is a prime example of a country that zoomed to the top against all odds. After entering an armistice agreement with its brother North Korea in 1948, the country started over from scratch and never looked back. With a population of over 51 million and a two-trillion economy, this Asian Tiger is its powerhouse.

Despite being a non-English-speaking country, South Korea has grown to international fame from its advancements in technology and culture. Tech giants such as Samsung and Hyundai hail from South Korea and continue to bring in more revenue worldwide. Culturally, the world has effectively been swallowed by the K-wave, with South Korea being a top exporter of movies, films, and chart-topping music worldwide. K-pop groups such as BTS are making their way to mainstream media and pop culture, smashing records and putting South Korea on the global stage. These factors have propelled South Korea into a prime tourist destination for people from all walks of life.

South Korea claims much of its success to its high investment in education. The Korean government spends almost 10% of the national budget on education alone – building both private and public world-class institutions. Moreover, the country is welcoming to exchange students, ambitiously aiming to accommodate 200,000 of them in 2023.

South Korea has much to offer international students – competitive education and a lively student experience. Check out the top cities for a Korean education:

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Top Cities in South Korea for International Students

1. Seoul

With a population of 9.7 million people, there’s always something for everyone in Seoul. This “special city” is ranked in the top 4 metropolitan economies in 2014, along with the likes of Tokyo and New York. The city stands as the political, economic, and cultural center of South Korea – which also translates well in quality education.

The beauty of Seoul is how the old and new neatly coexist. The city wall’s four major gates continue to stand as guardians of sorts, housing the latest in culture, design, and technology. Take a hike in Mount Ansan, indulge in local foods in their night markets, spot your favorite celebrities in Gangnam, or party the night away in Hongdae and Itaewon.

Among the best cities for international students in South Korea, Seoul has some of the top universities in the world which have become highly welcoming to foreign students in recent years. More than 60% of international students in South Korea come from the capital. Surveys have shown that Seoul ranks as the third best school for international students, while QS universities ranked Seoul under the top 10 best cities for students. Top institutions in Seoul include:

  • Seoul National University
  • Korea University
  • Yonsei University
  • Sogang University
  • Ewha Womans University

2. Busan

Busan is South Korea’s second-largest city in size, but it doesn’t diminish its influence. Specializing in manufacturing and industrial works, the city is the core of the country’s “Southeast Economic Zone”. Located at the southern coast of South Korea, the city serves as the country’s economic and cultural center in the southeastern region.

The city’s coastal location makes up a huge part of its identity. Busan’s ports bring in a significant amount of revenue as the sixth most productive port worldwide. The city is also known internationally as the summer capital of Korea as many tourists flock to its six beaches during the summer months. This maritime city has also grown in its expertise in marine science, research, and development, housing various educational and research institutions related to this cause.

Students love spending time in Busan for its natural surroundings and its neighborhoods brimming with culture. Weekends can be spent chilling at Nakdong or Haeundae Beach, hiking at Geumjeongsan, watching cultural street performances while grabbing a bite to eat in their university towns, or getting some peace at the Buddhist temple Beomeosa. Top institutions in Busan include:

  • Pusan National University
  • Pukyoong national University
  • Dong-A University
  • Kyungsung University
  • Korea Maritime and Ocean University

3. Daegu

Daegu is another one of South Korea’s best cities for international students. It is the third-largest city in the country and a more conservative counterpart to colorful Seoul and Busan. Located in Yeongnam Province in the southeastern part of South Korea, this quiet but hard-working town is a manufacturing center specializing in major commodities such as textiles, metals, and machinery.

Students can learn much from Daegu universities as these institutions balance work and play. Enjoy learning the intricacies behind modern technologies while also immersing yourself in traditional Korean medicine spas, medicine markets. Gain your inner peace in many ways – even stories above ground by hiking up Mt. Palgongsan to visit the Gatbawi. And eat to your heart’s content through foodie experiences from farm to night market delicacies. Top institutions in Daegu include:

  • Kyungpook University
  • Keimyung University
  • Daegu National University of Education

4. Suwon

A stone’s throw away from Seoul, Suwon is the largest city of Gyeonggi-do, the province adjacent to the capital. It is known to be the only fully walled city in Sough Korea through the Hwaseong Fortress, which makes for the city’s most prominent tourist spot. With several UNESCO World Heritage Sites under its belt, this city is a great choice for students who enjoy a mix of culture and history in their travels.

The city’s proximity to Seoul yields a lot of benefits to this simple city, especially in the realm of education. Suwon is a known educational hub, home to top universities as well as satellite campuses for top Korean universities in Seoul such as Kyung-hee and Sungkyunkwan. Top institutions in Suwon include:

  • Ajou University
  • Kyung-hee University (Suwon Campus)
  • Sungkyunkwan University (Natural Science Campus)
  • Kyonggi University

5. Daejeon

With a population of 1.5million, it’s hard to believe that Daejeon is a hub for all things science. The city is South Korea’s fifth-largest metropolitan city but is a center of excellence in technology.

Branded as ‘Asia’s Silicon Valley’, Daejeon is the place to be for students aspiring to become world-class scientists. Research centers of worldwide brands such as Samsung and LG are housed in Daejeon, as well as other private and public research institutes and science parks. This makes Daejeon among the top cities for international students in South Korea.

An advocate of the natural environment, there is no lack of green spaces in Daejeon – the city showcases lush greeneries which are open for public use. Top institutions in Daejeon include:

  • Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology
  • Chungnam National University
  • Solbridge International School of Business
  • Daejeon University


I hope that you found this article on the best cities for international students in South Korea informative and helpful. You may also find more information about the universities and scholarship opportunities in Korea on our Korea Scholarships Page!