Is South Korea a new entry point for international MBA students?

Despite some difficult northern neighbors, at South Korea’s number one business school, 30% of full-time MBA students are international.

Leaving aside the references to the Gangnam style, it would be a euphemism to say that many Western eyes are in Asia these days, speaking geopolitically.

Between the current 10-day expedition of Supreme Leader Trump across the continent and his recent (terrifying) Twitter disputes with Kim Jong Un, US attention is now focused on the Korean peninsula.

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The truth is that, although the political relations between East and West are always in constant change, to put it diplomatically, there is a domain in which the Asian-American connection is stronger than ever, and that is education.

South Korea, in particular, boasts among the most globalized educational opportunities on the continent. For a long time, Seoul has been known as a destination for study abroad for Westerners, but also as a center for ESOL teachers and global trade.

No institution incorporates the international reach of South Korea more than the business school SKK Graduate School of Business of Sungkyunkwan University.

2017 has witnessed a perfect storm for SKK GSB. Earlier this year, Financial Times ranked SKK GSB # 54 in the world in its Global MBA ranking (# 51 in 2013), as well as # 1 in Korea and # 11 in Asia. FT described the school as one of the best in terms of globalization, diversity of programs and professional development. 30% of the full-time MBA students at SKK GSB are international.


Founded in 2004 to meet the national shortage of marketing specialists, financiers and managers, the growing international reputation of SKK GSB is due in large part to its English language curriculum, where Western study takes shape in an Eastern setting. The international partners of the school include Indiana Kelley, MIT Sloan, Dartmouth Tuck, HKUST Business School and IE Business School, among others.

The high-quality but affordable education of SKK GSB and its deep ties with the Korean electronics conglomerate Samsung, the school’s main corporate partner, have also attracted more and more Western students to take the road less traveled when it comes to a Business school, where East and West merge without problems.

The Vice-Dean of Faculty and Research, Eric Shih, explains: “We see a strong demand from international applicants who are interested in Korean culture and economy, especially in the technology sector.”

Derek Laan, native of Indiana, SKK GSB ’14 is a good example.

Derek graduated from Purdue in 2009 and chose to move to a small town on the outskirts of Seoul to teach English at a public elementary school for three years. He realized that he was interested in moving to business, but he felt attached to his adoptive home and had no interest in returning to the United States.

Then, Derek acquired fluency in Korean and enrolled in SKK GSB’s double degree program with Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, which he said was “the perfect complement for me, as it is modeled very similarly to the Kelley’s MBA and all the teachers have a lot of global experience. ”

Derek was also excited about the rigor of the MBA curriculum. “I can personally attest that SKK is very similar to the classroom experience you would get in a top MBA program in the US,” he says.


Outside of the classroom, Derek’s Korean language skills and strategic location led him to an internship at Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction, a large Korean conglomerate in an industry he aspired to enter after graduation. After a year at Kelley in Bloomington, Indiana, he returned to Korea and took up a position in Doosan.

While Derek’s story is certainly unique and inspiring, both cultural shock and language barrier pose enormous challenges for Westerners accustomed to less dynamic environments.

Derek offers some encouraging tips for international students who might be interested in pursuing an MBA in Korea: “There are opportunities to work after graduation for people who are willing to embrace culture and be diligent in their networks and search for job”.

They sell me at SKK GSB, but what about the precarious neighbors of Seoul in the north? A persistent fear that seems especially relevant at this time is the 121 miles separating Seoul from the demilitarized zone.

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Derek offered an imperturbable response: “The threat from North Korea is mainly at the governmental level,” before launching into a passionate endorsement of Seoul, which he says has “something for everyone, with a great nightlife, historical and cultural places. , plus a lot of mountains for hiking and skiing. ”

Vice-dean of Faculty and Research Eric Shih takes seriously the threat from North Korea, but has clearly spent a lot of time calming the concerns of international applicants:

“The students here, national and international, have not been worried about the North Korean threat, there are emergency evacuation plans in the unlikely event that something happens, but it is not something that interferes with the daily life of the people. teachers and students: they are too busy for that. ”

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