65 international students to start high school in Korea next year

The North Gyeongsang Provincial Office of Education [GYEONGSANGBUKDO OFFICE OF EDUCATION]

Two social issues in Korea are growing more apparent over time — the decline in the school-age population and the local extinction crisis. To confront and solve them, nine high schools in North Gyeongsang have accepted 65 international students for the next year.

It is the first time for non-higher education institutions to host foreign students.

According to the North Gyeongsang Provincial Office of Education on Thursday, a total of 65 international students will be starting high school in the province next year. Eight vocational schools in the region accepted a total of 49 international students, and Gimcheon High School, a private school in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang, accepted 16.

The eight specialized vocational high schools include Korea Marine Meister High School, Uiseong Uni-tech High School, Silla Technical High School, Gyeongju Business High School, Gyeongju Girls' Information High School, Myungin High School, Korea International Culinary Arts High School and Korea Railroad High School.

The 49 who will be attending these schools are from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Mongolia.

The accepted students will start school next year and get vocational training while learning the Korean language. The schools will also offer scholarships to the students.

"We aim to help the schools that are struggling over the shrinking school-age population and also solve the chronic labor shortage issue," a spokesperson for the education office said. "Our ultimate goal is to create a healthy social cycle in which the international students become alumni and add to the workforce by landing jobs in Korea."

Among 22 cities and counties of North Gyeongsang, 15 cities face a local extinction crisis due to declining population. The number of students enrolled in primary schools and secondary schools in the province shrank by approximately 70,000 over the past decade, from 330,000 in 2012 to 250,000 last year.

"We are accepting foreign workers to deal with the current labor shortage, but that's just a stopgap. Other problems like illegal stay exist as well," the spokesperson added.

"Once we start fostering international high school students, it is more likely that they cultivate a better understanding of the Korean culture and stay in the country as domestic workforce."

Among those 16 joining Gimcheon High School next year, seven are from Vietnam and one from Cambodia. The high school is a so-called "autonomous private high school" that can recruit students from nationwide as long as it fills 40 percent of its quota with students from North Gyeongsang.

To support changes in student demographics in the North Gyeongsang area, the province's education office has created a task force consisting of student consulting professionals and teachers to develop guidelines for international students after their enrollment.