MBA in South Korea
Albeit smaller in territory than the state of New York, South Korea, like a bantamweight boxer, has outmanoeuvred the majority of its country partners to stand as the fourth-largest economy in Asia-Pacific and the 11th in the world, according to the IMF’s 2015 records. Read on to discover why South Korea could be the ideal location for your MBA.
- Region: Asia-Pacific
- Capital: Seoul
- Currency: South Korean won (KRW), ₩
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A developing nation five decades ago, the country has made an impressive rise through the global economic rankings by deploying an export-oriented economic strategy to compensate for its lack of natural resources. Major industries powering the nation are in the electronics, automotive, machinery, petrochemicals and ship-building sectors. South Korean brands stocking homes, garages and pockets worldwide, meanwhile, include the likes of Samsung, Hyundai, LG and Kia – and this is to name but a few.
In fact, South Korea was ranked first in the world in 2016's Bloomberg Innovation Index, in which indicators included factors such as funds invested in development spending, levels of research and development, and concentration of high-tech companies. Aside from the high-tech industry, other emerging areas of business in the country include the biotechnology, internet software and communications sectors. The QS TopMBA Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2015/16 put South Korea in 7th position globally for MBA demand and points to an 18% rise in MBA opportunities across the wider Asia-Pacific region between 2014 and 2015.
South Koreans are renowned for their high investment into education, both in terms of money and hours put in. In a response to the large volume of demand for a higher quality, globally competitive education system, the country’s universities and programs have undergone expansion. For MBA candidates, there are now 15 business schools offering AASCB accredited MBA courses in English.
To view of some of the top South Korean business schools, click on the ‘Top Business Schools’ tab
Top business schools in South Korea
Seoul National University, one of, if not the most prestigious university in South Korea offers two full-time MBA programs (one of which is conducted entirely in English), as well as an executive MBA option at its Graduate School of Business.
Advising on the content of the MBA curricula are 20 executive board members representing financial institutions, venture capital firms and corporations such as Samsung, LG, POSCO (formerly Pohang Iron and Steel Company), Hana Bank, Bain and Company and AT Kearney. An interesting fact is that 38% of CEOs from the top 100 Korean companies are SNU alumni.
Students enrolled in an MBA program at SNU GSB have the option of applying to extend their study and complete a dual degree with one the school’s overseas partner institutions. For example, you can combine your MBA with the Master of Management Studies (MMS) program available at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, or with another MBA from ESSEC Business School.
Also offering a dual MBA program with a top US business schools is SKK Graduate School of Business, through which you can currently combine an MBA with one from Indiana University’s Kelley School. Those opting for the school’s part-time MBA, meanwhile, can instead take on a range of online specialized master’s degrees from the Kelley School.
SKK GSB launched its full-time MBA in the same year the school was founded – 2004. The school says that around 60% of its faculty are international and, among its graduating class of 2015, 32% of the full-time MBAs were too.
Established in 1906, KUBS is the oldest collegiate business school in South Korea. MBA candidates have five MBA programs to choose from. A full-time, one-year global MBA at the school gives prospective students the opportunity to spend one semester at any one of 30 international partner institutions. Students of this MBA can also combine study in Asia with study in Europe by choosing the dual degree option and undertaking a CEMS master’s in management degree at either ESCP Europe or EBS Business School.
Should specializing in Asia-Pacific be of more interest, the S³ Asia MBA allows students to study in Shanghai, Seoul and Singapore before walking away with MBA degrees from KUBS, as well as from either Fudan University or the University of Singapore.
KAIST College of Business is a technology focused management school located north of Seoul. The wider university, Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, ranked first in South Korea and sixth in Asia, according to the QS University Rankings: Asia 2016, giving the business school a fair level respectability. For prospective MBA candidates, KAIST College of Business offers two separate MBA specializations; the Techno MBA, for those keen to get into South Korea’s high tech sector, and the Finance MBA to upskill for the global financial market.
The four Seoul-based business schools listed above represent only a fraction of the institutions offering international MBA programs. Other universities offering English-language MBA programs include: Yonsei School of Business, SolBridge International School of Business, Ewha Womans University, Sogang Business School and Chonnam National University. This list is by no means exhaustive.
To see why an MBA in South Korea is a worthwhile move, why not hear it straight from the mouths of MBA alumni.
Benchmarking for MBA excellence
Jaekoo Lee holds an MBA from KAIST Business School where he concentrated on Management Information Systems (MIS). Upon graduation, Lee earned an MBA career opportunity at BP in London.
“KAIST Business School emphasizes and actively practices a cross-disciplinary MBA approach. For example, financial engineering as a combination of advanced maths, engineering and finance, or marketing combined with IT and network theory. These combined disciplines pose new dimensions of value creation challenges and opportunities for businesses in the 21st century,” says Lee.
US citizen, Benjamin Maddox, is an alumnus of Yonsei School of Business (YSB). After graduating he began working for Nautilus Hyosung, a Korean manufacturer of banking equipment and self-service machines.
“At Yonsei they are steadfast in their determination to develop a world-class MBA program. One of the most critical factors in achieving this goal is to fill the program with outstanding faculty. The faculty and management of YSB regularly examine the program, evaluate its success and strategize ways to improve. The school’s dedication to cycles of reflection and perfection was an inspiring factor in my decision to attend.”
MBA prospects in South Korea
“Korean firms have the desire and capability for global expansion and Korea’s economy presents significant opportunities for young professionals looking to gain experience in the international marketplace. There are very strong job opportunities for international graduates from Korean MBA schools,” argues YSB graduate, Maddox.
Business schools are seeking unique ways to attract high-calibre MBA candidates from around the globe by helping them to finance their studies and find employment in South Korea upon graduation. KAIST Business School, for example, has developed a number of full and partial scholarship options.
The South Korean Government has its own scholarship program to promote international exchange and cooperation. The government scholarship covers full tuition fees, as well as airfare and a monthly allowance.
For international applicants with excellent academic or professional credentials, the opportunity to earn an MBA, not only from a respected business school, but also at a more affordable cost than is commonly the case in the West, could be a strong proposition. With MBA demand in Korea high, the chances of being hired are also excellent, offering international MBA graduates potentially exciting, and CV-enhancing, career prospects.