The Global Korea Scholarship (which used to be called the Korea Government Scholarship Program) is a full scholarship for foreigners who wish to study in Korea. The main objective of the scholarship is to promote relations between Korea and other countries, and it is a great opportunity for those who wish to experience Korea and further their career. Here, we will give you a quick overview of the scholarship, how to apply, and some tips for how to make your application better. For detailed information regarding documents, eligibility, and exceptional circumstances, please refer to studyinkorea.go.kr, under the heading “GKS Notice”. This is a page that you will have to visit often if you are applying for GKS. The main document you can refer to is the “GKS Application Guidelines”, which is released every year at the start of the application process.
Within GKS, there is one stream available for undergraduate (Bachelor) students, and another for graduate students (Masters or PhD). Undergraduate applicants begin their course in February, and the graduate students will begin their course in August. Applications for the scholarship begin around 6 months before the scheduled start of the course (around February for the graduate program, and around September of the previous year for the undergraduate program). In both cases, successful applicants will complete a one-year Korean language course in Korea before beginning their actual university degree, unless the applicant already has received TOPIK Level 5 or 6. This language course will take place in a different city from your chosen university, to allow scholars a broader view of Korea.
Detailed information regarding the quotas for each country is available from studyinkorea.go.kr The quotas and specific requirements sometimes change year to year, so be sure to check there for the latest information.
GKS is a generous scholarship, which provides a host of benefits in addition to the fully funded tuition fees. You will receive a monthly stipend of 1,000,000 KRW, plus an extra 100,000 KRW Korean Proficiency Grant if you have already received TOPIK 5 or 6. You will also receive research support of 210,000 – 240,000 KRW per semester (depending on your major). NIIED will provide you with airfares to Korea, and a return ticket back to your home country upon successful completion of your degree. When you first arrive in Korea, you will receive a 200,000 KRW settlement allowance, and when you complete your degree, the scholarship will cover thesis printing costs. In addition to these benefits from NIIED, GKS scholars will sometimes receive discounted dormitory fees at their host university, but this will have to be verified with each individual institution.
To qualify for this scholarship, applicants must be from one of the listed eligible countries, must not have Korean nationality, and must be below 40 years of age for the graduate stream, or below 25 years of age for undergraduate stream. Applicants to the graduate program must have received a university degree, or must be expected to receive it before beginning the course. The applicant’s overall GPA during that degree must be over 80%.
There are two ways to apply for GKS: Embassy Track and University Track. The quotas for each track differ, and applicants from some countries may be eligible for one track and not the other.
The embassy track allows an applicant to apply for 3 different universities, and must be done through the Korean embassy in their home country. Of the 3 universities, you must choose at least one “Type B university”. After receiving the required documents, the embassies will select successful applicants (generally twice the allocated quota) through an interview process. They will ask you questions about your application and your plan for studying in Korea. Once the embassy has made their decision, they will refer the successful applicants to NIIED (the Korean Education Department) who will choose the final recipients. Finally, NIIED will send the successful applications to each of the 3 universities, who can decide whether or not to accept the applicant. The applicant will then accept one of the offers from the university.
If you are applying from Korea, you will need to mail your documents back to the Korean embassy in your home country. You should do this as early as you can to avoid delays. Your interview will also be conducted over the internet (using Zoom or Skype as necessary). In this case, NIIED will not provide you with airfares to Korea, even if you have to return home for visa-related reasons.
The university track allows applicants to apply for one university only. In this case, you will prepare the same documents as the embassy track, but you will submit them directly to the university to which you are applying. The university will then send applications from successful candidates to NIIED, who will decide the final list of successful candidates.
The full list of required and optional documents can be found in the GKS Application Guidelines at studyinkorea.go.kr. In general, they are quite straightforward, but here are some tips for preparing them
Application form: The form is released at the start of the application process (i.e., September for the undergraduate stream and February for the graduate stream). However, you should start collecting your documents before then, so refer to the previous year’s documents to get a head-start. When the form asks for your GPA will have to include your overall GPA for your degree and GPA for each semester. Although each year has 3 semesters on the form, if you completed two semesters each year, then leave the 3rd one blank. If your university does not provide scores in a GPA or score percentile, you will have to provide an official letter from your university detailing the grading scheme. If you want to, you could also include your own conversion of the scores in a separate document (e.g., the results from an online grade converter). Just make it clear to the assessors that you received high enough grades for the scholarship.
Personal statement: This is your opportunity to make your case and tell the selection committee why they should choose you. Your personal statement should give a brief biography, your motivations for applying, any relevant work experience, your experience relating to Korea, why you want to study in Korea, and anything else that you think is pertinent. Do not say that you have a Korean girlfriend or boyfriend in your application. Keep it academic.
Statement of purpose: Here, you should tell the assessors exactly what you will do in university. This can be quite difficult, but be as detailed as possible. Give a detailed study plan, your goal of studying, and the title and a short introduction to the thesis that you plan to write. You are not locking this in, but just show the assessors that you have ideas for what you will study and research, and that you know what you are talking about.
For both of these statements, bear in mind that NIIED is looking for students who plan to study in Korea and then return to their home country. The aim of the scholarship is to promote relations between Korea and other countries, so you should explain in your personal statement and statement of purpose how you will contribute to that.
Letters of recommendation: You will need to provide letters from two separate recommenders who can attest to your academic ability. These letters should be submitted without you reading them, so NIIED asks that the recommender seals their letter in an envelope, and writes their signature over the flap. Like the other documents, make sure to get this document as early as you can to avoid unnecessary delays.
Certificate of degree and academic transcript: You will need to include your Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree certificate and transcript in your application. If they are not originals, they will need to be notarized by a notary public. If you send original copies, you will not be able to get them back, so do so carefully.
Optional documents: You may include any or all of the listed optional documents in your application. Applicants who include a TOPIK score will receive some priority over applicants without a TOPIK score, so you may want to consider learning some Korean in preparation. In addition, you may want to consider adding a cover letter in your application, and any other documents that may interest the assessors.
For documents not in English or Korean, you will have to provide authenticated translations into English or Korean alongside the documents in the original language. When you have all your documents, you will need to label each one in the top right corner according to the checklist in the application guidelines (e.g., “8. Personal medical assessment”). Then, put each document in numerical order (with 1 at the front).
Note for embassy track applicants: In addition to a set of original documents, you will need to include 3 extra sets of photocopied documents, so that NIIED can later send an application to each of the 3 universities that you apply to. For the letters of recommendation, ask your recommenders to include 4 signed copies of their letter of recommendation in the sealed envelope instead of just one. Since you cannot put these letters individually into each set of documents, you can include this sealed envelope separately in your application. Your application may end up having 100 pages in it, so it is a very good idea to purchase some clear folders to keep them organized. A finished application for the embassy track should have one folder containing original documents and the sealed letters of recommendation, and 3 folders which each contain a set of photocopied documents.
For successful applicants
Once successfully selected, the process for actually coming to Korea begins. At this point, NIIED will send you lots of emails regarding the visa process and entry to Korea. Keep in touch with both them and your selected university to avoid confusion and make the process as simple as possible.
If you have any questions about the application process, there are numerous resources online that you can refer to. Plenty of GKS alumni have created videos and blogs about their own experiences, and they may have experienced some of the same problems that you have.
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By Ewan Smith
29 January 2021
Image source: ITC Indonesia