Seoul National University is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious public universities in South Korea. It is also known as being one of the most innovative universities in the world. In addition, SNU has numerous agreements and partnerships with other elite universities abroad. This allows students to pursue dual master’s degrees with a partner university.

Due to its ongoing collaborations with other universities to provide top-quality education, SNU has become a popular university among domestic and international students. This holds true as the university is the home of some of the famous figures in Korea and across the world.  In this article, we’ve compiled a list of notable alumni who have graced the halls of such a well-regarded institution.

List of Distinguished SNU Graduates

1. Ha-Joon Chang

Ha-Joon Chang is one of the most important economists in the world. His focus on institutional economics has made him a valuable asset to numerous institutions. These include the World Bank, various agencies in the United Nations, and the European Investment Bank. He’s a published book author and many consider him one of the world’s greatest thinkers.

2. Suh Yoo-hun

Suh Yoo-hun is the current president of the Korean Brain Research Institute. A medical doctor, he has focused his research on degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Thanks to his investigations at Seoul National University, greater knowledge regarding the genetics and possible treatment goals regarding this disease has emerged. He has also made great contributions to the subject of possible treatment options for Parkinson’s disease. His focus on neurodegenerative diseases has allowed him to register seven patents for discoveries made in the area.

3. Ahn Cheol-soo

Ahn Cheol-soo is the founder of the antivirus software company AhnLab. In 2012, he decided to get involved in politics and he has been a presidential candidate on two occasions. He was also a candidate for the Seoul mayorship in 2018. Before dedicating himself to politics, Ahn was the dean at one of Seoul National University’s colleges.

4. Ban Ki-moon

The next notable alumni at the Seoul National University is Ban Ki-moon, who served as the eighth Secretary General of the United Nations. He managed to promote numerous peacekeeping agreements during his tenure. Furthermore, he became a strong advocate against global warming. One of his greatest achievements was giving legal status to the Paris Agreement. After the end of his post, he founded the Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens.

5. Hyun Ki-young

Hyun Ki-young has dedicated most of his career to investigating the history of Jeju Island. He has also served as president of the Korean Arts & Culture Foundation. Hyun’s main focus has been the Jejun massacre of 1948. His work and coverage of this horrific incident have been recognized, receiving numerous prestigious awards.

6. Jihoon Kim

Jihoon Kim is one of the most successful South Korean opera singers. He has performed all over the country and in Europe. He’s currently part of The Royal Opera, in the United Kingdom, where he has a principal role. As an operatic bass, he has starred in La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Un Ballo in Maschera, to name a few.

7. Park Jong-sei

Another famous figure at SNU is Park Jong-sei. He is a chemist and he served as head of the Korean Food and Drug Administration. He rose to international fame for his role in detecting the use of steroids during the 1988 Summer Olympics. After his work for the government, he founded a laboratory, Lab Frontier, specializing in protein micro-array.

8. Kah Kyung Cho

Kah Kyung Cho is a philosopher, who has been uniting Eastern and Western philosophical trends during the past decades. He got his doctorate at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He has focused on phenomenology and contemporary German philosophy throughout his decades-long career. He became a lecturer at the State University of New York in 1971 and eventually retired in 2017.

9. V. Narry Kim

Our next candidate for the notable alumni at Seoul National University is Narry Kim. She is an accomplished biochemist who has focused most of her research on micro-RNA. She currently holds four patents related to her work, including a gene delivery vector based on HIV. She has made major discoveries that have shown promise for the treatment of cancer. One of these is a new technology that allows the deletion of specific microRNAs. Her research has also focused on stem cells with promising treatments with the use of these cells. Kim has received numerous awards for her job, including a UNESCO recognition.

10. Bong-Ho Son

Bong-Ho Son is a theologist who has served as the president of Dongduk Women’s University. He was also the president of Hansung University. He has dedicated his life to academia and has published numerous works on theology. His field of study is focused on Christian Ethics. In addition, he founded the Sharing National Movement.

11. Kim Seung-ok

During his time at university, novelist Kim Seung-ok founded a journal titled The Age of Prose, where he began to publish his own writings. He later wrote, “Seoul, Winter, 1964”, which many consider one of his greatest works. Another of his writings, “Trip to Mujin” was turned into a film named Mist. For his work, Kim has won literary awards.

12. Junggeun Oh

Junggeun Oh is a painter who began his career in South Korea before moving to Berlin. This notable alumni of Seoul National University has been living there since 2004. His mixture of minimalism with realism has garnered him great recognition in the country. He designed a piece for the South Korean embassy.

13. Unsuk Chin

SNU is one of the best schools to study music. Unsuk Chin is a living example of this. She is a virtuous classical music composer who taught herself how to play the piano, showing her talent from a very young age. She has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Arnold Schönberg Prize. In 2019, she received the Bach Prize from the city of Hamburg. She has been living in Germany for the past few years.

14. Kim Young-sam

Kin Young-sam was the first civilian president in South Korea after 30 years of military domain. During his five years as president, he strongly fought corruption and he had to oversee the arrest of two of the prior presidents. He also tried to internationalize South Korea’s economy.

15. Joomyeong Kim

Our final famous alumni is Joomyeong Kim. He is a biologist who is currently a professor at the University of Louisiana in the United States. He has focused his research on genomic imprinting and epigenetics. He leads a team of scientists focused on understanding genetic transcription regulation. In the past, Kim also researched the subject of tumorigenesis, which studies the origin of tumors.

FAQs about Studying at Seoul National University

What is the Leading Academic Discipline at Seoul National University?

SNU is a top-ranking institution known for stellar performance in various academic programs, the top being Oncology, which is ranked high in the global subject rankings. Other majors famous at the university include Material Science, Physics, Clinical Medicine, and Biotechnology and Applied Microbiology, all ranking among the top 100 subjects in the global subjects ranking.

Check Also: The Best Subjects to Study in Korea

Is it Difficult to Get into Seoul National University?

Being one of the top universities in Asia and the world, it is difficult to get into Seoul National University. For several consecutive years, SNU has been ranked first in South Korea and is listed in the top 100 in the world.

The admission process is very competitive, with an estimated acceptance rate of 10-20%. You need to plan ahead if you want to study here, like what language tests are required, extracurricular activities you need to attend, etc. Make sure to submit an impressive academic portfolio to boost your chances of getting admitted to Seoul National University. If you manage to get in, you can find Korean government scholarships and other free study opportunities to fund your studies in South Korea.

See Also: Universities in Korea with the Lowest Acceptance Rates

These notable alumni prove that SNU is home to quality education and research. If you get an opportunity to study at this institution, you will be sure you are getting the knowledge and skills to thrive in your career.


We hope that this article will encourage you to apply at Seoul National University. Check out the Study in Korea for more insightful information about studying in this fascinating country. For currently open programs across the globe, check out our Available Programs for International Students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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