South Korea offers numerous benefits for international students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. or doctorate program in the country. Specifically, doctoral students may benefit from excellent research and academic opportunities, which are made possible thanks to the country’s world-class research and academic institutions.

Additionally, doctorate students may be offered various funding and scholarship opportunities. They are also exposed to a dynamic and vibrant cultural and academic environment, novel to most foreigners. So, if you’re interested in all of that, read this article. It aims to provide international students interested in studying a Ph.D. program in South Korea with a general overview of the application process and possible enrollment requirements.

Is it Expensive to Study Ph.D. in South Korea?

International students may find it relatively affordable to study for a Ph.D. in South Korea compared to most other countries. Even though tuition fees vary depending on the program and institution, they are typically lower compared to universities in Europe or the US.

For instance, one of South Korea’s top universities, the Seoul National University, offers Ph.D. programs with tuition fees ranging from 3,200,000 KRW to 6,000,000 KRW per semester for international students. Another popular university, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), offers graduate programs with a tuition cost of 19,100,000 KRW per semester.

Admission Requirements When Applying for a Doctoral Degree

Applying for a doctoral degree in South Korea requires the participants to provide certain requirements to showcase their academic and professional abilities. The requirements include materials like proof of academic qualifications, a curriculum vitae or resume, a research proposal, etc.

1. Proof of Bachelor’s or Master’s degree

Evidence of completion of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program from an accredited institution must be provided to demonstrate that the applicant has the necessary educational background.

2. Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume

A resume or a CV is a document that summarizes your academic qualifications, research experience, publications, work history, as well as other relevant achievements. It will assist the admissions committee in assessing your professional and academic background.

3. Research Proposal

A research proposal is provided to assist the university in analyzing the feasibility and relevance of your research. Your research proposal should include a clear and well-defined research topic, objectives, intended research methodology, and expected study outcomes.

4. Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation, usually written by supervisors, mentors, and professors, attest your research skills, academic abilities, and potential to succeed in your doctoral program. These letters may showcase your potential contributions to academics, work ethic, and character.

5. English Language Proficiency

With English being the language of instruction in most Ph.D. programs, applicants for a Ph.D. in South Korea may be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Typically, they do so using standardized language tests like the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

These tests analyze your ability to communicate and understand English effectively. Applicants must meet minimum score requirements to ensure they can engage in discussions, coursework, and academic research.

It is important to note that application requirements to study a PhD program in South Korea may vary according to program and university. It is advised that you visit the official websites of universities offering Ph.D. programs for accurate details. For example, institutions like Yonsei University and Seoul National University offer detailed information on their application procedures and admissions requirements.

Language Proficiency Tests Needed for Doctoral Programs

Often, Ph.D. applicants in South Korea will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the Korean language. A very commonly used Korean language proficiency test is the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), which assesses writing, listening, reading, and speaking skills in Korean. Typically, a minimum level of 3 or 4 is expected; however, the actual baseline score may vary depending on the program and university.

Universities in South Korea like Yonsei University and Seoul National University offer English-taught programs to accommodate non-Koreans. Thus, applicants may be required to demonstrate proficiency in English instead or in addition to Korean proficiency. Additionally, South Korean universities may also offer programs in other languages like Chinese, German, Spanish, French, or Russian. These programs typically cater to students fluent in these languages. An example is Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, which offers programs in several languages other than Korean and English.

Steps to Apply for a Doctoral Degree in South Korea

All Ph.D. applicants in South Korea must go through several steps for admission:

Step 1. Submit the application form

The online application form must be filled and submitted alongside the required documents, like letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, academic transcripts, and research proposal.

Seoul National University, for instance, provides a detailed application process for its postgraduate programs. Accordingly, applicants are required to create an application account, and fill out and submit the online application form together with the necessary documents through that account.

Step 2. Take the entrance exam

Entrance exams may be required by some universities to evaluate the academic abilities and potential for success of applicants. This would usually involve language proficiency tests, tests based on specific subjects, or interviews. Korea University, for instance, requires all graduate applicants to submit language proficiency test results.

Step 3. Attend an interview

Interviews may be a part of the admissions process in some institutions. They allow the university to analyze the motivation, research interests, and potential for academic success of applicants.

For instance, the admissions process for doctoral programs at Ewha Womans University involves an interview that is conducted either in-person or via video conference, depending on the situation.

Step 4. Wait for the admissions decision

Following the application procedure, entrance exam, and interview, the final decision will be made by the admissions committee after reviewing each application. Applicants will then be notified through an email or an official letter. Instructions on enrollment will be provided to successful applicants.

You must note that the actual application requirements and steps for a Ph.D. program in South Korea will depend on the institution and program. Therefore, interested applicants must visit official university websites for up-to-date information.


To become an international student studying for a Ph.D. in South Korea, you will be required to complete the application procedure, potentially sit for an entrance examination, or attend an interview. The final application process and enrollment requirements will depend on your university. It is therefore important to refer to university websites for up-to-date information.


We hope this article has been informative to you as an aspiring doctoral student in Korea. Head on over to our Study in Korea Page for more insightful articles about studying and living in Korea! If you’re also looking for a course or program to pursue, we suggest checking out our open courses page!

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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