Higher education is important to the Eastern and the Western world. Technical, economic and political developments in the country take place due to the level of higher education. Education is considered to be of vital importance to the Korean economy. The demand for higher education substantially exceeds the supply. That is why a lot of people try to look for higher education alternatives abroad (Postiglione 57).
There are many reasons why people choose to migrate. These are usually divided into social, economic, political and environmental ones. Some people choose migration as a way to enhance their career opportunities or to get higher education, which will ensure them better future (“Why do people migrate?”). When domestic labor markets are not able to provide an appropriate level of education to all people who seek it or to absorb an increasing level of educated labor force, migration is thought to be an important channel for resolving these imbalances within local markets with potentially large benefits to the individuals involved.
Most economic migration theories begin with the idea that flows of migration are the result of decisions concerning the investment of human capital. Scientists have revealed that potential migrants evaluate the present human capital value in the home and destination country. In case the present value in the destination country exceeds the costs of moving and present human capital value in the home country, then potential migrants choose migration. This framework of human capital presents testable and straightforward implications for the migration flows pattern. The most obvious remains the fact that migrants tend to be young. They move from areas which are characterized by a low return on human capital to areas where the return on human capital is high. In addition, reductions in the migration associated costs will increase flows of migration. At the same time, greater cultural and physical distances increase the costs and reduce the migration rate (Ghatak et al.).
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In the 19th century, Korea, like most East Asian countries, had fallen behind the majority of countries in the level of development. The country faced the question of modern education as a source of knowledge dissemination. It caused the import of advanced knowledge from more developed countries, primarily from the US (Sorensen 13). It is said that Koreans are eager to get an education (Kim 21). Lack of opportunity to get higher education in the home country, which is related to the fact that Korea cannot provide education to all willing citizens, Koreans try to find different ways to achieve their educational goals. Parents consider education in the United States is not just for language study, but for making their children ready for a globalized and multinational future. Most parents approved, changed, and reevaluated their practices in this world (Chung). Family migration to the United States combines educational ambition and a desire for leisure. In such a way, many families try to send their children out of Korea to the U.S. and other English-speaking countries to receive a better education. A better possibility for their children’s education in college and their own graduate education is now the main push factor for Korean families’ decisions to immigrate to the United States.
Migration of Korean citizens to the United States is considered to be a phenomenon of the 20th century. The history of Koreans in the US has been influenced by economic and political conditions in both countries. Hence, the United Stated has become the largest recipient of the migration flow. In general, almost half of all immigrants from Korea reside in California, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. California accounted for the largest amount of Korean immigrants by 2007 (322,628, or 30.9 %), followed by New York (95,265, or 9.1 %), New Jersey (73,033, or 7.0 %), and Virginia (51,685, or 5.0 %). All together, these four states accounted for 52.7% (542,611) of all immigrants born in Korea (Terrazas).
The United States has recognized more than 250 North Korean citizens on temporary visas since 2000, most of them were travelers on tourism and business; including almost 25 students and exchange visitors. Still, it does not put any quota on the amount of refugees or asylees recognized from North Korea, the United States remains careful about the issues of migrating of North Korean refugees that are in fear of espionage or other alike activities. Since 2000, the U.S. has recognized 37 people from North Korea as refugees (as of December 31, 2007). The United States passed the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2004, which ensures that North Koreans are admissible for refugee status or asylum in the U.S. The American Community Survey, that provides population data reports between decennial census years, does not make a difference between immigrants born in South Korea and North Korea. The biggest amount of Korean immigrants is from South Korea.
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Wide airlift from Korea to California, with 62 nonstop flights every week, keeps driving robust growth out of the Korean market. Because of high demand, in January 2013 Korean Air started to use A380 doubledecker aircraft from Seoul to Los Angeles. Resulting in positive market factors, traveling to California accounts for more than 33% of all Korean tourism to the United States, and the number of Koreans arriving to California is projected to increase for 23.9% in the next three years.
Korea to California travel is expected to increase by 6% in 2013, while spending in California by Korean tourists is expected to rise by 8.7% to just a little less than $1 billion. This solid growth has been achieved by the Korean won being appreciated versus the U.S. dollar in 2012. Next appreciation of 4.5% is expected in 2013. Great amount of Korean international students, mainly men, came to the United States to receive graduate education. Additionally, it was estimated that about 6,000 Korean students came to the United States between 1950 and 1964. A great number of them are working in professional occupations in the United States after finishing their graduate education.
The Korean population in the United States has grown to over 1.5 million in 2010. It has been stated that about one million Koreans immigrated to the U.S. between 1965 and 2009. Since 1990s, the proportion of employment-sponsored immigrants from Korea in managerial and professional occupations has gradually increased. The number of Koreans who came to the U.S. as non-immigrants being temporary workers, international students, visitors, etc. was changed to that of permanent residents. This indicates that the globalization of travel, education, and the media have played an essential role and education has become a part of economic globalization.
In Korea, lots of money is being spent on ‘English education’ every year. Five year old children and students of school-age are studying English till midnight in many schools. Many children are being sent to different countries to learn English and the number of such students is increasing every year. This English phenomenon in Korea is assumed to have started from what Koreans call education fever and national obsession with achieving education. This concerns with the search of formal schooling, were goods of the diffusion of general Confucian attitudes to learning and status, fresh egalitarian concepts introduced from the Western world, and the complexity, sometimes contradictory methods in which both old and new ideas and formulations cooperated (Park 6).
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As a method of gaining status and strength along with the ways of self-cultivation, the majority of Koreans agrees that the Korean education has been worthy for ages. Additionally, modern egalitarian concepts from the West, as well as the traditional social classes collapse after the occupation by Japan in the early twentieth century. It has made the country suffer from a new and more heavy ‘education fever.’ Nowadays, due to the traditional class system collapse, it is believed that almost any Korean can make himself better through his own aspiration. Education is considered as the most powerful way to reach upward social mobility and economic success, and lots of Korean parents think that they can assist their children to gain success by imposing their children’s education (Park 50).
Nowadays, the rapidly increasing amount of young Korean children that are sent to foreign countries by their parents to study has transformed into a social concern in South Korea (Kim). The majority of those children, for example elementary school pupils, has been sent to foreign countries to improve their knowledge in English. Large number of doctors are deeply concerned about psychosocial development of the Korean children, as well as their language and academic development abroad as the second-language learners. This increasing English boom phenomenon in Korea silences issues about young children’s social, linguistic, and academic delayed development (Kim; Park).
Human Resources Development and Ministry of Education statistics report (2006) shows that about 70% (24,199) of the overall 35,144 elementary school students that went overseas in the 2005 school year left for English-speaking countries. This number also included those in Singapore and the Philippines. About a half of those obliged for foreign countries went to North America; 34.6% (12,171) to the U.S. and about 12.6% (4,426) to Canada (Park 54).
Statistics on international students shows that over 25,000 Korean students who went to elementary- and secondary-schools left their home country to study abroad. This tendency has been traced during recent years. Hence, more than 5,000 elementary- and secondary-school students left Korea annually. They were accompanied by their parents who were dispatched abroad as exchange visitors, temporary workers, trainers or intra-company transferees. In total, more than 10,000 people (students with parents) come to the United States annually. The parents of students who accompany them to the U.S. come there to make money. Some of them return to Korea after a few years of study. But a significant number of such students continue to stay in the United States for a college education. In 2009, the total number of Korean international students, including the early-study students and their family members in the United States, reached over 110,000 people. They constitute more than 10% of Korean immigrants in this country.
A lot of international students from Korea mainly contributed to the unusually large number of the temporary Korean immigrant community residents. However, lack of statistics concerning their future place of residence gives no ability to trace whether they find professional or managerial jobs in the U.S. and change their status to permanent residents. Being undergraduate or graduate Korean international students, many of them find jobs as temporary workers. In result, they become permanent residents and legalize their status through the their employers’ sponsorships. In some period of time immigrant children invite their middle-aged and elderly relatives who can apply for green cards after their children become naturalized.
Korea is homogeneous in culture, with education being an important class label. In accordance with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, for Korean students, on time graduation rate reaches 93%. If was compared with the U.S., where the rate of on-time graduation is 72%. Skilled Korean high school teachers earn about 25% more than teachers in the US. Families in Korea spend three times more than families in the United States on education, and more than $200 billion every year on private educational associations. After-school tutoring institutions are rarely seen in the U.S. Korea still remains a teacher-centered and teacher-oriented country, with great amounts of rote memorization necessary, because the main goal is to perform brilliantly on the national university entry exam. Productivity during the test only shows which university a student is able to attend.
Professor Yunhan Hwan from the Gwangju National University of Education did some comparison on what American and Korean middle school students do during their average week. He discovered that while the duration of the school day is the same, Korean students tend to sleep less and conduct less household work per week, spending most of their time doing homework. It makes almost 16 hours, compared to the American students, spending only 3 hours and 40 minutes on their homework. In accordance with the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, Korean students aged 15 did better than their U.S. counterparts in every area of literacy: math, science and reading. However, literacy is not the only wishful result. The new Korean National Curriculum emphasizes individual talent, cleverness and creativity (Spira).
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The report of Korean Educational Development Institute shows that the amount of pre-college students who went abroad only to study increased from about 2,000 in 1995 to almost 30,000 in 2006. That number did not include students, whose parents work or study abroad. The amount has since decreased to more than 18,000 in 2009. American students are different from those who wait until high school or college to study in a foreign country – and usually limit the knowledge to a semester or two – 77% of students from Korea in the U.S. in 2009 attended elementary or middle school, their best time to learn English (Zagier).
To clarify international migration, scientists have found different theories, each of which highlights a specific factor. It is considered that the following four factors are the most important for understanding shifting patterns of Koreans’ immigration to the U.S.: (1) the motivation factors; (2) the immigration law of the United States government and the Korean government immigration policy; (3) the political, economic and military connections between the U.S. and Korea; (4) lightness and globalization of population movement. Previous four factors, shaped in four theories, complete each other to assist us in understanding changes in models of Koreans’ overseas migration to the United States.
The oldest international migration push-pull theory concentrates on individuals’ motivation factors to leave their native land for a new country’s temporary or permanent residence. General motivation factors include economic problems due to famine or industrial structure changes (economic migration), physical insecurity and discrimination due to person’s minority status, and changes in government or refugee migration. The motivation factors include better economic possibilities, better education possibilities for children, and political liberty (refugee migration). The push-pull theory is especially helpful in clarifying the massive migration of Koreans to the U.S. between 1965 and 1990, like pioneer immigrants’ movement from Korea to Hawaii in the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays, the difficulties in receiving a college education in Korea and the relative ease of receiving one in the United States are significant contributing factors in younger or middle-aged Koreans international migration.
The perspective of globalization is helpful in clarifying international migration of people from Korea to the United States during the last few years, particularly insignificant increase in the number of Korean immigrants every year and a great boost in the proportion of Korean status adjusters. When the international labor movement was increasing quite fast, some scholars tried to clarify international migration movement within a world hierarchy. From their point of view, international migration is associated with the creation of the world economic system, where capitalist-free societies are gradually being pushed into the global markets. The intrusion of capitalist economic relationships in developing countries and countries with no capitalism, develops a mobile population that is disposed to capitalist society’s migration. To achieve maximum profits, the managers and owners of capitalist companies in main countries also try to find not only consumers and raw materials, but also workers in provincial countries.
The U.S. government is encouraging the foreign student’s enrollment to the United States colleges and universities for several reasons. Community of the Korean people is one of the rapidly growing groups in California, it does not look like that community plays a proper role in contributing to California’s wealth. It is isolated and with a low voting rate. California’s public organizations do not have a lot of programs planned concerning the Korean community. These could contain educational and cultural programs.
About one-half of the international students in the United States came from Asia, with about 47,000 Japanese and Chinese students each, and about 43,000 Korean students. New York University, Boston University, Columbia University, and the University of Southern California enroll most foreign students – between 4,000 and 5,000 each in the1997–1998 academic year. It is considered that many young Korean students sense high pressure to succeed and are unwilling to talk about any doubts or fears, whether the topic is family’s financial status or their own wealth. A prestigious college in Korea is seen as even more important to wealth, social position and marital perspectives (Zagier).
The statistics represent a concept of the overrepresentation of international students from Korea in the United States. Visits of Korean students’ to foreign countries for undergraduate and postgraduate education are not bound to the United States only. There is a great number of college students from Korea in various English-speaking countries, like Australia, Canada and Great Britain. English-language experience and the college rank are probably the two most significant factors for the Korean job market (Min 19).
Thus, there is no doubt that better economic and educational possibilities in the United States than in Korea were a big pushing factor in the personal choices of Korean immigrants. But it is very difficult to explain the massive migration of Koreans to the United States by only personal psychological motivations of Korean citizens. However, one of the main factors that influences the choice of Korean citizens to migrate to the U.S. in general, and South California in particular, is education which seems to be so attractive and promising. It is also influenced by the fact that American universities, colleges and schools welcome foreign students and provide them with favorable studying conditions. In addition, it is necessary to consider the fact that intense U.S.-Korean army, and political and economic cooperation play a major role that greatly influenced Koreans’ mass migration to the United States.