Last year a record number of foreign students chose the country, showing an 18% growth since the previous year and jumping to a total of 123,850 students according to data released by the National Institute of International Education.
The majority (55%) of students came from China, followed by Vietnam, Mongolia and Japan, but the US sent 2,767 students and France 1,344.
“K-pop was like the door that opened up for my visit to Korea”
The newspaper argues that the increased diversity of international students in the country may be down to what it calls “K-Pop migrants”.
Born in the mid-90s as a musical genre, K-Pop (which stands for Korean Pop) has generated armies of fans around the world and often made headlines. Some consider it an instrument of soft-power for South Korea.
The rise in students from France is, according to the Korea Times, “eye-catching” – an example of how K-pop may have drawn youngsters to the country. Apparently, French students started flocking in since 2012, a year after Psy graced Paris with a performance of “Gangnam Style”.
Commenting on the figures, a professor at the Foreign Languages Department at Kansai Gaidai University of Japan told the Korea Times that the increase in “non-Asian, white students” has to do with K-pop driven migration.
A student from Sweden attending Seoul National University admitted to the Korea Times that she would have never been interested in Korea without K-pop.
“K-pop was like the door that opened up for my visit to Korea,” she said.
In 2015, the Korean ministry of education revamped efforts to attract foreign students after three years of falling enrolments – which affected both international and domestic students.
The country also has set up a number of partnerships, including an exchange program with EU universities which doubled the number of students from the EU in the year 2014/2015.