Annyeonghaseyo and konnichiwa!
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen both South Korea and Japan sweeping the world by storm with their catchy pop music, tear-jerking dramas and delectable food. So if you’ve always admired the culture and would like to meet your Korean oppa or study in the land of manga and cosplay, why not live the dream and study in one of these unconventional countries?
Curious to know what each nation has to offer? Here are 10 compelling reasons why you should make South Korea and Japan your next study destination.
#1. Gain quality education from acclaimed universities
South Korea: Seoul National University is South Korea’s top university, priding itself for being the country’s first national university.
Japan: Both University of Tokyo and Kyoto University are ranked 8th and 11th respectively in the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2018.
Did you know that both South Korea and Japan practise high education standards and emphasise quality education? In fact, both countries have consistently scored well in global education rankings, which may be why they have continued to attract hundreds of thousands of international students to their campuses.
For starters, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks South Korea and Japan highly for mathematics, science and reading. In fact, Japan has the highest number of universities in the Times Higher Education 2018 Asia University Rankings, with 89 universities in the table, while South Korea has 27 universities listed.
Rest assured, studying in either country will give you a solid education experience.
#2. Satiate your taste buds with round-the-clock food
South Korea: Stave off the chilly winter nights with ramyeon and kimchi jjigae at late-night restaurants in Seoul or Busan.
Japan: Whether its ramen, soba, sushi or donburi, Japan is not short of late-night food stalls and restaurants, conveniently located in busy city areas such as in Shinjuku and Shibuya to keep your hunger pangs at bay.
Can’t survive without your Asian quintessential staple — rice? Fret not, as rice is a must-have for most South Korean and Japanese meals. And if you’re worried about missing your late-night mamak sessions, you’ll be happy to note that many eateries open till late in both countries.
So whether you’re burning the midnight oil studying for your exam or looking for something warm to fill your tummy during the cold winter nights, you are bound to stumble into quaint hole-in-the-wall diners or food stalls perched by the street, catering to the night owls of the city.
#3. Learn from the uniqueness of their culture
South Korea: Be amazed at how cashless the South Koreans are, and how everyone takes great pride in their appearance, including men!
Japan: Witness the ever-polite and always-punctual Japanese in action, where a Japanese railway company apologised for departing just 20 seconds early.
Living abroad can be a great non-academic learning experience — it opens your eyes (and mind!) to different cultures, in addition to helping you gain invaluable experiences in the process.
In South Korea, you will notice that South Koreans are quick to whip out their credit cards when making payments. In fact, only 20% of transactions are cash-based! Another distinct feature of South Korean culture is their high beauty standards, where more than over 10% of beauty product sales are from men.
Meanwhile, you’re probably familiar with the 45-degree bows from the Japanese, as bowing is seen as a sign of appreciation, respect and gratitude. Punctuality is also important in Japanese culture. As a country that places emphasis on time, it is considered rude to be late for anything!
While it may take some time getting used to each country’s idiosyncrasies, adapting to new customs and cultures will help you become more confident, independent and mature.
#4. Immerse yourself in time-old traditions
Japan: Learn how to tie a kimono and take part in the elaborate art of making Japanese tea.
The best part about studying overseas is immersing yourself in the local culture and experiencing its food, sights and sounds that will not only help you grow on a personal and professional scale but also mould you to become more open-minded.
Similarly, Japan and South Korea are rich with cultures and traditions that have been around for over 2,000 years, seen even till this day. You can expect women in traditional garb strolling the busiest streets of Seoul and Tokyo, reflecting the harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.
#5. Participate in quirky year-round festivities
South Korea: Wrestle in mud during the Boryeong Mud Festival or give thanks during Chuseok, the Korean interpretation of Thanksgiving Day.
Japan: Watch men wrestle each other over a pair of sacred sticks wearing nothing but a loincloth at the Hakada Matsuri (Naked Festival), or the parading of a large phallus at the Kanamara Matsuri (Penis Festival). Not cool enough? Swear your lungs out at the Akutai Matsuri (Cursing Festival).
The South Koreans and Japanese are not short of merrymaking — there are traditional festivals and ceremonies in major cities and friendly rural villages throughout the year, such as the annual New Year celebrations (Seollal in Korea or Shōgatsu in Japan). Don’t forget to nosh on foods typically served during such occasions, such as tteokguk, a traditional rice cake soup in South Korea, or mochi in Japan.
Clearly both countries are not short of revelries.
#6. Enjoy 24/7 entertainment — anywhere, anytime
South Korea: Catch a late 1am movie at cinemas that operate until 3am.
Japan: Sing your lungs out at 24-hour karaoke joints.
If you’re a night owl who loves gaming and singing, then you’re in for a treat!
Seoul is a hub of 24-hour entertainment — places such as Shindong’s DraQura PC Castle, a Dracula-themed internet cafe, will let you game at all hours of the day, while Megabox Dongdaemun, a movie theatre, plays movies till 3am! There’s even Labono hair and makeup, a 24-hour salon to get you looking glamorous at any time of the day.
Meanwhile, you’ll be happy to note that karaoke is a favourite pastime in Japan, with many outlets open 24 hours a day. There are also 24-hour internet cafes, such as Manboo!, where you can go through aisles of manga or play online games when you need to de-stress from studying.
#7. Revel in futuristic automation and technology
South Korea: Tired after attending a long day of classes and realising that you have no food at home? If you’re travelling via the Seolleung station in Seoul, you can purchase your groceries via your smartphone by scanning the items you want on a billboard and have your groceries delivered right to your doorstep!
Japan: Get checked-in by a robot dinosaur at a hotel in Nagasaki, tuck into okonomiyakis prepared by robot chefs or help yourself to a wide variety of items (both useful and strange!) at one of Japan’s 5.52 million vending machines.
South Korea and Japan are widely known for their technological advancements, with many tech giants making a name for themselves in international markets (think Samsung, LG and Sony).
As a student, you’ll be amazed at their technology, many of which can’t be found in Malaysia (not yet, anyway!). From the heated toilet seats that will match your body temperature in Japan to enjoying lightning-speed internet connection in South Korea (the fastest in the world!), clearly living in these countries will leave you spoiled with life’s best pleasures.
#8. Spend your weekends visiting scenic, Instagram-worthy locations
South Korea: Go palace-hopping to get a feel of how South Korean royalty used to live or get your dose of nature by exploring green tea plantations, reservoirs and stunning mountains.
Japan: Feast your eyes on Japan’s historical buildings, shrines and temples for a snapshot of the Land of the Rising Sun’s cultural treasures or bask in the majestic sceneries of its resplendent gardens and national parks to satiate your love of nature.
Both South Korea and Japan are home to some breathtaking sceneries that look like they’re right out of a postcard. The best part? You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy them!
Be prepared to get awestruck by the lush greenery of the Boseong Green Tea Field, South Korea’s largest tea plantation, or get a feel of old South Korea when you visit the Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, home to traditional houses (hanok), or the Naganeupseong Folk Village in Suncheon where the straw-roofed houses give you a nostalgic feel.
Meanwhile, in Japan, you can visit Shinto shrines for free, while there are also free guided tours in Tokyo and Nara. For less than RM20 (depending on the season), you can also walk through a wisteria flower tunnel at the Kawachi Fujien Wisteria Garden in Fukouka, which is bound to make you feel at your most zen. Can’t get enough? Feel the tranquility of one of Tokyo’s largest parks at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and revel in the beauty of flowering cherry trees.
#9. Get flawless skin with globally-recognised cosmetics
South Korea: Adopt the 10-step beauty routine and amp up your beauty arsenal with the country’s innovative products.
Japan: Get soft, flawless skin and lustrous shiny hair — the Japanese way — when you use products with popular Japanese ingredients such as rice and camellia oil (tsubaki).
Both South Korean and Japanese skincare products have a cult following for a reason! No doubt you have heard of famous brands such as Hada Labo and SK-II (Japan) and Innisfree and Laneige (South Korea) in Malaysia.
However, one of the perks of studying in Japan or South Korea is that you are never far from a wide range of make-up and skincare products sold at pharmacies and department stores!
Both countries have produced strange yet innovative cosmetics, from face creams and serums to face masks made from a variety of unusual ingredients, such as sheep placenta and fermented soybeans. Some South Korean products include stranger ingredients such as snail slime, bee venom and salmon eggs!
No doubt, whether you end up in South Korea or Japan, you’ll be game to amp up your beauty arsenal in your quest for flawless skin in the land where skincare is everything.
#10. Explore employment opportunities after graduation
South Korea: Work in Asia’s fourth-largest economy and apply to work in world-renowned companies such as Samsung and Hyundai upon graduation.
Japan: The Japanese government has “set a goal of raising the employment rate of foreign students in Japan from around 30% at present to 50% by 2020”.
Keen on extending your East Asian cultural adventure after you graduate? Well, here’s some great news for you! Both the South Korean and Japanese government have been taking steps to help talented foreign students find employment in their countries.
South Korea, for instance, is helping skilled foreign students find work in the country’s booming manufacturing industry by easing work visa rules. In addition, visa rules have been relaxed to allow small and medium-sized companies hire foreign students with a Korean degree.
Japan, on the other hand, is offering help to international students from Japanese universities by subsidising internships and Japanese language courses, as well as helping students find jobs after graduation.
So with your cultural exposure and your basic understanding of the local language, you may just improve your chances of gaining the coveted opportunity to work overseas!
And there you have it! Studying in South Korea and Japan will help you pick up a new language, experience new cultures and grow as an individual. There’s no doubt that whichever country you choose, you’re bound to enjoy a quality education coupled with an exciting student life experience! So study abroad, build your international network and the world will be your oyster!
Want to study in South Korea or Japan? Here’s how you can do it at INTEC.
Here’s what some INTEC students have to say about their experience…
I believe that INTEC is one of the top institutions in Malaysia for students who want to continue their studies in Korea. The overall course in INTEC covers the formal and informal prerequisites seamlessly and prepares the students with proper language competency, living skills and study tools for them to succeed well in Korea.
I learnt that one should not hesitate to depend on those around when you are troubled to move forward. I am grateful to those who have supported me all this time.