U.S. Scholar Program

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The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in Korea offers awards in three different categories to support international educational and cultural exchange through teaching, research, and seminars. These three award categories are the:

  • Distinguished Scholar at Yonsei University
  • U.S. Scholar Research or Teaching/Research Program (All Disciplines)
  • U.S.-Korea International Education Administrators Program

Approximately 20 awards are offered across these three categories each year, including up to two distinguished scholar awards, ten research or teaching/research awards, and eight administrator awards. Awards vary in length from short, two-week seminars for administrators to 10-month opportunities for academics, artists, and professionals.

The Fulbright Program in Korea seeks to build mutual understanding and to share knowledge across communities while enhancing the lives of grantees. As part of the United States Government’s flagship international exchange program, Fulbright grantees join a global network striving to promote a more peaceful world. In the process, grantees enrich educations, advance careers, and make meaningful contributions to the communities, and the world, in which they live.



Early Beginnings Interrupted by War

The start of the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in Korea can be traced back to April 28, 1950. On this day, a unified Korea became one of the first twenty countries in the world to establish a Fulbright agreement for the financing of educational exchange with the United States. It would be another ten years, however, before the Fulbright Program could be implemented in Korea due to the eruption of war on the Korean peninsula only about two months after the signing of the initial agreement. The effect of the Korean War, and its aftermath, cannot be understated as the armistice which ended the Korean War in mid-1953 continues to this day. It is out of this aftermath that Korea and the Fulbright Program in Korea grew, with development in one paralleling and interacting with development in the other.


Educational Exchange in Korea

Although the eruption of the Korean War essentially put the Fulbright Program in Korea on pause for a decade, intercultural and educational exchange between Korea and the United States did not wholly cease during the period between the signing of the original Fulbright agreement in 1950 and its subsequent reenactment in 1960. An estimated 36 to 47 American students, teachers, professors, and specialists visited Korea through U.S. government sponsorship between 1949 and 1961.

With the reenactment of the Fulbright agreement in 1960, the first Fulbright Scholars to Korea soon arrived. Landing in Korea on April 14, 1961, the first of these scholars was Dr. Belle Boone Beard of Sweet Briar College, Virginia, who lectured in sociology and gerontology at Seoul National University and Seoul Women’s College (now Seoul Women’s University).

At the time of Dr. Belle Boone Beard’s arrival in 1961, the Fulbright Program’s greatest priority was to assist Korea in national development as it remained economically quite poor. Coupled with this focus on national development was a focus on the development of Korea’s weak higher education system. Recalling Korea’s early higher education system, Fulbright alumnus Dr. Wong Yon Kyun, Emeritus Professor in Economics at Chung-Ang University, spoke of the lack of opportunities for advanced studies in his field, noting that:

“There were no programs for doctoral degrees at Korean universities, and even master’s degree programs were not organized into a curriculum. At national universities, each undergraduate class was crammed with 100 to 200 students. Overburdened with the crowded classes, professors had no time to prepare for teaching graduate students.”

With few Korean professors holding doctorates and graduate education almost nonexistent, a key part of the Fulbright Program’s purpose was to help rebuild Korea’s intellectual human resources. To do this, American scholars were needed in every field.

American scholars also learned much from their experiences in Korea, a country about which many Americans knew little in the 1960s, outside of the United States’ involvement in the war.


Fulbright Fact

Although Senator Fulbright would not make his first visit to South Korea until 1990, at age 85, his wife, Harriet Mayor Fulbright, had lived in Korea for approximately two years, from 1958 to 1960, during which time she taught English at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. When requested by her husband to show him around Seoul in 1990, Harriet Fulbright noted that “…I had to tell him I couldn’t possibly show him anything because Seoul now looks like New York City.”


Program Development

The close attention given to matters of national development by the Fulbright Program in Korea extended into the 1970s, but as the economic situation transformed in Korea, the program transformed with it, remaining responsive to the needs and trends in Korea more broadly as it underwent rapid industrialization to become an “economic miracle,” as it is frequently styled.  Accordingly, the program modified its thematic emphasis from national development to “problems unique to man in a rapidly industrializing society” in the mid-1970s.

The 1970s also saw modification in the binational agreement between the United States and Korea as, in 1972, the Fulbright commission changed its name from the United States Educational Commission in Korea (USEC/K) to its present name, the Korean-American Educational Commission (KAEC). This was done to recognize the truly binational nature of the commission and of the Fulbright Program in Korea, which was increasingly supported financially by the Korean Government.

By the 1980s, Korea had left behind its status as a developing country, and the Fulbright Program once again shifted focus, responding to strides in computing, information technology and communications that would also characterize the 1990s and would play a key role in the country’s advancement. In addition to communications and education, international finance and trade emerged as programmatic interests in the 1980s, with Korea recognized as a significant trading partner of the United States. Broader recognition of Korea’s place on the world economic stage was firmly established when it became part of the OECD in 1996.

Throughout this time, the Fulbright Program in Korea maintained, as it does to this day, the wider purpose of building mutual understanding and sharing knowledge across communities through the strengthening of Korean Studies in the United States and American Studies in Korea. Toward this end, Fulbright Korea has expanded the award programs it offers over the years, partnering with universities, such as Yonsei, to offer special teaching awards, and establishing the U.S.-Korea International Education Administrator Program to expand understanding of both countries’ higher education systems.


Fulbright’s Global Network

Today, U.S. Fulbright researchers, lecturers, and educational administrators to Korea become part of a global network of nearly 400,000 Fulbright exchange participants who have made meaningful contributions to the building of cooperation and peace over the program’s history. In today’s complex and changing world, the continued place of international educational and cultural exchange in creating lasting connections and mutual understanding has never been more apparent and never more needed. The Fulbright Program in Korea is honored to continue its legacy of supporting U.S. Scholars for the betterment of the United States, Korea, and the world.

To apply for the U.S. Scholar Program, visit fulbrightscholars.org

To learn more about the Fulbright Program’s history in Korea, read Fulbright in Korea’s Future.

Distinguished Scholar Award at Yonsei University

Established in April 2003, and reinstated in May 2017, the Distinguished Scholar Award at Yonsei University aims to enhance relations between the peoples of the Republic of Korea and the United States of America, to promote internationalization of Korean higher education, and to increase cooperation for the improvement of education and research at Korean universities.

Distinguished scholars are sought in all academic disciplines, with awards available for one or two academic semesters (4 or 10 months, respectively). Distinguished scholars are anticipated to participate in the research and academic life of the department in which they are placed, while teaching one course (graduate or undergraduate) each semester of residence. Courses will be selected in consultation with the appropriate department at Yonsei University.

Distinguished scholars are provided a monthly stipend of approximately $7,000 (in Korean won). Additional grant benefits include round-trip airfare, furnished housing, on-campus office space, an exclusively assigned assistant, and health benefits through the U.S. Department of State’s ASPE plan. Dependent support is available.

To apply for the Distinguished Scholar Award at Yonsei University, visit fulbrightscholars.org


About Yonsei University

With roots hailing back to 1885, the history of Yonsei University spans a period of remarkable economic, political, and societal change in Korea. The foundation of the university, springing from the establishment of the first “modern” hospital in the nation on April 10, 1885, under the direction of Dr. Horace Newton Allen, is an apt representation of the longstanding effects of educational and cultural exchange between Korea and the United States, exchange which continues to this day. Considered one of the most “internationalized” universities in Korea, Yonsei is highly regarded as one of Korea’s three “SKY” universities (along with Seoul National University and Korea University), making it a popular educational destination for the international exchange of students and scholars worldwide. Yonsei’s main campus in Sinchon, Seoul boasts 13 colleges and 14 graduate schools housing a number of research centers. Its international campus, located in Incheon, was established in 2010.

For more information about Yonsei University, visit www.yonsei.ac.kr

Scholar Research or Teaching/Research Program

Since the 1960s, the Fulbright Program has played an active role in supporting and promoting the work of American scholars in Korea. In the days following the end of the Korean War, the program’s primary goal was to foster Korea’s national development. Today, this goal has expanded as the program now fosters a truly reciprocal exchange of cultural, intellectual, and educational insights between academics, artists, and professionals in Korea and the United States.

Research and teaching/research scholars are sought in all academic, professional, and artistic disciplines. Awards of 3 to 10 months are available, with the broad requirement that grant projects demonstrate a particular focus on Korea or be comparative in nature.

  • Research includes activities involving scientific research, qualitative research, and practice-based research, including artistic research. Research can take place in locations such as the laboratory, the field, archives, or an artist residency. It can be experimental, clinical, or applied. It can include examining policies, systems, theories, methods, interactions, and works of art and music, with the objective to evaluate or develop new knowledge or works. Quantifiable (tangible) outcomes can include publications (books, journal articles, scripts, etc.), conference presentations, artistic and musical compositions, exhibitions, performances, films, and patents.
  • Teaching includes classroom teaching, as well as giving guest lectures, workshops, and seminars, and engaging in other related activities. Classroom teaching may be at the undergraduate or graduate level, designed by the scholar or prescribed by the host institution, and taught or co-taught by the scholar. Scholars may also consult on building research capacity, advise graduate students, and assist with thesis advising. Teaching activities may vary in accordance with the preference of the scholar and the needs of the proposed host institution.

Candidates applying for a teaching/research award may propose any combination of such activities.

Projects must be undertaken in affiliation with an appropriate Korean host institution. Appropriate institutions include nonprofit institutions of higher education and research, authenticated colleges, authenticated universities, libraries, archives, museums, arts centers, hospitals, public television and radio stations, government agencies, national laboratories, privately sponsored nonprofit institutes, nonprofit organizations, government charted nonprofit research organizations, and foundations.

Example host institutions of past scholars include:

  • Chung-Ang University
  • Chungbuk National University
  • Chungkang College of Cultural Industries
  • Chungnam National University
  • Donbang Culture University
  • Dongguk University
  • Ewha Womans University
  • Gwangju Metropolitan city 5.18 Archives
  • Gyeongju National Museum
  • Hallym University
  • Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
  • Hannam University
  • Hanyang University
  • Hongik University
  • Inje University
  • Jeju National University
  • Jeonbuk National University
  • Kongju National University
  • Konkuk University
  • Kookmin University
  • Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
  • Korea University
  • Korea National University of the Arts
  • Korea National University of Cultural Heritage
  • Korea Nazarene University
  • Korean Film Archive
  • Kyung Hee University
  • Methodist Theological University
  • Nam Seoul University
  • Pukyong National University
  • Pusan National University
  • Seoul Institute of the Arts
  • Seoul National University
  • Sogang University
  • Sookmyung Women’s University
  • Soongsil University
  • SungKongHoe University
  • Sungkyunkwan University
  • University of Science and Technology
  • University of Seoul
  • Yonsei University

For more information on award benefits and requirements, and to apply, visit fulbrightscholars.org

American International Education Administrators (AIEA) Program

Established in 1995, the U.S.-Korea International Education Administrators Program is also known as the American International Education Administrators (AIEA) Program. Open to individuals involved directly with students in the promotion of international education, either through higher education institutions or non-profit exchange organizations in the U.S., the program offers two weeks of guided exposure to the Korean higher education system. AIEA grantees visit colleges and universities, as well as government and private sector agencies, and meet with relevant personnel in order to become acquainted with the philosophy, organization, and management of Korean higher and international education programs.

The first week of visits for AIEA grantees is typically spent in Seoul, home to over 80 of the nation’s higher education institutions, and the second week of visits is spent outside of Seoul, offering an opportunity to explore international education in a range of urban, suburban, and rural localities. Cultural excursions supplement professional and academic visits.

Grant benefits include round-trip airfare, lodging, and per diem.

To apply for the U.S.-Korea International Education Administrators Program, visit fulbrightscholars.org


About Higher Education in Korea

Often referred to as an “educational powerhouse,” Korea places a distinct value on education linked to early recognition of its importance in economic mobility and development throughout Korea’s history, and particularly its history since the Korean War in the early 1950s. As with the rest of the country, Korea’s higher education system has seen rapid growth since the end of the Korean War. Today, Korea boasts over 400 higher education institutions, primarily categorized as junior/community colleges (2-3 years), universities (4 years), and graduate schools.

With the spread in popularity of Korean culture, language, and arts worldwide, popularly known as the “Hallyu Wave,” Korean higher education institutions have seen an increase in the number of international students choosing to pursue advanced study in Korea. According to the 2020 Open Doors report, published by the Institute for International Education (IIE), during the 2018-2019 academic year, South Korea ranked 16th among the top 25 destinations of U.S. study abroad students. This represents a significant increase in ranking as, according to the 2019 Open Doors Report, during the previous academic year in 2017-2018, Korea ranked only 20th. The ranking increase reflects a 16% increase in the number of U.S. students studying abroad in Korea between the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years.

Useful links for learning about international education and higher education in Korea include:

Applications for the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program must be submitted through the webpage for the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) at fulbrightscholars.org

The deadline for the 2023-2024 academic/program year is September 15, 2022, for most Scholar awards. For a timeline of the award application and review process, visit fulbrightscholars.org

Applicants must be citizens of the United States of America at the time of application. Permanent residents are not eligible.

Applicants holding Korean citizenship/nationality at the time of award acceptance are not eligible for U.S. Fulbright awards to Korea. Please see the U.S. Program Applicant Advisory for more information.

No, all U.S. Fulbright Program grantees to Korea must obtain an A-3 visa and enter the country on a U.S. passport. No other visa status will be accepted. Please see the U.S. Program Applicant Advisory for more information.

Individuals who have resided abroad for five or more consecutive years in the six-year period preceding the application deadline are ineligible for award consideration. A period of nine months or more during a calendar year constitutes a full year.

Recipients of a Fulbright Scholar award are eligible to apply for another award two years after the date of completion of the previous award. Preference will be given to applicants who have not previously received a Scholar award.

Fulbright Korea’s Research Scholar Program is open to professionals from all disciplines.

Professionals can also apply for the U.S.-Korea International Education Administrators Program, or a number of specialist programs, including the Global Scholar Award, the Distinguished Award in Teaching, and the Senior Specialist Program.

No, awards cannot be deferred to a subsequent program/academic year.

All scholarships, fellowships, or grants from other sources, in dollars or foreign currency, received concurrently with a Fulbright award must be reported to KAEC. Adjustments in the Fulbright award may be made if such funds duplicate benefits provided under the terms of the Fulbright award.

In principle, Scholar awards to Korea are not extendable/renewable.

Some awards are only available with specific Korean host institutions (e.g., Distinguished Scholar at Yonsei University, Peace Studies (Teaching) Program at Kyung Hee University). Others can be done with any number of affiliates in Korea.

Please see the program pages of the Research and Teaching/Research programs for a list of example host institutions which have supported scholars in the past. More information about Korea’s robust higher education system and institutions can also be found at www.studyinkorea.go.kr or www.moe.go.kr

Letter of invitation requirements vary according to the specific Scholar award for which you are applying. Please visit cies.org for application requirements.

No, there are no Korean language requirements for Scholar awards to Korea. However, if undertaking research in Korea, a scholar should have sufficient Korean language proficiency to successfully complete their proposed research project.

Fulbright Scholars are allowed a total of 7-14 days of personal leave, depending on their award period length, to travel internationally. Professional, grant-related absences are, in theory, unlimited. However, as the purpose of the Scholar award to Korea is to participate in international cultural and educational exchange within Korea, extensive professional absences outside of Korea will not be allowed during the award period.

Some short-term professional absences within the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region may be supported through the Regional Travel Program.

Scholars wishing to pursue a multi-country Fulbright award may want to apply specifically for the Fulbright Global Scholar Award.

A typical Scholar award of 3 months or more includes a monthly maintenance allowance and a monthly housing allowance (if housing is not provided by the Korean host institution), as well as round-trip airfare, a baggage allowance, a settling-in allowance, and an incidental allowance for miscellaneous research or teaching expenses. Health benefits are provided through the U.S. Department of State’s ASPE plan. Dependent support is also typically available. For more information about award stipends and benefits, please visit cies.org

Fulbright Korea recognizes that receiving a Fulbright award is an opportunity not only for a scholar, but also for their family. Dependent support is typically included in Scholar awards, with the amount of support varying according to award length and the number of accompanying dependents. For more information about dependent support, please visit cies.org