TheKoreanGuide is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

Is Public School Free in Korea?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

Korea is known for their top of the line education system, however, it comes at a cost. Public school is only free for primary and middle school grades. Once a student is ready for secondary school, they will have to pay per school year. Korea’s students will receive six years of free education at primary school, and an additional three years of middle school for free.

There are many private schools in Korea focused on vocational studies. Pupils will always have to pay a tuition fee to attend private school. This helps to limit the number of kids in each class for higher education. Education in Korea is taken very seriously, and it’s important for a good future living in the country.

Primary and secondary education is different because high school is focused on more testing to prepare students for junior colleges and universities. On this page, we’re going to discuss the cost of South Korean education and how much high school students have to pay to attend these programs.

Is High School Free in Korea?

Public secondary schools in South Korea are not free for kids to attend. The education system in South Korea is a lot different than in Western countries, and high school is not mandatory. This is why many Koreans attend vocational high schools to focus their education in a specific direction. Vocational education and training is very common among K pop idols.

Although the Korean government didn’t make high schools compulsory in the country, the majority of South Korean people still attend these schools to further their education. It’s necessary for Korean students to get good grades in high school to get into university.

How Much Is Public School in Korea?

High schools across South Korea have tuition fees that must be paid to the education offices. Both private and public school education needs to be paid for. However, the fees at public high schools are a lot lower than private and vocational schools.

Public high school education in Korea is fairly affordable. Most kids pay between $1,000 to $1,500 USD to attend each year. Since high school is only for 3 years in Korea, most students will pay between $3,000 to $4,500 for admission fees for public education.

To kids from the US, this may seem like a high price for high school. The national curriculum in the Korean education system is a lot more advanced than in US high schools. On average, 98 percent of students in Korea complete three years of high school. For students, education is very serious in Korea.

Can a Foreigner Go to A Korean School?

Korea’s ministry of education is well respected all around the world. The students are very well educated and school graduates are welcome to many great opportunities. Korea is one of the top countries for public and private education. This is why many foreigners want to receive a Korean education.

If a foreign student has one parent with a legal visa in Korea, they are allowed to attend Korean schools. Public elementary school and middle schools are both free for foreign students. However, they will have to pay the same admission fees as Korean students to attend public or private high schools.

Even if a student doesn’t have a parent in Korea, they can apply to attend secondary school or university through one of the foreign exchange programs.

Important Things to Know Before Attending a Korean School

Foreign students are welcome to receive a Korea education. However, to join a class with other Korean students, they will need to be fluent in Korean. This is because every lesson, except for foreign language, is taught in national Korean language. Everything from social studies to physical education is taught using Korean.

Foreign pupils who come to receive an education with Korea’s school system can apply to go to international schools. These foreign schools hire school teachers who are fluent in the English language.

Schools for foreign students are treated similarly to private school, and will cost a lot more than the public secondary schools’ tuition. Many pupils pay between $20,000 to $50,000 USD to attend one of these schools for a year. This limits the number of students in each class for higher education.

How to Get Into a Korean School

International students who are familiar with reading and speaking Korea’s language can apply to attend a public high school through one of Korea’s foreign exchange programs. These programs cost approximately $15,000 USD.

The ministry of education openly welcomes foreign students to receive a Korea education at their school level. Pupils who want to attend a school in Korea are to contact the education office at the school they want to attend for information on admission and fees.

Is Studying in Korea Worth It?

Many pupils who are serious about their education believe studying in Korea is worth it because it pushes them to do their best. The school system in South Korea is highly competitive, making sure pupils and teachers are always prepared for higher education.

Secondary school teachers are constantly testing the pupils to make sure they are learning up to speed. If an international student attends a Korean school, they will be challenged to succeed, leading them to great opportunities for their future studies and career.

The Costs of Studying in Korea

The cost of studying will depend on which type of school the student is attending. The private kindergartens range between $50 and $400 USD per month.

Once a student advances to elementary schools, they only pay if they are attending a private school. These admission prices start at $15,000 and can reach as high as $30,000 USD per year.

Middle school students can receive free public education but will pay just as much for private school as primary and secondary school kids would pay.

What It’s Like Living in Korea?

Living in Korea is a great experience for younger people, especially if they want to learn more about Korean history and learn how to speak the language fluently. The cost of living is reasonable, which makes it easy to prepare to study internationally.

Korean culture is also very interesting to Western travelers. In South Korea, there is public transportation operating all the time, allowing people to see more of the country when they aren’t at school.

A lot of people want to attend Korean universities just to see the beautiful scenery and be around friendly people. This educational experience is worth it for many people.


Public school is free for primary and middle school aged children. This is because all primary and middle school courses are mandatory by the Korean government. High school isn’t a requirement, but 98 percent of Koreans attend a high school because they take education very seriously. This means the Korean curriculum is a lot different than what US schools look like.

Any foreign students benefit from traveling to Korea for a competitive education experience. They also get to learn more about the language and culture. Secondary school and university prices are lower for public schools than they are for private. However, many privates schools focus on vocational experiences, making them worth the high admission prices.

Enjoy the article?

You'll love my daily email! Learn something new about South Korea every single day. It's completely free. <3

    About The Author

    Photo of author

    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

    You May Also Like