Half of Koreans don’t return after getting US science degrees
By Jane Han
NEW YORK — Many Korean students leave for the United States with hopes to return and contribute to their home country. But in reality, few end up making their way back, new data shows.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), half of Korean students who obtained their science and engineering doctoral degrees in the United States hadn’t left the country five years after completing their studies.
The most recent report by ORISE looks at the stay rates for foreign students who received their degrees in 2004.
Among the 1,030 Koreans who obtained a science and engineering doctoral degree in the United States in 2004, 42 percent hadn’t returned to Korea as of 2009, based on the data.
This is below the average stay rate of 62 percent, but higher than some countries including Japan and Taiwan.
Countries with some of the highest stay rates include China (89 percent) and India (79 percent).
“Stay rates continue to vary substantially by country of citizenship.
Stay rates observed in 2009 are at or very near the highest levels observed in the recent past,” said Michael Finn, author of the report published this month.
In the nation’s interest, the absence of science and engineering doctorates is a loss. So why are Koreans not returning home? Work and living environment are the biggest reasons, says an official of the Korean- American Scientists and Engineers Association.
“These people have put in an incredible amount of time and effort to pursue their degree so they want to get rewarded for their hard work,” he said, “But a lot times, they don’t get what they’re looking for in Korea.” Returning doctors are mostly dissatisfied with insufficient research facilities and lack of freedom in pursuing their research.
The Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training (KRIVET) asked 454 science and engineering doctors why they want to reside in the U.S. and the No. 1 reason was work environment.
“It is critical for employers in both the private and public sectors to provide an acceptable work environment for these highly-skilled scientists and engineers. If not, we’ll continue to lose them to other countries,” said Jin Mi-seok, researcher at KRIVET.
Children’s education and high living costs are some of the other obstacles holding Koreans with advanced degrees from returning, according to the survey.