Foreign academics don’t seem to be enjoying their stay in Korea, and the Chosun Ilbo asks why:

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which opened just 20 years ago, is ranked top among Asian universities because of its bold initiative to fill 80 percent of faculty seats with foreign staff from 30 different countries. The prestigious University of Vienna is required by law to fill two-thirds of its faculty with foreign academics.

If Korean universities are to become genuinely competitive on a global level, they need to open their doors further. They need to take a close look at why foreign professors are leaving and work with the government to prevent it.

The Chosun cites the inability of many Korean universities to afford bringing over the academics’ families and the ostracization of foreign staff at meetings, which are usually conducted in Korean. Students shun foreign staff, too, even if the professor is a Nobel laureate:

The biggest obstacle is a campus environment where communicating in a foreign language is extremely difficult. Even master’s and doctoral candidates shun the lectures of foreign faculty, making it tough for many of them to set up their own research teams. Only 21 students applied for the macroeconomics course Sargent offered when it was open to 250.

Mind you, there are quite a few Korean PhDs who seem to think Korean universities have too many foreign professors already, or at least that foreigners get hired too easily. Korean professors, meanwhile, have been complaining for some time that they aren’t treated as equals, although I don’t know if conditions have improved in recent years. As the link before last also reports, many foreign professors are hired on a contract basis as a cost-saving measure and are replaced every couple of years.

The language issue aside, I wonder if perhaps Korea’s academic environment might also discourage foreign professors from staying—see the trouble at KAIST two years ago.