New arrangement will bring Korean university students to Canada

An agreement between a Canadian ESL service and a Korean-based recruiting agency projects to increase the number of Korean university students in Canada

SungJin Ahn says living in Halifax allows him to balance the social and academic aspects of university life. For Ahn, that includes running the Dalhousie University Korean Association. 
Photo: Jake Saltzman

A business agreement reached last week between two agencies at opposite ends of globe will have major implications on Canada’s international university community.

Loyalist Group Ltd., a Canadian-based agency operating more than 20 English-as-a-second-language (ESL) schools across Canada, has signed an agreement to take over Kim Okran International Studies Centre, a South Korean recruiting service. Kim Okran recruits Korean students interested in studying internationally and helps them complete the registration process needed to study abroad.

Loyalist’s Halifax location, King George International College (KGIC) Halifax, provides ESL courses for students as young as six years old. For university-level students, KGIC offers power speaking and media communications classes in addition to ESL. While some KGIC students are enrolled in university, others are learning English while in Canada on travel visas.

Tony Kim, Loyalist Group’s president of operations, says the acquisition will significantly increase the number of Korean students studying in Canada.

“We expect it to be like day and night with Korean students,” says Kim, who anticipates a rise in the number of Koreans taking classes at Loyalist schools across the country.

“It will be very interesting. Many Korean students we have actually prefer small cities (like Halifax and Victoria) to Toronto and Vancouver.”

Big city appeal

SungJin Ahn, president of the Dalhousie University Korean Association (DUKA), is one of those students who prefers the feel of a smaller city. Ahn says living in Halifax as a member of the Korean community forces him to speak English more than he would if he attended university in Toronto or Vancouver.

“Many of my friends in bigger cities only hang around with other Koreans,” says Ahn.

“They feel Halifax is too small. But when you only are around Koreans, you don’t ever need to speak English.”

Ahn first came to Canada as a high school student. He enrolled in high school in Moncton for one year, but had to return to South Korea to earn money for university and fulfill two years of mandatory military service.

Ahn says he wishes DUKA could be more active. He says many of its members prefer isolated study than group events. He would welcome an influx of Korean students to Halifax, but says many Koreans looking at studying in Canada prefer bigger cities.

To be an international university student in Canada, students must be proficient English speakers. International students who didn’t take English in high school can take a test, take ESL classes at a private school (like KGIC and Loyalist’s other schools) or take a university-taught ESL course. Ahn says there are four private ESL schools in Halifax, but most of the students who use that service are only in Halifax on travel visas. Out of 60 DUKA members, Ahn estimates fewer than 10 took private ESL classes.

“Most Koreans in Halifax want to come and learn English (and go back to Korea),” Ahn says.

“Earning a university degree is separate.”

Due to Loyalist’s Kim Okran deal Ahn says he wouldn’t be surprised if the number of Korean university students in Halifax grows quickly. Currently, he says, there are more students in the DUKA than there are Korean students enrolled at Saint Mary’s and MSVU.