The Korea Herald


S. Korea to introduce stipend for graduate students in tech push

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Feb. 16, 2024 - 16:17

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) salutes to the national flag with participants in the 12th session of the public debate to discuss South Korea's policy agenda held in Daejeon on Friday. (Pool photo via Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) salutes to the national flag with participants in the 12th session of the public debate to discuss South Korea's policy agenda held in Daejeon on Friday. (Pool photo via Yonhap)

South Korea on Friday unveiled plans to introduce a basic allowance for graduate students taking part in state-sponsored scientific projects, in high hopes of boosting the nation's scientific research capabilities.

Any master's degree student in Korea who contributes to state-backed research will receive at least an 800,000 won ($600) stipend each month regardless of the amount of work done. The amount of the allowance will be at least 1.1 million won for an eligible doctor's degree student.

The stipend policy has already been in place in four Korean tertiary institutions including the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Following Friday's announcement, more universities will gradually start adopting the stipend policy in 2025.

President Yoon Suk Yeol said the move has been long-awaited by the science and technology community here over the past 20 years, during the opening remarks at the policy debate held in Daejeon, Friday.

"(The government) will lay all-out measures to support the students in the science and technology field to relieve their burden on their tuition and the cost of living, and at the same time help them focus on their study and research," Yoon said.

"We must nurture the best and the brightest to help South Korea gain a competitive edge when it comes to the level of scientific and technological achievement,"

This was among a set of measures Friday to encourage more talents in the field of science and technology to pursue graduate programs.

The graduate students will also be eligible for a presidential scholarship of 25 million won annually on average. Only undergraduates have been able to apply for the presidential scholarship since its commencement in 2003.

For this year, a total of 120 graduate students will be selected in March for the scholarship. Each PhD student will be given 2 million won monthly while each master's degree student will get 1.5 million won. About 500 undergraduates will also be recipients of the presidential scholarship this year.

Moreover, some 1,400 new state-sponsored science projects will be created in 2024. More students will be given chances to apply for the Sejong Science Fellowship, with 130 billion won -- up over 40 percent from the previous year -- being assigned for the about 1,300 new and ongoing projects for this year.

Sixteen state-backed research institutions will no longer be subject to regulations as state-run companies, such as the upper bar set for the number of employees and human resources-related spending, according to the government.

Yoon on Friday also renewed his promise to create a new industrial cluster in Daejeon by 2026 dedicated to nano-technology and semiconductor-related technology in a 3.46 trillion-won project. Daejeon's urban infrastructure will also be revamped by establishing a new commuter train network connecting Daejeon with the administrative capital Sejong and other key cities in North and South Chungcheong Provinces.

Daejeon, the nation's scientific hub, houses over 17,000 researchers who obtained PhD degrees or above, seven universities, 26 state-backed research institutions and over 2,400 enterprises. This setting enables the city to generate 21 trillion won of value added -- or total industrial output minus cost of intermediate input, Yoon said.

The conservative administration has been criticized for its controversial decision in December to cut state spending on national research and development by 15 percent this year.

Yoon said during the debate the reform in policies and budget allocation is playing out to allow the government to take the lead in key technology research and development processes that the private-sector would find hard to handle, fostering an environment where "mistakes are being tolerated."

"I understand that there are concerns that the reform drive would result in reduced government support, but I hereby say with certainty that you don't need to worry and things will take a turn for the better," Yoon told some 100 participants.